Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mike S. Adams: Being Angry with Your Gods Doesn't Make you an Atheist

Many believers go through tough times in their lives when they will question their faith. Sometimes they will get angry about it: angry at life, angry at their church, even angry at their gods. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and is often part of intellectual growth. However, being angry with the gods does not make one an atheist. This should be obvious after a moments' thought. Atheists don't believe there are any gods, and one can't be angry with what one doesn't acknowledge. Being angry with one's parents doesn't make one an orphan.

Unfortunately, many formerly angry Christians make this mistake and erroneously describe themselves as "former atheists". It is a refrain and mistake so common that we atheists can be forgiven for responding with a semi-rude roll of the eyes prior to delving into this explanation. This is not to say there are no former atheists. There indeed are, and one of my early atheistic mentors, if you will, is among them.

We should keep an open mind when someone makes such a claim prior to leaping to conclusions. But ask any atheist about his conversations with people claiming to be former atheists, and you'll hear his experience that 99% of people who claim they used to be atheists never were. It is not just the anger line that gives them away. It's their complete cluelessness about how atheists think (insofar as we can be grouped together, which isn't much), and their invariable backslide into Christian caricatures of what atheists are rather than what atheists are really like, that gives them away. Mike S. Adams is such a person.

In that article, Mike tells a clever little tale of his failure to organize an on-campus debate on whether it takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian, and his conjecture as to why. In it, he completely misses the mark, skipping reasoned reality for a trip through Adams Fantasy Atheism world, where all the ignorant Christian canards about atheism are true. That a person writing in a national forum could be so stupifyingly ignorant of the subject of his writings is nothing short of embarrassing. That such a person could have a position at an institute of higher learning, calls the entire institution into question.

For starters, the debate topic is absurd on its face. Christians themselves talk about the importance of faith, and for good reason: the evidence supporting their claims ranges from poor in quality and quantity to nonexistent. Christians are also hard pressed to show demonstrably why it is more logical to believe in Jesus than it is to believe in Visnhu or Thor or Zeus. Faith is the only solution. Atheism simply looks at the findings of science, history, and philosophy and decides it is all nonsense. That conclusion could be wrong of course, but it is not one of faith. The only way one could make such an argument is by denying the realities of the world. The guest Adams wanted to team with in the debate was Frank Turek, a Josh McDowellesque writer whose arguments cause atheists to laugh out loud, not quiver in fear of an intellectual lashing. So given the level of this debate didn't promise to rise above a junior high level, it should hardly come as a surprise that the university didn't care to waste time and resources on it.

But dismissing out of hand that his idea was not up to University standards (as usual), not getting a response from the Chancellor to his accusations of unfair discrimination, and torqued that a colleague was using recent books by Dawkins and Hitchens in a sociology of religion class, Adams instead responds with a little list which displays a complete lack of understanding of the education process:

"And so today I write publicly - in a forum far more widely read than – with a simple list of things I think Christians at UNCW are entitled to expect:

1. In courses raising the controversial topic of religion the professor has every right to assign readings arguing that Christians and religious folks in general are stupid. But the professor should also make some effort to assign readings that reflect a contrary view.

In the first place, Adams has the facts wrong. Both Dawkins and Hitchens are fully aware of the fact that intelligent believers abound. It is the ideas of religion, not religious people per se, that they think are in general, stupid. More importantly, notice that Adams makes no mention of what the evidence is when calling for balance. He simply doesn't care what it is. This is the Fox News fair-and-balanced canard in a nutshell. In Adamsland, the parents-did-it theory and the Santa theory have to get equal time, regardless of the facts.

Sorry Mike, that isn't what the university is for. There, the evidence matters, and sorry, but every shred of data out there shows a negative correlation between education, intelligence, and fervor of religiosity. Creationists consistently test worse than non-creationists. If reality bothers you, you need a new profession.

2. When professors are either unwilling or unable to abide by #1, they should be willing to defend their views in a debate or on a panel – especially one that equally represents both sides.

Oh? And should a geology professor whimsically noting the spheriocity of the earth be prompted to waste time debating a flat-earther because he did not assign a flat-earth textbook to his students? Of course not. The university curriculum is supposed to stimulate learning based on our best knowledge to date, not simply any fool thing someone wants to assert.

Adams reveals how out of touch with reality he is with his parting note to his employer:

(Author’s note: Currently UNCW is promoting a “Celebration of Darwin” with various speeches and courses, which, taken together, make the Turek lecture so much more important in an environment claiming an interest in “tolerance” and “diversity” of different views).

