Monday, August 13, 2007

Dinesh D'Souza just can't help himself

For an instructive lesson in the puerility of religious conservative thought I suggest a healthy dose of Dinesh D'Souza. He asks the question "Do atheists disbelieve in God or do they hate Him?" This is a common thought among religious conservative who have been so cocooned in their religious communities that they find it impossible that anyone could take exception to them without being motivated by anything but base anger. He goes on to attack the recent advocates of atheism such as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris with arguments that can be described only as willfully ignorant, and which lead me to believe he has not read any of the works he criticizes nor has ever bothered to do so much as watch an interview.

He starts:

Even if God's existence could be proven, Nietzsche writes in The Antichrist, we would still refuse to accept him. When I read atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, I don't get the impression that they are motivated by mere unbelief. I don't believe in unicorns, but I don't go around writing books full of rejection and bile about unicorns. When I read The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, I see that their authors do not so much disbelieve in God as they hate Him.

Sorry Dinesh but people don't base their entire view of reality on their belief in unicorns. They don't attempt to justify their ethical opinions based on convoluted and archaic books about unicorns, and they don't subsequently damn each other to hell and begin suicide bombing missions based on their belief in unicorns. Again D'Souza seems under the impression that religious beliefs can do no harm.

Consequently, the arguments spelled out in these atheist books are out of sync with the actual vehemence of their authors.

A brief scan of the insane proclamations of people such as Jerry Falwell (who D'Souza defended against Hitchens) will convince a fair-minded reader of who is more vehement and hateful.

Dawkins and Hitchens contend that God is not demonstrable according to the scientific method. But then, lots of things are not demonstrable according to that method. Can Dawkins and Hitchens give a scientific account of consciousness? Can they locate free will under a microscope? What about "equality" and "justice" and "rights": none of these things have any material existence, so does that make them illusions? Since even Dawkins and Hitchens have no problem accepting the existence of lots of immaterial things, they never explain why God is the one immaterial entity that stirs up their skeptical indignation. Somehow the scientific case against God seems to be an inadequate explanation for their belligerent atheism.

It is good to see firstly that D'Souza has been untouched by any of the Western tradition of humanism. Apparently we can't gain any insight into ethics through the study of man and human society. No we must make unfounded and empty conjectures about the nature of god(s) to do this. Never mind rely on holy books which have all the moral relevance and authority of a the ignorant and brutal societies which produced them. He is ignorant, wholly ignorant, of the insights of biology, anthropology, neuroscience, psychology, ect. into human nature and into the reasons why we might behave as we do. Steven Pinker, Robert Wright, Scott Atran and many others have written tomes about our understanding of the human race but apparently D'Souza thinks that books written by ignorant nomads with utterly no understanding of the natural world are still better. There are definitely gaps in our understanding of the world and Homo Sapiens but how does that lend support to the wild, baseless, and unsupported dogma of religion? This is just an argument from ignorance.

Then in a weird turn he lauds Michael Onfray and his "Continental atheism" which D'Souza finds more darkly appealing and dangerous. The French tradition of atheism has been often bundled with the postmodern/Marxist writings of people like Derrida, Foucault, Sartre, and Althusser which are virtually indecipherable and all very actively wish for a destruction of Western values. D'Souze here is so dishonest it reminds me of a parent inculcating these superstitions to an inquisitive child, and having to lie. D'Souze doesn't find Onfray's atheism more appealing so much as he wants his incurious fans to think that atheism is destructive to Western values. Values I might add which have only a tenuous basis in his treasured holy books and which have rarely found support from his beloved religious institutions. The fact that atheism might be destructive to Western values is something D'Souza says, "Dawkins and Hitchens have not even considered." Has he read these books he scorns? Or is he willfully ignoring the fact that this is simply untrue? It is impossible to discuss it here but simply flipping through the tables of contents of these books will show that both Dawkins and Hitchens (not to mention Sam Harris who is more thorough on this point than either of them) have gone to pains not only to show that atheism is fully compatible with Western values but is indeed more compatible with a system of ethics palatable in the West than the religious books on which the great monotheisms are based.

A quick look through the comments section on his blog at AOL will show that he is just about universally hated by the people who read him, and on every one of his posts about religion the majority of comments either disagree or outright mock him. He is a child in a man's suit, and an intellectually cloistered dork with nothing even resembling comprehension of the meaning of intellectual rigor.