Saturday, November 8, 2014

Does Atheism Have A Double Standard?

Keep religion out of our public schools, religious displays away from our public squares and buildings, and most of all, beware of creeping theocracy!

Yet every now and then atheist spokespeople let it slip how oppressive they would be if given the opportunity. For a long time I've suspected they aren't really as concerned with making the atheist alternative heard and respectable; deep down their aim is to eradicate religious thinking and, in the process, abuse those who do find a place for religion in their lives.

Another example (see also my posts Do Atheists Desire State-Sponsored Atheism? and A Theocratic Threat?) has presented itself in news coverage of comments made by physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss (author of A Universe From Nothing) to the effect that "religion could be gone in a generation."

Okay, but how might that be so?

Like Richard Dawkins, he seems to want to make the educational system a place to destroy religious beliefs and instead inculcate atheism:

What we need to do is present comparative religion as a bunch of interesting historical anecdotes, and show the silly reasons why they did what they did.

I really take umbrage at the silly versus sane paradigm being introduced in this connection. Seems to me that would be encouraging bullying.

Krauss elaborated further:

But you don’t shy away from religion any more than you shy away from the claim that Earth is the center of the universe. We laugh at that now, and we get kids to realize why that might be wrong… and so we should take other falsifiable facts, which are at the center of our society, which is religious doctrine, and make just as much fun of that.

Note that Krauss and his ilk, however, feel that religion indeed should be shied away from if presented in a positive light by teachers.

Atheists bemoan it when their children are exposed to religious ideas in school. But religious parents who raise their children to believe in God should happy with having their children exposed to atheism - and in a confrontational way? 

Neutrality anyone?


  1. Good points. I think people like Lawrence Krauss apply different standards. When doing and talking science, they apply scientific standards of evidence and probability of truth. When criticising religion they argue believers like me should do the same, but when making statements about religion they are far less accurate and rigorous.

    We see this when Krauss says: " you don’t shy away from religion any more than you shy away from the claim that Earth is the center of the universe. We laugh at that now, and we get kids to realize why that might be wrong… and so we should take other falsifiable facts, which are at the center of our society, which is religious doctrine, and make just as much fun of that."

    But our knowledge of these two things he has compared is very different! The earth's place in the universe is quite well established by evidence (though ironically, Einstein shows that if we are the observer, then in one sense earth is indeed the centre of the universe from our perspective), but Krauss's disdain for religion is not so well established - in fact, when called upon to defend his view in debate with WL Craig, his view didn't show itself very well based at all!

    This is the same Krauss who argues that the universe can arise from nothing when by "nothing" he means a quantum field capable of producing an entire universe - hardly a "nothing"!

    I appreciate Krauss's humour and scientific knowledge, but it is hard to respect someone who make such elementary mistakes of logic.

    1. Yeah, that word-play with "nothing" always gets me when I hear it.

  2. I was taken to church from 3yrs old on. My school spoke of God as though he were real and that was that. My questioning of religion began before kindergarten when I saw all the hypocrisy within my family and the world. It was 1960 America.
    Now I think religion is mentioned in public schools as it should be: in our American history it was crucial to believe, to die for the good, to pray and aim for Heaven.
    We are young, mostly ignorant, and still looking for all the answers. The WORD Atheist was not even dared to be spoken when I was a kid. Science... religion, I find little in the exploration has changed.

    1. What I find is that modern atheists are becoming more and more the counterpart of the religious fundamentalists.

  3. I am friends with more atheists than not and I see no changes. Perhaps it is the reading material you expose yourself to.

    1. What I have reference to is the "meme," if you will, that has been expressed by notable atheist spokespeople like Dawkins and Coyne that teaching children religion is child abuse. Krauss, the example I cited in this post, thinks a little bullying in making fun of religious believers would be okay, and in this he doesn't seem to be alone. True enough, the reading I have been exposed to online in the blogs of atheists has influenced my view. Also the almost daily news stories of atheists (especially the FFF) bringing a constant barrage of lawsuits (many with merit, but not a few without in my opinion) seemingly trying to eliminate any mention of religion in public have influenced me. And then there is the example of history in countries like the Soviet Union and China of what happens when atheism is officially sanctioned. I would hate to see that here in the US as much as I would I hate to see a theocracy.

    2. Interesting. Seems such an absolute statement to make re: atheism -> Soviet Union and China. Would the Soviet Union and China call it atheism? Do they start with the premise 'There is NO God and then the rest of it? Is their political system based on atheism?

    3. Hi, Zoe. No, probably they would have called it Marxism. Wikipedia has an interesting article on Marxism and religion, from which I take the following quote:

      "In the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of Marxist theory, developed primarily by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, religion is seen as retarding human development, and socialist states that follow a Marxist-Leninist variant are inherently atheistic. Due to this, a number of Marxist-Leninst governments in the twentieth century, such as the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, implemented rules introducing state atheism."

      There is no gainsaying that especially during the first half of last century the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, under their ruling political party, the Communist Party of China, persecuted religious believers and did their best to hinder religion.

      Okay, my post asks the simple question whether atheists have a double standard. They fear religious believers may create an oppressive theocracy.

      At the same time the behavior of some of atheism's leading spokespeople troubles some of us because they say things that could lead to infringement of freedom.

      For example, I've posted about both Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne characterizing teaching religion to children as child abuse. If you will trouble yourself to search my archives (located to the left) for 9/24/13, you will find my post on that, including a 1930s USSR poster which I am told is translated: "Religion is poison; protect children."

      Another thing I find troubling is their recent efforts to portray religious thinking as a "virus of the mind." It is supposedly some type of contagion or "meme," as Dawkins calls it, that spreads from mind to mind. So what, are religious folks no longer considered sane?

      In the same connection in my post above we have an atheist encouraging bullying behavior or "making fun" of religious belief in a teaching capacity. Well, Marxist atheism obviously holds religion as retarding influence for humans. So do the New Atheists.

      In my comment to Diane I also referred to the many lawsuits that atheists are bringing against what they feel are separation of church and state issues. Some of them, quite frankly, seem frivolous overreaches.

      It seems to me that modern atheism is becoming more and more similar to religious fundamentalism. In my personal experience with them online, dialog with them for the most part is a fruitless as dialog with religious fundamentalists. Extremism, it seems to me, is the problem.