Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Grasping Nature of Faith

Since the works of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have disseminated throughout the mental sphere and have had their days in the sun, the backlash has begun. Due to community pressure, people are diluting their positions, distancing themselves, and in some cases, just taking the tact of misreprenting arguments.
What I have yet to see in all this, is any valid counterargument. I have not seen one. I'm not sure I have even seen an attempt at a counter-argument.
The term "militant atheist" is horrible. It implies violence, hysteria, and wrath. Many of us are "exasperated non-theists". You can describe it any way you want, but "militant atheist" is the proper way to paint the person whose ideas you despise as being uncaring, immoral, and hateful without actually saying so. When arguments fail, slogans are effective.
Because no challenging counterarguments have been raised, the issue turns to three main things:
1.) Faith- Harris and Dawkins don't understand theology the way I interpret it, so I am safe. The courtiers reply addresses this. One need not be an expert on clothing to argue that someone is naked.
2.) Defending the common man/woman- This happens when Dawkins or Harris is on a radio show like NPR, or being written about in a newspaper. Since the show or paper is so paranoid about being balanced and under so much pressure not to seem too secular or too leftist, they go out of their way to insist that Harris and Dawkins are just as dogmatic about their "beliefs" as the people they are complaining about. The problem here is that Dawkins and Harris are using facts and precisely reasoned arguments that are so strong, and dare I say, so incredibly obvious and readily intuitive, that it is very very hard for the shows and papers to be balanced using any counter argument of any substance whatsoever. There simply *are* no counter arguments that dispute the substance of what they say. The only solution to fill column space or airtime is to insist that Dawkins and Harris are being dogmatic for insisting so relentlessly that 2+2=4.
3.) Miscellaneous ways to avoid acknowledging the obvious- Misrepresentation, dishonesty, logical fallacies etc. One thing I have noticed, and I think someone on the Rational Response Squad has described it, is this phenomenon- It is impossible for anyone to argue on behalf of religious faith without resulting to dishonesty and logical fallacies. What is truly amazing is that these people must know they are grasping and twisting truth to stay in the ring, but they don't feel guilty for their dishonesty. Maybe they ask forgiveness afterword.

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