What if they gave an atheist rally and nobody came? From the blog The Friendly Atheist we find out what happened at Reason Rally 2016 in Washington DC:
Where Was the Crowd for the Reason Rally?
No official crowd estimates have been released. But even in the early afternoon, when the crowd was likely at its peak, nothing I saw suggested “15,000 to 20,000” in attendance, as the organizers told Religion News Service. I’d put the range at about half of that, but we’ll see.
Did something go wrong?
Let me say up front that I don’t think this is *that* big of an issue. If the people who showed up had a good time and left the event energized and committed to activism back home, that’s a better gauge of success than some arbitrary attendance figure. But a low turnout still takes a lot of the air out of what was an otherwise great event.
So let’s talk about what may have contributed to that.
Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.
Ah, April begins, and once again we have National Atheist Day, when we light-heartedly celebrate that herd of brave independent thinkers who assert that all of Creation exists without a Creator, and that they will soon explain, perhaps by next Tuesday, how matter and energy can arise ex nihilo. This National Atheist Day we will look at the extreme bitterness that many atheists appear to harbor against the God they say does not exist.
I submit that this rage is usually grounded in fear, a fear that God does in fact exist. One of the more interesting contemporary atheists, Doctor Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy at NYU gets I think to the heart of the matter:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at the prompt denial by some atheists of hatred of Christians as possibly being a factor in the murderer at Umpqua College singling out Christians:
So after over a decade of the radical anti-religious New Atheists spouting rhetoric against religion that would make a party in the 1930s Reichstag look Kosher by comparison, atheists are dealing with the ugly notion that evidence suggests the killer of nine people at Umpqua College purposefully targeted Christians. Of course for most atheists, like most liberals and secularists, Christianity is the prime enemy. So most contempt, disgust, hatred, spite, demagoguery and lies are aimed at Christians and Christianity. And of course we know that such rhetoric is always behind things like racist hate crimes, and anti-gay hate crimes, and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
That, of course, is a favorite tactic of the leftist propaganda machine. If a person kills blacks or gays or another minority group adopted by the Left, then hatred is the only motive. The only focus. If someone breaks from that, or a member of the approved minority community commits the crime, or a victim is from a non-accepted group, then it’s all about anything but the hatred. Once again, reminding us that we are dealing with a movement that hates us; one that likely doesn’t care for the various groups it claims to support, but one that certainly hates certain groups – like Christians.
From those twisted folks at The Lutheran Satire. Dawkins, and others of his mindset, attempt to erect Science as a substitute religion, even as they absolutely refuse to seriously entertain the truth of Hamlet’s observation: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Attempting to turn the intellectual instrument of Science into a religion underlines this statement from CS Lewis that looks increasingly prophetic as the years roll by:
“Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared—the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age.”
A happy National Atheist Day to all our atheist readers! I hope you will have a fun filled day yelling about the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky, writing to papers 5000 word letters claiming that Hitler was a believing Christian, trolling Catholic websites to use atheist proof texts that work against Baptists to establish that the Bible is absurd and all the other fun filled activities in which believers in the Great Nothing seem to derive enjoyment from. Today I would like to direct your attention to a man that deserves honor by all atheists: Aldous Huxley.
The grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog”, T. H. Huxley, Huxley deserves to be remembered and not just as the author of the increasingly prophetic Brave New World, but also as being a far seeing and honest atheist. First as to his honesty. Huxley in Ends and Means explains why he and so many of his elite contemporaries embraced atheism:
“For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotical revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.”
The interesting thing about Huxley is that while he remained an atheist he became intensely interested in mysticism, along with hallucinogenic drugs, in the latter part of his life. He even argued 1n 1945 in a best selling book that all religions incorporated what he called the Perennial Philosophy, and that a man could be an adherent of that philosophy while believing in none of the theological aspects of any of the religions.
This was a brilliant attempt to square the circle for atheism. The great weakness of atheism is that it leads to the conclusion that existence is ultimately meaningless. Huxley demonstrated how an atheist could derive meaning to the world by stealing borrowing from religions their trappings while ignoring the substance.
CS Lewis, who was a contemporary of Huxley and who died on the same day he did, along with John F. Kennedy, summed up this type of atheism in his The Screwtape Letters:
I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism, and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the enemy. The “Life Force,” the wor¬ship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight.
Ah, but this is too philosophical for a day of celebration! Time for some atheist kid songs!
