Clay Naff: Coyne isn’t filling that God-shaped hole

March 30, 2013 • 11:18 am

It’s so tiresome to read repeatedly that New Atheism is a failure because we aren’t replacing religion with anything else. This claim has been made once again in a HuffPo piece by Clay Naff called “Humanism’s moment of opportunity, going to waste.” Naff spends a lot of time going after me, and I’ll try to respond politely.

He first touts the success of American megachurches, and claims that, by comparison, non-theists (not just New Atheists) are a miserable failure:

Their non-theistic rivals? Not so much. The evidence is in, and it is clear: New Atheists have been a media success and a societal failure. They know how to sell books, how to debate, how to sneer, skewer, and satirize — in short, how to use all the squabbling skills of the modern academic (cf. the letters section of the New York Review of Books) — but the New Atheists seemingly have no idea how to build a positive social movement.

First of all, it’s not true that atheists aren’t trying to fill the gap left by God. Anthony Grayling, by all accounts a New Atheist, has just written a book suggesting the replacement of religion by enlightened humanism. And there are plenty of “nontheists”—granted, most not New Atheists—suggesting other replacements for religion, including Alain de Botton and Philip Kitcher.

Finally, is New Atheism really a failure? Naff’s only “evidence” is that the rise of the “nones” in America (those who profess no formal religion) has “passed the New Atheists by.” But I’m not convinced that vociferous atheism hasn’t contributed to this trend, nor do I think that all of us are required, when criticizing the follies of faith, to suggest replacements. Isn’t it enough to instill doubt in the young and fence-sitters that belief without evidence is not necessarily a good thing? How are we supposed to give hidebound Muslims, for instance, an alternative to the marginalization of women? Nevertheless, Naff takes us to task for our lack of positivity:

What gives? Surely, this is a moment of opportunity for us secular humanists. What are we doing wrong? The trouble, as I see it, is that leading public figures in New Atheism are known only for what they seem to be against: God, free will, purpose, hope … everything but apple pie. That’s great for the media, which feasts on conflict. But for building a mass movement? Clearly insufficient.

Worse yet, far from having the common touch many seem to revel in their elitism. A decade after Richard Dawkins endorsed “The Brights,” 50,000 people worldwide have signed on — a smaller crowd than you’d find at a college football game.

Well, I was never too keen on “The Brights,” but really, that’s a red herring.  Nobody but atheist-butters like Naff still talk about the “brights”. That idea is moribund. And “reveling in elitism” is just a pejorative term for “criticizing religion.”

Naff then takes me on:

One prominent New Atheist, biologist Jerry Coyne, recently addressed claims that the movement is failing in his blog. Much of his commentary follows a common New Atheist pattern: our critics are stupid (he uses the label twice in successive paragraphs), motivated by hatred, and prone to lie. (All of which is true in some instances, but it has become a reflex, a crowdpleaser, a litany.) What is most striking, however, is the semi-reflective passage near the end of his piece:

“Maybe atheism doesn’t answer the fundamental questions, but why should it–it’s simply a refusal to accept deities and those systems of worship that claim (in conflicting ways) to answer the “fundamental questions.” Most of us know that many of those so-called “fundamental questions,” like “Why are we here?” don’t have an answer beyond the laws of physics. Others, like “What is our purpose?” must be answered by each person on their own, for their [sic] is no general answer. Still others, like “How are we to live?”, are answered far better by secular reason than by dogmatic adherence to outdated or even immoral religious strictures.”

What a tangle of confusion. There’s the admission that perhaps atheism doesn’t fill the vacuum left when religion is left behind, followed by an angry retort that to do so would go beyond the brief of atheism. “That’s not my job!” you can almost hear him say.

Sorry about that typo, Mr. Naff, but that’s the only thing I’d change! I don’t descry an “angry snarl” in that quote, not any “tangle of confusion.” True, I don’t see it as my job to answer the Big Questions of Life, except for myself. Who am I to tell people where to find meaning in their lives? My non-academic job, as I see it, is simply to point out weaknesses in reasoning, and the inimical results when those weaknesses become public asseverations of faith that, in turn, have bad social consequences.  I’ll let Alain de Botton and Philip Kitcher do the heavy lifting when it comes to suggesting alternatives. I’m not a sociologist.

