The vast majority of so-called “Atheists” are in fact merely “A-yahweh-ists”, in that they implicitly smuggle in the “traditional” Jewish/Christian/Muslim definitions of various terms (“God”, for example) — without either admitting this fact openly, or even noticing it.
Consider (for example) THIS little gem:
Shermer’s Last Law
Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God
This little nugget comes from Michael Shermer, founder of a “skeptic” organization. the problem with it is: in order to be at all meaningful, it REQUIRES that one smuggle in a VERY SPECIFIC definition of the key term “God”).
Specifically, one relying on the notions of Omniscience and Omnipotence.
But, here’s the thing: No, it’s not.
The absolute MOST you could say about “any sufficient advanced extrerrestrial intelligence” would be that it is (currently) more powerful (but still only “semi-potent”), and more knowledgeable than humans.
“taller” ≠ “infinite in height”
“heavier” ≠ “infinite in weight”
Moreover, most religions implicitly (or explicitly) assume a qualitative (as opposed to merely quantitative distinction between humans and whatever they describe as their god(s)
Implicitly (or explicitly), — especially in religions descending from “Abrahamic” monotheism — the differentiation between “Creator” and “Creatures” is assumed to be both qualitative, and unbridgeable.
In other words, humans cannot “become” Yahweh
(Oddly enough, Christianity is something of an anomaly, in that most versions tacitly assert that Yahweh became human (the “Incarnation”).
At any rate:
Religion also tends to rely on the notion that ignorance and impotence are intractable even in part. The whole purpose of “worshiping” the god(s), bribing them with ‘sacrifices” etc. ultimately boils down to two versions of the same basic purpose:
- Getting Him/them to do something which Humans are too ignorant/inept to accomplish, themselves
- Getting them to refrain from doing something which humans are too ignorant/inept to actually prevent, themselves
For example: consider how the traditional notion of “sacrifice’ has metastasized among “Fundie” Protestants:
For all of their obsession with Jesus’ “sacrifice” via crucifixion (IE: Yahweh “incarnates” for the sole purpose of HAVING HIMSELF KILLED BY HIS OWN “CREATURES”, for the sole purpose of placating His own blood-lust) — the real, pivotal “sacrifice” upon which Fundie Protestantism pivots is: “believing” the above-mentioned inanity, in hopes of preventing Yahweh from inflicting an eternity of “hellfire” on His (otherwise utterly impotent) “creatures”.
At Any Rate, the vast majority of “Atheist” argumentation is explicitly aimed toward those demographics who actually believe the tenets (and attendant worldview) of Christianity.
What do I mean by this?
Spong (and other “liberal” theologians) don’t actually “believe” that rabbits “chew the cud” (for example). Same goes for any of the other truth-claims which can only ever be “defended” by means of Credo Qua absurdum.
“Apologetics” (especially among “liberal”/”modernist”/reality-based “believers”) mostly consists of inventing ways to “explain away” aspects of their own religion which they can’t bring themselves to defend.
The biggest example of this is the “creation”/global flood narrative in Genesis.
Either it happened, or it DIDN’T. If you have to hand-wave it away as a “parable”, then you have already conceded that you don’t actually “believe” it. Likewise, if you end up (grudgingly) admitting the (numerous) parallels between your own “Scriptures” and those ever-so-evil “pagan” religions — you’ve already lost, theologically speaking.
That’s where the “plagiarism by anticipation” bullshit comes into play: It allows “Christian” theologians to acknowledge that the religion they were intent on spreading (at sword-point!) strongly resembled much of the “Paganism” they were intent on torturing/slaughtering into extinction — without actually having to confront what that admission would ACTUALLY mean.
Quite frankly, the “Dirty little secret” at the base of “Christian” history is Constantine’s attempt to spread Christianity at sword-point. Torture and slaughter — NOT persuasion.
Moreover, Christianity has never” been even marginally “united”. Leaving aside the torture/slaughter of (purportedly) “heretical” variants of Christianity, the heirs of Constantine couldn’t even manage to preserve the “Unity” they had managed to create (via the torture/slaughter of “Pagans” and “heretics” .
So, yeah: “Christianity” has been in a constant (slow-moving) process of splintering since at least 1054 AD. The process has been accelerating since the (so-called) “Protestant Reformation” in 1517, to the point where there are now approximately 38,000 “Denominations” which self-identify as “Christian”.
At any rate, I think I might be (somewhat) off-topic, again.
My point is: I think I’m beginning to understand why the vast majority of “Atheist” argumentation is aimed squarely at “Fundie” Protestant literalism: The vast preponderance of “militant atheists” are former “Fundies” of one kind or another.
Quite frankly, the most militant atheist/anti-theist types tend to be pissed-off ex-Fundies, originating from extremely insular/literalist/Biblical Inerrency”-type subcultures. (Dan Barker is a textbook example of this.)
This fact goes a long way toward explaining stuff like the following:
I’ve read enough of the New Atheists to see a pattern in their thinking about the Bible, and it is disturbingly similar to what you see in the Southern Baptist Convention or Bob Jones University. Conservative Christians and New Atheists share naïve views of what the Bible “ought” to be, namely the notion that if the Bible is really the “Word of God,” it will provide accurate historical and scientific information.
Conservative Christians are very clear about this assumption, and it is just under the surface for New Atheists. This shared assumption is taken in polar opposite conclusions.
New Atheists point out that Genesis is wholly out of sync with scientific reality. This is true, but they assume that this sort of thing is sufficient grounds to declare the Bible a stupid book, Christianity a stupid religion, and Christians stupid people. “See how sloppy the Bible is with basic facts known to every middle schooler? And you call this the ‘Word of God!’ Get over it.”
Lack of elementary scientific credibility renders the Bible suspect. Oddly enough, conservative Christians hold the same assumption. If the Bible is not historically, even scientifically, accurate, then God is a “liar” and there is no reason to trust him. The Word of God cannot make such huge factual errors. Based on this assumption, the scientific evidence is either ignored, marginalized, selectively appealed to, or re-interpreted to ease the tension.
New Atheists and conservative Christians have all sorts of reasons to be at odds, and their shared naïveté about the Bible is certainly one of them.
Something to think about.