Cardinal Newman once opined that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. Most atheists I have encountered lend support to this adage by their shocking ignorance of the most basic facts of History. Unlike the atheists of yesteryear, some of whom could be quite challenging with their knowledge of History, most contemporary atheists are so ignorant of History that debating them is to engage in instruction rather than debate. John C. Wright, a science fiction author and convert from atheism to Catholicism, encounters one of the new breed of ignorant atheists:
Hmph. I just came across another antieducated sophophobe who declared there to be a war between science and faith, especially the Roman Catholic Church.
I asked him to name the Papal Bull or Encyclical, or any other official document of the Church prohibiting or condemning the practice of scientific inquiry. He did not know what a ‘bull’ was.
I asked him if he knew anything about science and the history of science, and he said yes. I asked him for the evidence of any Catholic interference, or even lack of enthusiastic support, for any scientific inquiry of any kind, in any time or place?
He mentioned Galileo. I asked him if he knew the circumstances of Galileo’s trial, or what Galileo was accused of? He said no. I asked him if he knew who Cardinal Bellarmine was. He said no.
I asked him if he had read Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences? He did not even know what the book was, much less who the characters in it were, or what positions in the contemporary debates they represented.
(Do I need to mention that I read this book in school? I went to a good school, where the education is what mathematicians call a ‘positive sum game’ that is, I ended up more educated than when I went in. His school left him with less education than when he went in.)
I did not bother to ask him if he knew what, precisely, Galileo had discovered, or what proofs he gave to support his various theories.
I did not ask him to tell me what the Galilean satellites were, much less name them (off the top of my head: Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede. If I am wrong, and Amalthea is one of them, shame on me. If got them in order, more to my glory.)
Calibrating my questions to the level of someone without a Saint John’s College level of education, I asked him if he knew who Abertus Magnus, William of Ockham, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Steno were. He said no.
I asked him who invented the mechanical escapement used in clockwork. Or when. He did not know what mechanical escapement was. (Villard de Honnecourt circa 1237, in case you are wondering.)
Recalibrating my question to the high school level, I asked him if he knew who Pascal was, Copernicus, Descartes. He said no. Mendel. No. Still no.
He then told me that all the European inventions in mathematics and medicine came from the Muslim world. I asked him if he knew where Andalusia was, or when the Reconquista happened. Did not recognize those terms. I asked him what religion the people were in the lands conquered by the Muslims in the Seven, Eighth, and Ninth Centuries, et cetera? He guessed that they were some sort of pagans.
I did not bother to ask him if he knew who Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was.
He did not even know enough to raise and throw into my face the old, tired, and oft- efuted slander about Hypatia the neoplatonic philosopher (always described as a female scientist) being flayed to death by a Christian mob wielding sharpened clamshells.
In other words, I could have argued in favor of the War between Science and the Church better than he. He had not even memorized his side’s own talking points.
Back in the seventies and eighties I read quite a few of the articles that appeared in The New Republic. Although always left of center, the magazine at that time had little use for liberal pieties and published fairly iconoclastic articles shattering many idols of the left. Alas those days are long ago, and The New Republic has fallen into the lock step ideological conformity that makes the portside of our politics such a gray place. However, apparently, not always. John Gray has a piece on Richard Dawkins, that must not be missed. How good it is may be gauged by the anguished bleats of the faithless in the comments section. I especially enjoyed this portion of Mr. Gray’s article:
Exactly how Dawkins became the anti-religious missionary with whom we are familiar will probably never be known. From what he writes here, I doubt he knows himself. Still, there are a few clues. He began his pilgrimage to unbelief at the age of nine, when he learned from his mother “that Christianity was one of many religions and they contradicted each other. They couldn’t all be right, so why believe the one in which, by sheer accident of birth, I happened to be brought up?” But he was not yet ready to embrace atheism, and curiously his teenage passion for Elvis Presley reinforced his vestigial Christianity. Listening to Elvis sing “I Believe,” Dawkins was amazed to discover that the rock star was religious. “I worshipped Elvis,” he recalls, “and I was a strong believer in a non-denominational creator god.” Dawkins confesses to being puzzled as to why he should have been so surprised that Elvis was religious: “He came from an uneducated working-class family in the American South. How could he not have been religious?” By the time he was sixteen, Dawkins had “shed my last vestige of theistic credulity.” As one might expect, the catalyst for his final conversion from theism was Darwinism. “I became increasingly aware that Darwinian evolution was a powerfully available alternative to my creator god as an explanation of the beauty and apparent design of life. … It wasn’t long then before I became strongly and militantly atheistic.”
