Atheists

The Attack of the Smugnorant

At the Cranky Conservative I coined a term: “smugnorant.” As I wrote:

[Stephen] Colbert and his former partner in crime at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, represent some of the very worst aspects of our culture. They are the heroes of people whom I would designate as smugnorant – the noxious combination of smug and ignorant. They’re the types of people who will take to social media to decry those illiterate yokels in the hinterlands while displaying a keen lack of any depth of understanding of who their “opponents” are or what drives them as well as a deeply flawed (if that) grasp of American history. For years these two have taken to the airwaves to peddle a brand of humor based on ironic detachment and one-line snark meant to demonstrate the utter foolishness of the other side. They are the forerunners of generation meme, who think one-line slogans slapped onto funny pictures are genius insights that can shut down any argument. It’s the bumper sticker mentality given a new face in the information age.

I’ve been fortunate to come across a blog post that has plenty of smugnorance in both the main post and the comments. It comes from the Friendly Atheist over at Patheos – yes, I know you will be shocked that there could be any smugnorance over at Patheos (apologies to David Griffey, who is a rare voice of reason over there). The blogger Hemant Mehta wrote of an “illegal” Ten Commandments display the state of Arkansas is about to place on the grounds of the capitol. I’ll just gloss over Mehta’s seeming inability to distinguish the concepts of illegality and unconstitutionality to highlight this comment:

After all, the government is forbidden from promoting Christianity, which is all this monument would be doing.

This is the kind of sentence that almost literally gives me a headache because there’s just so much to unpack. I suppose he is referring to the establishment clause of the first amendment to the constitution, which does not mention anything resembling a ban on “promoting” a religion (not to mention that Christianity in and of itself is not a religion, but a group of religions, often with conflicting creeds). The erection of a monument does not establish any state religion. It does not signify material aid to any religion, which is generally what concerned the framers of the amendment as well as similar documents such as the Virginia statute for religious liberty. But I’ll again gloss over this constitutional conundrum to focus on this:

promoting Christianity, which is all this monument would be doing

So a monument to the Ten Commandments, or as Jewish people might refer to it, the Aseret ha-Dibrot, first written down in the Torah in the book of Exodus, which otherwise commemorates the Hebrew people’s flight from Egypt, surely only promotes Christianity. There just ain’t no other religious group who might be interested in this monument? There’s just no other religion that holds this set of commands in esteem? I mean I’m racking my brain, but there’s just got to be some other group or religion being, ahem, promoted here.

Now to be fair the post itself primarily evidences only one-half of the smugnorant combo. Have no fear though, we’re talking about Patheos, and thus there are always the comments. And we dive right into the very first comment, one which received no less than 13 upvotes:

Does it include the Commandment about not worshiping graven images?

Is it protected from irony chariots?

Does it explain why so many of the Commandments would be unconstitutional if made into laws in America?

Will they include the examples of bearing false witness that will be necessary to approve the idol of the words of the Gods?

There must be nothing quite like the pride someone like “Rogue Medic” feels when he/she/it/cis/cer slaps out an irrefutable jumble of logic like this one which completely eviscerates the other side’s point of view. Well, only if you disregard the fact that nobody is worshiping a graven image in this scenario, the “irony chariots” comment is just word vomit, the idea that commandments would be unconstitutional is a non sequitur if we’re being generous. and the stuff about bearing false witness is just logically incoherent. Other than that, it’s the sort of stuff Edmund Burke, John Locke, FA Hayak and countless other philosophers throughout history can only dreamed to have written.

Or how about this true monument to detached irony written by truth warrior ORAXX:

I would be astonished if they [conservative Christians] ever read any part of the Constitution other than the Second Amendment. They certainly don’t understand that document in any kind of a historical perspective. The commandments, probably, because they can be read in less than a minute, and that is more in keeping with their attention spans.

Yes, that’s right, there’s nothing like dissing the cumulative intelligence of an entirely diffeent group of people while commenting on a post that confuses “illegal” and “unconstitutional” and doesn’t seem to grasp that people other than Christians might be appreciative of a Ten Commandments display. Hooray for hipster irony, just not in the way the poster intended.