And, oh noes, I am guilty of scientism:

But Coyne can’t leave it at that. He rolls on beyond the pale and into scientism itself. “Most of us know,” he begins, and then reels off a list of philosophical questions and answers (or non-answers) that lie outside the realm of knowledge. It’s fine to assert that the laws of physics are foundational — provided you recognize that this is not knowledge but belief. (The difference being that knowledge must be justified by reason and evidence.) By definition, we have no evidence of anything beyond the light horizon, and certainly none that the laws of physics are foundational. It’s not even clear that any statement about getting to the bottom of reality is coherent. Does reality necessarily have a bottom? You don’t need a doctorate in cosmology or philosophy to answer that; you just need a modicum of rational humility: We don’t know.

Thanks to science, there are indeed things we know with a reasonable degree of certainty. Among these are the natural laws that govern everything we can observe, out to an astonishing distance. But whether there is anything “beyond” that (say, an infinite multiverse, a vast but finite cosmic landscape, or a mischievous teenager running the simulation) remains a matter of conjecture. That does not entitle us to affirm “There be dungeons and dragons,” but neither does it sanction the conjectures of cosmologists. There is room to imagine, interpret, and explore.

Of course it sanctions the conjectures of cosmologists, for many such conjectures, like the existence of a multiverse, may one day be supported by reason and evidence. Insofar as cosmology progresses, it is by trying to test conjectures. And at least we can try to answer scientific questions, and are sometimes successful. In contrast, centuries of conjecture by the faithful have brought us no closer to knowing whether there is a god (i.e., the ultimate Dungeon and Dragon), much less understanding what said god is like.  Theologians can interpret, imagine, and explore as much as they want, but they’ve been doing that for two thousand years and have come up with. . . nothing. Instead, they’ve produced over ten thousand religions, all with conflicting conjectures, moralities, and guides to living.  The record of cosmology is much better.

Finally, I’m accused of being contemptuous:

Now, let me state that I do not think Jerry Coyne stupid, venal, or deliberately untruthful. His writings on evolution are great. I share much, though not all, of his worldview. It seems to me, however, that he and all too many of his New Atheist colleagues have fallen into an all-too-human trap: building the solidarity of their group by fostering indiscriminate contempt for “the enemy.”

F’rinstance: Coyne brands any nontheist who reaches out to non-atheists an “accommodationist.” It’s meant to sear. But consider: If we cannot make accommodation for those who don’t share our particular worldview, we can only prepare for war (of one type or another).

There is a better way. Humanism can speak with a positive voice. I’m not suggesting we should be intellectually soft. On the contrary, I’m calling for greater intellectual honesty. Let’s be honest about what we do and do not know. There is plenty enough evidence to discredit traditional theism, and the effort to do so must continue, but it only marks a beginning. As I’ve written many times, the same evidence means we should reject all claims of the supernatural. Still, that doesn’t make atheism or scientism the only worthy worldview.

In truth, I don’t know what it means to accommodate those who don’t share our worldview. Do we ignore the things with which we disagree, and tell the faithful that it’s okay to believe what they want? Well, if what they believe has no implications for society, that’s fine. But the problem with many religions is that they can’t refrain from imposing their unevidenced superstitions on the rest of us. Would Naff suggest that we accommodate those Mormons who marry 12-year-old girls, those Muslims who put their wives in burqas and kill them if they’re seen with an unrelated male? Should we “accommodate” those who think that homosexuality is a sin? Should we accommodate the African bishops who tell their flocks that it’s better to get AIDS than use condoms? Am I supposed to accommodate those who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and try to force public schools to teach creationism?

No, I won’t do that, and am implacably opposed to such follies of faith. In one sense we are in a war—a war of rationality against superstition. And Ceiling Cat help us if superstition wins.

In the end, we do know some things. We know, for instance, that 12-year-old girls don’t want to be married to 50-year old men with six other wives; we know that condoms prevent AIDS; and we know that many Muslim women, given a choice, would choose freedom over oppression.