What is striking is the commonplace quality of Dawkins’s rebellion against religion. In turning away from the milk-and-water Anglicanism in which he had been reared—after his conversion from theism, he “refused to kneel in chapel,” he writes proudly—he was doing what tens of thousands of Britain’s young people did at the time. Compulsory religious instruction of the kind that exists in British schools, it has often been observed, creates a fertile environment for atheism. Dawkins’s career illustrates the soundness of this truism. If there is anything remarkable in his adolescent rebellion, it is that he has remained stuck in it. At no point has Dawkins thrown off his Christian inheritance. Instead, emptying the faith he was taught of its transcendental content, he became a neo-Christian evangelist. A more inquiring mind would have noticed at some point that religion comes in a great many varieties, with belief in a creator god figuring in only a few of the world’s faiths and most having no interest in proselytizing. It is only against the background of a certain kind of monotheism that Dawkins’s evangelical atheism makes any sense.
Even more remarkable is Dawkins’s inveterate literal-mindedness. He tells us that “the Pauline belief that everybody is born in sin, inherited from Adam (whose embarrassing non-existence was unknown to St. Paul), is one of the very nastiest aspects of Christianity.” It is true that the idea of original sin has become one with a morbid preoccupation with sexuality, which has been part of Christianity throughout much of its history. Even so, it is an idea that contains a vital truth: evil is not error, a mistake of the mind, a failure of understanding that can be corrected by smarter thinking. It is something deeper and more constitutive of human life itself. The capacity and propensity for destruction goes with being human. One does not have to be religious to acknowledge this dark fact. With his myth or metaphor of the death instinct thanatos, Freud—a lifelong atheist—recognized that impulses of hatred and cruelty are integral to the human psyche. As an atheist myself, it is a view I find no difficulty in sharing.
Quite apart from the substance of the idea, there is no reason to suppose that the Genesis myth to which Dawkins refers was meant literally. Coarse and tendentious atheists of the Dawkins variety prefer to overlook the vast traditions of figurative and allegorical interpretations with which believers have read Scripture. Both Augustine and before him the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria explicitly cautioned against literalism in interpreting the biblical creation story. Later, in the twelfth century, Maimonides took a similar view. It was only around the time of the Reformation that the idea that the story was a factual account of events became widely held. When he maintains that Darwin’s account of evolution displaced the biblical story, Dawkins is assuming that both are explanatory theories—one primitive and erroneous, the other more advanced and literally true. In treating religion as a set of factual propositions, Dawkins is mimicking Christianity at its most fundamentalist.
“I’m a member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”
Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
I have always been vastly amused by atheists who seek to ape Christian services. These throw the substance out and keep the often banal trappings. If I were an atheist I would sleep in on Sunday mornings, or work, or do something fun. However, some atheists believe, if I may use that term, otherwise:
“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
Yesterday, June 4, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the brutal suppression of the pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Over 3000 of the protestors were murdered by the Communist government of China. Tyranny won that round, but I have absolutely no doubt that Democracy will ultimately prevail in the Middle Kingdom. When it does, the heroes and heroines of Tiananmen Square will be remembered and their murderers forgotten.
Hilarious. Apparently Atheist parents have difficulty in having their kids follow their no god views as adults.
Do kids raised without religion actively seek it out and convert all that often? As it turns out, yes. The most recent data on this that I’ve come across comes from Pew’s 2008 Religious Landscape Survey, which finds that only 46 percent of people who are raised religiously unaffiliated (which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who say they’re “nothing in particular”) remain unaffiliated as adults. By contrast, 68 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Protestant stay with their childhood religion, and only 14 percent and 13 percent (respectively) stop subscribing to any religion at all:
I was at this time of living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.
I do hope that National Atheist Day today will be a happy time. One of the more amusing aspects of the contemporary atheist scene is how many of them tend to be more dour and dogmatic than the most dour and dogmatic of the fundamentalists they conjure up in their fancies. One might almost suspect that many atheists do not disbelieve so much in God as they hate Him. Tis a puzzlement. For example, I do not believe in Hinduism or Islam, but that does not make me hate either faith or their devotees. Rather I find the study of both faiths intellectually intriguing. The same might be said for Greek and Roman myths, the reality of which I no more believe in than an atheist does the Virgin Birth.
George Orwell, who spent most of his life veering between agnosticism and atheism was quite familiar with the type of dour atheist who is so often found as the public face of atheism:
“He was an embittered atheist, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him.”
