The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Over at Capitol Hill Blue Paul C Campos makes a case—The contradiction of atheism—for why the enormous political prejudice against atheists is justified. He didn’t go it alone either. His Mormon friend, also an expert on religion, helped him.

…when one presses a purported atheist, one almost always finds that the person believes in various propositions that simply don’t make sense without a belief in some source of an ultimate moral order, i.e., what most people would call “God.” For instance, almost everyone who claims to be an atheist still makes lots of “ought” statements, as in “we ought to preserve biological diversity,” or what have you.

…atheists… and religious believers ought to agree that preserving biological diversity, and therefore in the long run humanity, is a profound moral imperative.

…this kind of thing has always seemed to me nonsensical on its face. After all, the human race has existed for an eye-blink of cosmological time and will certainly cease to exist in another eye-blink or two.

The only response a genuine atheist would have to that fact is, so what? Which helps explain why there are almost no genuine atheists.

Why would an atheist answer otherwise? How about because he wants to be–

  1. Happy and healthy.
  2. Rich.
  3. Safe from violence and persecution.

And he probably wants the same for all his descendants because we’re sexually dimorphic biological creatures and our DNA informs our purpose as much as our personal choices.

To be assured of achieving all three there must be freedom—pursuit of happiness as one defines it for oneself, an open economy—the chance to earn as much as one can, and personal rights guarded by a government which adheres to points one and two, freedom of body and of cash. To achieve all three for one’s descendants requires a long view but not at the sacrifice of one’s other interests. One needs, at minimum, to be healthy and safe to be able provide health and safety for one’s children.

So, essentially what the atheist wants is an uncorrupted America where the Bill of Rights is still in full force. And the environment is held in proper stewardship. God doesn’t provide one the ability to appreciate nature, nor art.

So Mr Campos’s vague rationale for prejudice against “genuine” atheists is destroyed.

On the other hand, he implies that the morally superior religious would want to defend nature. No reason given. Just that God informs their morality and presumably God loves all the animals that will fit in a boat.

Campos is actually right that the Christian will be on the opposite side of the atheist but, as he was wrong about where the atheist would fall, he gets this side wrong too.

Why must a Christian answer “so what?” So what if nature ends or the world burns to a cinder in the death throes of our sun? Apparently Paul has read the Bible about as many times as he’s spoken with atheists about morality.

“Genesis” is pretty clear on the matter. The Christian God gave man the animals and plants to rule over; not to conserve but to burn through however we feel. He gave us the world to subdue; not to steward but to beat down.

The Bible says, over and over, that the world we live in now is not real, not permanent. That we live—or maybe sinners don’t, the Bible has several contradictory messages on this point—eternally elsewhere.

The reason why an atheist might understand that human existence is just a blink in time and still care is because the atheist knows this life is all he’s got. He wants it to be good; to matter. The reason why the religious might see their own Earthly lives as meaningless is because every major religion says it is.

The doom of the world can only elicit a “so what?” from Christians, otherwise they are not Christians, just guilt ridden agnostics who have memorized a few New Testament names and seen “The Ten Commandments.”

No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God. George HW Bush
5 comments · Commenting is closed
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Dave Trowbridge

Re: The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

As a Christian Quaker, I have to say that your post misrepresents my understanding of Christianity and the meaning of Scripture about as badly as Mr. Campos misrepresents atheists.

Most of the beliefs or attitudes you ascribe to Christians are in fact Gnostic, an ancient belief in the essential unreality and evil of the world that predates Christianity and keeps popping up again and again despite the clear testimony of Scripture against it, which says at the very beginning of Creation that "God saw that it was good."

Furthermore, much of what fundamentalists believe, which is what I think you're really discussing here, is based on a modern confusion between mythos and logos: treating the mythic, symbolic truths of Scripture (any Scripture, not just the Bible) as though it were the proper subject of scientific discourse (logos). It's not, and when you do that you end up with a monstrosity. In fact, I daresay that the confusion between mythos and logos, which Karen Armstrong claims is the root of fundamentalism, is one of the most destructive memes of the modern world.

