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5/07/2018 6:21 pm  #41


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

A brief reply and some general thoughts:

aftermathemat wrote:

You are completely correct. If you look back to the 1990's, you'll see that this attitude of provincianism almost didn't exist at all, and it was only Madalyn Murray O'Hair style atheists that had such an attitude, along with Communists ideologues. The vast majority of atheists either didn't really care and/or didn't really know, or did care somewhat but were respectful and nice about it (that would be the ordinary non-philsoophical folk who have a mild interest in the debate) , or did actually know what the whole theism/atheism thing was about - but that group of people was and is restricted to the Oppy, Rowe camp of philosopher atheists.

Having met some of those now quite old communists and radical leftists (and even lived with one, briefly), I disagree that they didn't care or claimed they didn't know or were respectful or that they were some minority. (I mean, these are literally the men and women who led the cultural revolution.) They just didn't feel the need to argue for their views like the New Atheists. They make the New Atheists look like pussycats.

I think that even today the influence of Nietzsche on the new left is going to mean that they don't feel they need to argue, and they don't feel it would be worthwhile to argue. Nietzsche either doesn't believe in truth, or (on more mild interpretations) he doesn't think anyone really cares about it and he thinks that by the time you get to rational arguments you've already lost.* * When you see the left no platforming or slandering Christians as homophobes (e.g. Swinburne) and racists, this is part of it.

(And as for academic atheist philosophers, well, go back far enough and we've all heard the horror stories about verificationism sweeping through the academy and people getting practically pinned against the wall and asked how their views meet the verification criteria. And the verificationists didn't even think that theism was false. They thought it was meaningless.)

Now, the New Atheist movement very obviously does believe in truth, but I tend to think that they have inherited a lot of the attitudes of the left and (perhaps even more) the verificationists.* I also don't think they're the root of the problem. They have been slowly dying for years now*, and I suspect (I suspect! I don't live in the U. S.) that a lot of what you're seeing are the “memes” they started living on in people who aren't strictly part of their movement.

*He explicitly and proudly employs all the weapons of the sophists, and thought that they were doing great stuff.
*This is part of why he thinks that Christianity has lost its grip on the Western mind or imagination is so important (or, if you prefer, that “God is dead [...] [a]nd we have killed him”.)
*To riff on something Ayer once said, they carry on in their spirit if not their doctrines.
*In no small part because some of their leaders made the mistake of going against the new left. Say what you will about the left. They get stuff done.

 

5/07/2018 6:26 pm  #42


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

I can't help but think that the New Atheists and provincianism are all the tip of a greater cultural iceberg and that, if you really want to see the full size of what you're up against, you shouldn't go to a New Atheist rally. You should go to a rock concert.

(Also, since I've been plugging the importance of studying Nietzsche here and to some degree in the "Divine Hiddenness" thread, here are some of Ed's comments on it and here is a short post linking Heller's "The Importance of Nietzsche" at Ontological Investigations.)

 

5/08/2018 3:06 pm  #43


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

Having met some of those now quite old communists and radical leftists (and even lived with one, briefly), I disagree that they didn't care or claimed they didn't know or were respectful or that they were some minority. (I mean, these are literally the men and women who led the cultural revolution.) They just didn't feel the need to argue for their views like the New Atheists. They make the New Atheists look like pussycats.

I had a chance to meet a lot of vintage old Communists a couple of weeks ago, all retired colonels and senior ranks in the Red Army's ideological training branch. I don't know if its these types you were thinking of here, but I find they constitute a kind of living disproof to some of the more superficial New Atheist rhetoric and assumptions.

I think with New Atheism in general the problem is often more about countering rhetoric and sound bites because the arguments often don't go beyond a certain level. If theists attempt more thoughtful engagement it can be interesting (as an example, Alistair McGrath's book about Dawkins), but I doubt it makes much impact on actual New Atheists.       
 

 

5/08/2018 6:04 pm  #44


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

FZM wrote:

I had a chance to meet a lot of vintage old Communists a couple of weeks ago, all retired colonels and senior ranks in the Red Army's ideological training branch. I don't know if its these types you were thinking of here, but I find they constitute a kind of living disproof to some of the more superficial New Atheist rhetoric and assumptions.

Oh, no. I think the people who actually lived in communist countries are quite different. They actually saw what it can lead to. They're often pretty disillusioned with it. I meant the sort of aging, frothing-at-the-mouth cultural revolutionaries you find in Canada and England (and, I understand, the U. S.). The kind grown on the campuses, on the one hand, and the kind that went into politics and consciously flooded England with immigrants to destabilize her national culture (so that they could change it), on the other.

The one I lived with was a retired sociologist, with all the outward trappings of a sort of aging hipster, but absolutely radical once you got him talking about (in one memorable case, for example) religion. It was pretty chilling to see the transformation. That might just be me though.

 

5/08/2018 6:25 pm  #45


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Haha. I suppose I got a little carried away with my earlier posts. (Channeling too much of the Nietzsch, I suppose.) I think the general frame of the analysis is alright, though. I'm not myself a “Nietzschean”, but Nietzsche made a lot of important insights about where society was going, and his influence on the new left is vast. (The latter especially isn't just a John-thing. It has been studied and noted. Nietzsche has also been very influential in areas like art.) 

I guess I just think that these conversations need to be conducted against the right backdrop, so that people know what they're up against. Also, a few people seemed interested in a wider cultural and social explanation of what they're seeing. But I'm talking off my specialty in this thread and, while parts of it sometimes intrude into and inform my comments, shouldn't be taken as "authoritative" or anything.

 

5/16/2018 7:48 pm  #46


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

DanielCC wrote:

There are two things at work....

2. Politics, politics, politics - the worm which has devoured Man's heart and enslaved his soul. People often display knee-jerk behavioristic reactions to metaphysical questions because of the most contingent parochial Culture WarsTM association.

Speaking of, I ran across this article (http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2015/02/camo-and-conversions-the-parallels-between-duck-dynasty-and-dante-culture.html) an hour ago by conservative Rod Dreher that looks at conservative anti-intellectualism.  I think there are differences between the smug atheist provincialism and the simple-country-wisdom act that anti-intellectual conservatives put on, but I don't think they are ultimately different animals.  And I think they both have a lot to do with politics and the culture wars.
 

 

5/16/2018 7:53 pm  #47


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

I can't help but think that the New Atheists and provincianism are all the tip of a greater cultural iceberg and that, if you really want to see the full size of what you're up against, you shouldn't go to a New Atheist rally. You should go to a rock concert.

Haha   Explain what you mean by that jab at rock concerts.

 

5/16/2018 8:40 pm  #48


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Brian wrote:

Haha   Explain what you mean by that jab at rock concerts.

I was taking rock concerts as a paradigm of the post-'68 culture. I also think a packed rock concert, the audience brought to a fevered pitch, can be a rather terrifying sight.

 

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