I’ll spare you further brain damage by posting more comments, including the long thread about gun owners and how totally stoooooopid they all are. You can read them for yourself, if you’re so inclined. There is absolutely nothing in the comments that betrays even a hint of understanding of what conservatives and/or Christians truly believe, or truly grapples with the constitutional issues of a Ten Commandments display on state capitol grounds. But we have an awful lot of smug jokes about how dumb the other side is. Yep, those yokels in hill country are just bubble-dwelling idiots with no comprehension of history, the constitution, the true words of the Bible, and logic. Yep, it’s those “others” who are just plain ignorant.

Why I Think You’ll Like Jennifer Fulwiler’s ‘Minor Revisions’

Sooo…Jen has a reality show that debuts tonight. It’s called Minor Revisions.

While Jen found it a little bit awkward to tell you about this new mini-series of hers, I’m tickled pink to tell you why I think you’ll love the series. She gave me a little sneak preview since we both engage with atheists and we both are converts. We have other things in common: We both are fascinated by science, we both have a lot of little kids, and we both have a fondness for Texas. She lives there, I grew up there. She hates the scorpions that invade her house; I hate the spiders that compete for mine.

Anyway, here are three things (in true Jennifer Fulwiler bullet point style) that I think you’ll like — no love! — about her mini-series ‘Minor Revisions.’ These are things that I did not expect, pleasant surprises. Continue reading

Once Again, Real Life Imitates South Park

Some of you no doubt find South Park to be a bit crude and maybe even offensive.  But I am constantly amazed at how often their satires run so true to real life.  Case in point: Stephen Hawking.  In a recent interview with the Guardian Stephen Hawking had this to say:

The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.

This caused Carl Olson to quip that Hawking “does, in fact, believe in and worship a god—the name of which is ‘Science'”.

That brought to mind the twopart episode from season ten where Cartman travels into the future and discovers an Earth where everyone is now an atheist (content warning).  Exclamations of “Science help us!” escape from everyone’s lips in times of trouble.

I’m not going to read too much into the South Park episodes, but they hint at a larger truth.  Even atheists cannot escape religion.  Near our house is something called the Washington Ethical Society.  We used to drive by this place when we went to Mass in the city, and they hold weekly meetings every Sunday.   Yes, it is essentially a Church for atheists.  Frankly, one would think that one of the “benefits” of being an atheist is not having to go to Church on Sunday, but for these atheists they can’t escape the Sunday obligation.  I don’t know if they sing hymns to science but I’m sure their gatherings are something to behold.

At any rate, there’s more from Olson as well as Msgr. Charles Pope on Hawking’s philosophy.  Msgr. Pope is troubled by where Hawking’s philosophy trends (the part in bold is from the article, the rest is Msgr. Pope):

When asked what is the value of knowing why are we here, Hawking replied, “The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.” This is so limiting. It is also philosophy, not science to say this. Mr Hawking is entitled to have a philosophy, but when he says the world is “governed by science” and then goes on to philosophize, that looks pretty silly and contradictory. Further, Mr. Hawking, if you ask me, is edging dangerously close to eugenics in what he says here. What exactly assigning a “higher value” to certain societies looks like as a practical matter is uncertain in what he says, but I sense a growing darkness here, not light. Margaret Sanger and Adolph Hitler may well be smiling as he says this. BEWARE!

The first commenter objected to Msgr. Pope’s anaology*, but it happens to be spot on.  Readings Hawking it is tough not to draw another cultural analogy, this time to C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.  That novel is the third part of Lewis’s space trilogy, and the plot revolves around the British Government’s new scientific institute, the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE).  The institute does some awful stuff in the name of science and progress, and the novel itself serves as a warning against the utopian promises of over-eager rationalists.

Hawking might be a brilliant physicist, but he should leave theology to the grownups.

* On a tangential note, I find myself getting more agitated by a trend in comments sections.  Why do people feel that they can completely discard the rules of grammar, capitalization and punctuation when they write comments on blogs?  The commenter on Msgr. Pope’s blog – the inaptly named Sophia – decided to take the opportunity to insinuate that atheists were smarter than religious people, all the while failing to capitalize a single word in her screed.  Why should I take anyone seriously when they can’t even obey the simple rules of the English language?  No, we’re not writing dissertations here, but if you can’t even be bothered to hit the shift key before typing the first letter of the first word of your sentences, then I will automatically discount anything you have to say.  I can understand typos as I’m sure there might be one or two above, and I’m not a perfect grammar student.  But can you at least make an effort to write properly on a discussion forum?

/End rant.

To Be Pitied More Than All Men

“17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor 15:17-19)

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