Anyway, as should be obvious, I don't believe for a moment that atheists are incapable of being what Fred Clark at Slacktivist calls "people of good will." Morality is not a religious monopoly.

By Dave Trowbridge on 1 March 2007 · 19:13

A is A

Re: The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

As the nephew of a Quaker I uh… well, I miss that aunt a lot actually so I’ve got no gag.

I respect individuals’ right to worship or believe whatever they please. And I particularly appreciate the Quaker view on peace and such.

You’re preaching to the informed here though (Christians wiped out the Gnostics—who basically thought God was really Satan—long before they started trying to wipe out Jews and pagans and Moslems; the last seems to be experiencing a mild revival).

You’re right from a secular, modern view which is largely at odds with the Bible proper. The Bible does say things like “death to fags and children” ad infinitum and it’s not all Old Testament (like Rev 2:23). Jesus also said that the whole Bible is to be taken literally, that He is the only way to salvation and everything else is the Devil, and that the Law of the Old Testament is still in full force down to the capital letter (Matthew 5:17-18).

[more: 10 Questions to Ask… and QueryLog: Bible]

Religious fundamentalists are repugnant but I respect their commitment to a bit. They have integrity. Religious moderates do not. They claim beliefs which easily slide depending on weather, current events, or ecumenical council. Fanatics are easy to recognize and dismiss. Moderates are the real danger because they persist in irrational, fact-free beliefs which readily convert to functional fundamentalism.

Polls put the percent of Americans who understand that evolution is how we got here at 25-35%. That 65-75% of America is not fundamentalist. It’s mostly religious moderates who are predisposed to arguments devoid of reason. America has no future if that trend persists.

Dave, I dig your site and from your writing I’m sure you’re a nice man. I’m not trying to get your goat. I revere and cherish the part of humans that can feel a sense of the sacred, the transcendent. I don’t think it should be taken away and people have to find their own way to feel that in life. I would even fight to the death to keep the entire First Amendment alive. But I call ’em like I see ’em. History, up to and including today, shows organized religion to be a cancer on humanity and the biggest obstacle to human progress.

Now, I’m off to have a Cadbury Creme Egg. I suggest you do the same. We can, I hope, at least agree upon that.

By A is A on 1 March 2007 · 20:53

Dave Trowbridge

Re: The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

I don't want to chew up a lot of space in your comments, so just two points in response.

1) You are reading the Bible the same way the fundamentalists do: literally, and in non-contextual pieces. For instance, Jesus also said that his father's house had many waystations in it, and that he had many sheep in different flocks. Any interpretation of the Bible that does not take the whole of it into account is not true to its message.

2) I don't understand how you define a "religious moderate." If you mean people with no strong beliefs, then I suppose I could go along with your description of them as lacking integrity. But, speaking only for myself, I have very strong beliefs, which, while they are evolving, don't change with the winds of fashion. But I am not a fundamentalist. I consider myself liberal, but not moderate.

3) Finally, it's a very selective view of history that sees organized religion as a "cancer on humanity." Like any human organization, it's prone to abuse--and I'll grant, perhaps more prone, given that it too easily assumes divine sanction for its atrocities. But to overlook the contributions of the millions of people who have been moved to acts of love and charity by organized religion is, I think, somewhat disingenuous.

Enough. Enjoy your egg cream!

By Dave Trowbridge on 2 March 2007 · 19:28

A is A

Re: The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

I will concede one thing which I never really saw in this light before. Most of the evil done by churches (and there are millions of deaths and torture and destruction of science and all that jazz) was done by churches in their governmental capacity. Government—which historically most always leans toward totalitarian, authoritarian, etc, etc—is the greatest pox on Man. So, in that sense, the religion proper isn’t directly to blame.

You obviously are well read. I hope you will add a few things like HL Mencken. The rational can coexist with the sacred only where the sacred is rational.

By A is A on 2 March 2007 · 23:48

Dave Trowbridge

Re: The ugly contradiction of Paul C Campos

Whoops! Make that three points!

By Dave Trowbridge on 2 March 2007 · 19:42