There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear…The opening words to the Buffalo Springfield (the band that would introduce to us the likes of Stephen Stills and Neil Young) classic song written in 1966, but released in 1967 certainly resonated to those who heard it whatever their political leanings. There was a sense even before the famous or infamous 1967 events, like the Newport Folk Festival and San Francisco’s Summer of Love that something in society was changing. The same could be said today in light of a flurry of religious themed movies that have come out in the first three months of 2014.
One could argue that the first signs of the secular sea change we have been under were first seen after the mid-term elections of 2006. By November of 2008 there was no doubt the western world was changing. However, for every action there is a reaction. It may have taken the world of faith a bit longer to react but it has. Already in 2013, the Bible mini-series caught the attention of those in Hollywood who notice TV and cultural move watching habits. The Bible mini-series, the brainchild Mark Burnett and Roma Downey literally spun off into the Son of God film which is currently one of the year’s early top grossing films.
However, it seems that what is bubbling under the current is what catches everyone by surprise, and so it is with the year’s first big surprise, God’s Not Dead. The film’s entire production budget was between 1-2 million dollars, the mere advertising budget of most medium size films. The screenwriters are faithful Catholics Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, whom I met some four years ago while giving one of my talks at Family Theater in Hollywood (founded by Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC also known as The Rosary Priest.) I was impressed by Cary and Chuck, their frequent Mass attendance during the week, their fervent study and practice of the faith (as evidenced by the St. Thomas Aquinas type logic used in some of their arguments in God’s Not Dead,) and their embrace of the sacramental life, especially the Sacrament of Penance.
Both men weren’t living some fantasy of wanting to hobnob with Hollywood’s hipsters. They had been down that road successfully working and mingling with the likes of Sylvester Stallone among others. Cary and Chuck felt called to write faith based scripts. In an interview with me featured in the National Review both men spoke of the hypocrisy that the faithful have to endure in the public square.
Hartline: I think a faithful Christian, or anyone of faith, feels a lot has changed in the last five or six years. People of faith are often mocked or belittled in popular culture, and the faithful are accused of all sorts of bigotry and ignorance. We are told to get with the times, as if our consciences could really leave the truth behind. It seems the movie is addressing that underlying feeling in the faith community.
Solomon and Konzelman: Yes, that’s definitely the nerve that’s been touched. Secular humanists insist that Christians in general — and Catholics in particular — are supposed to leave their belief system at home when it comes to matters in the public sphere. So according to the rules they propose, their belief system is allowable . . . and ours isn’t. Which is a deliberate attempt to subvert the whole democratic process. As someone else pointed out: Democracy is supposed to be about more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
I then posed the question as to why some are willing to defend their faith as did the college student in God’s Not Dead, but sadly most do not.
Hartline: College student Josh Wheaton appears to be the nondescript everyman. While everyone else accedes to the professor’s atheistic rants, Josh decides to take up the challenge, even though he’s far from being a theologian. Is there a message there for most of us?
Solomon and Konzelman: It’s a question of being willing to try . . . and fail, if necessary. Mother Teresa got it right: God does not require us to be successful, only faithful. Secular humanism has really been racking up the score in the culture wars lately, largely because of the unwillingness of many Christians to counter their efforts. Unfortunately, doing nothing is doing something: It’s enabling the other side. Every time we roll over and don’t confront the challenge, our forfeit shows up as a win in the other team’s column and encourages them to push further.
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”
― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Our annual salute to atheists, those members in good standing of the herd of independent thinkers who are convinced there is no God, and that the Universe materialized from nothing in some scientific fashion that will be explained to us shortly.
Here at The American Catholic we do appreciate atheists and wish them to hone their arguments when they come visiting us. Here are a few helpful hints:
1. Catholics are not Fundamentalists-Atheists often have Bible verses that they memorize in order to attempt to discomfit Christians. Unfortunately for them different sects of Christians read the Bible differently. What might discomfit a Fundamentalist has no impact on a Catholic who has 2000 years of teaching as to the many ways in which a Biblical passage can be interpreted.
2. Hitler was not a Catholic-Hitler was born a Catholic but had stopped believing in the Faith long before he became ruler of Germany. In conversations he evinced a hatred for Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. When you attempt to use Hitler as a club against us, it merely displays a profound historical ignorance on your part.
3. Religion starts all the Wars-After the bloody last century, in which most wars were caused by atheist totalitarian systems, that argument needs to be cast on the ashheap of history.
4. Pedophile priests-Attempting to discredit Catholicism because some priests and bishops have caused great evil, is like attempting to discredit Christ because one of His chosen Apostles betrayed him.
5. Read Saint Thomas Aquinas-You will quickly lose any Catholic audience unless you can show some familiarity with the proofs of the existence of God of the Angelic Doctor.