There's your smoking gun. Celebrating the monumental scientific achievement of Charles Darwin, which grew into one of the most well-tested and universally influential scientific theories there are, is to be viewed as intolerant because the university doesn't give equal time to quacks with theological agendas and biases who do no science.

Adams of course wants to pin all this on atheist anger:

Because I am a former atheist I know that atheists are often very angry at the God they claim does not exist. That gives the emotionally charged writings of Dawkins and Hitchens great cathartic value, despite their general lack of educational value.

As we noted earlier, anger at god is angry belief, not disbelief, so Adams is simply wrong. Atheists are not angry with the gods, and if that is what Adams thinks atheism is, then he never was one. It is also typical of critics of atheistic writers to use the poison-the-well tactic of labeling them "angry" and "emotional charged" as a way of trivializing what they say, which is all Adams is doing here. Were he to bother reading the books he is criticizing (I know, I'm so damned demanding), he'd learn that what anger Dawkins, Hitchens, and other atheist authors have on the issue is at churches and their flocks for the evil they do, governments for catering to any length of foolishness so long as it is called "religion", and at the average citizen who gives religion a free pass from intellectual challenges other ideologies rightly face.

Adams thinks he understands why atheists act like they do, but since he never was one, his speculations are nothing short of hilarious. In irony that approaches neck height, Adams' ignorant and downright adolescent noodlings on atheists are liable to end up on a lot of atheistic sites as perfect examples of how stupid Christians can be. Thus Adams adds to the very stereotype that chafes him so. His zinger? Better sit down for this one:

I also understand why atheist professors would be unwilling to debate their reasons for rejecting religions like Christianity. Back in my days as an atheist, speaking truthfully on a panel would have required a public admission that I rejected Christianity largely because it would not have allowed me to continue getting drunk and high every night while splitting time between four girlfriends.

Mike's fantasy version of his life aside, this is hilarity bordering on parody. Mike Adams thinks that because he (apparently) placed fulfilling his most base desires above reality, and in doing so got angry with his gods, that is what all atheists do. So many errors, so little time.

First off, it looks like little has changed in Mike. When he wanted to debauch, he rejected what he thought stood in his way, and to hell with reality. Now that he wants to be an evolution-denying Christian, he makes up shit about atheists and denies basic science, and to hell with reality. All that's changed is the object of his ignorance.

Second, since when does being a Christian prevent one from ingesting drugs and having multiple lovers? These days we can't turn on the news without hearing yet another story of the evangelical who sneaks off to play "who's got the sausage" with someone not his wife, and often not even female, while imbibing in ways that Mike's old fantasy self would find more than exciting. Surveys place the rate of make infidelity at 60-80%, whereas the most estimate of atheists in the US population is 30%. So there are a whole lot of Christians living just like Mike was. Perhaps he just needed a different church.

And finally, ever been to a gathering of atheists? It isn't exactly a drug-crazed orgy. Few atheists, like few of most groups, engage in the kind of lifestyle Adams ignorantly associates with atheism. It's just his way of avoiding serious intellectual debate. Again, the irony is neck deep.

And I think I understand why the university will not help us in our efforts to advertise a talk by Frank Turek. In an age of political correctness there is no greater fear than that somewhere, somehow, someone may be offended. And they are probably correct (not just politically, but factually) to assume that most atheists will be offended by the very title of Frank Turek’s speech.

Indeed we are, but not for the reasons you think. We are offended that someone purporting to be an intellectual could write such ignorant, intellectually dishonest claptrap. And we'd be even further offended that a university administrator would be asleep at the wheel enough to let such slip through the sieve that universities are supposed to have to keep nonsense out. It is the same offense that would be felt by chess grandmasters invited to a match only to find they are matched against people who think they know how to pay top-level chess because they read how to move the pieces on the inside of the box. The children at UNC can get a Frank Turek quality lecture on any street corner. No reason to waste university resources on it.

This need to protect atheists from hurt feelings may lead some to believe that they don’t make atheists like they used to. But I know from experience that the correlation between faith and fear has always been significant, strong, and inverse.

Here Adams again needs to come back to planet earth. We atheists ask only to be protected from believers forcing their ignorance onto us in the laws and in our school curriculum. Feelings have nothing to do with it, that is your arena. They make atheists the same way they always have, it's just that your experience doesn't qualify. Want to help change the perception of Christians as ignorant tools? Stop writing ignorant tripe like this..

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