If, as Naff argues, we should reject all claims of the supernatural, then why is any religion a worthy worldview? At bottom, such worldviews always depend on supernatural claims.

78 thoughts on “Clay Naff: Coyne isn’t filling that God-shaped hole

  1. First, I wonder how “social movement” is defined. If it’s just a bunch of people congratulating themselves on agreeing in an imaginary friend, so what? Why golly gee, it’s a social club and just like a social club, we have the usual gossip and petty hatreds. There is nothing special here thanks to some religion. And if it is a safety net to help the less fortunate, why are charities always going wanting in the communities that these churches operate?

    These megachurches spend their money on their buildings, the pastor’s salary, etc. We do not see themselves living frugally and helping those who need it by constantly turning their “offerings” over to outreach efforts to the homeless, the working poor, the abused, etc. I live in a small city, and the local mission has to beg everyone in the community constantly for funds to help the homeless while there is at least 10 pages of churches, mosques and synagogues in the yellow pages, in nice small print. If churches were such wonderful machines of social movements, this should never happen. Naff is working under a delusion that churches love to spread but never live up to.

    1. “the local mission has to beg everyone in the community constantly for funds to help the homeless while there is at least 10 pages of churches, mosques and synagogues in the yellow pages, in nice small print. If churches were such wonderful machines of social movements, this should never happen. Naff is working under a delusion that churches love to spread but never live up to.”

      It’s Batesean mimicry in reverse. The megachurches attract money and power by mimicking (in words and tone) the humble missions.

  2. I would consider New Atheism V1 a success if it 1) stopped people from accepting dogma without question (this includes non-religious dogma); 2) got people to keep their religion to themselves (this includes keeping it out of my kid’s school, my government, ceasing the indoctrination of your own kids, and expecting I should pay to support your fantasies. The atheists’ movement doesn’t owe thinking persons a replacement for religion.

  3. I had to read Naff’s work again at the Huffpo site. I still don’t think he said anything.

    “leading public figures in New Atheism are known only for what they seem to be against: God, free will, purpose, hope”

    I came to know most of the leading figures for being scientists, Philosophers, comedians. Honest teacher types. I don’t understand what he means by against god, purpose or hope. New Atheists seem to be all about purpose and hope. They’re against the fantasy purpose and hope brought on through faith for a rational and realistic world. You’ve brought out the love of science, philosophy and debate in many of us and I’m sure I’m not the only one inspired to go back to college to get a degree because of people like Coyne and Dawkins.

    His whole article is just a ramble and telling us what he thinks we want to hear. It reads like a cheap attempt to stir up controversy for him to sell his books, what he has said we do best.

    1. ‘Against … free will’? I don’t understand that. I know Jerry strongly argues that we don’t HAVE free will, I’m not aware that other leading atheists argue that quite so strongly, but anyway none them (AFAIK) ever says free will would be a *bad* thing. (Substitute ‘apparent free will’ there if you wish). The implication in Naff’s quote is that leading atheists think we should all be prisoners in some Big Brother / North Korea – esque society – which is BS.

      (Just like Dawkins emphasises that, because evolution is blind, cruel and purposeless, that doesn’t mean it’s good and we can certainly use our intelligence to do better).

  4. Why do we “need” to replace religion with anything? We wouldn’t be less moral without it.

    You maybe could argue that it offers social cohesion, but from what I can see, that kind of social cohesion is almost always associated with bigotry.

    1. Indeed – the Nordic countries have not “replaced” religion with anything in particular, and they’re doing just fine. More than just fine, actually.

  5. I think the real failure would be to create a godless religion.

    To assume that all of those who become atheists suddenly feel hollow and in need of filling a void is nonsense.

    1. Never had religion. Never wanted it. There was is “god-shaped hole” to fill to begin with, and no “vacuum left when religion is (was) left behind.”

    2. And if one does feel a void, then who is to say that is not a valid response to one’s experience of and thoughts about the world?
      I personally think that humanism needs to be as sharply critiqued as any religion. Ditto any “ism”.

        1. Scepticism too. Critical thinking should be applied to itself. The void looms… or a leap of faith of some kind. Religion and human “isms” are just not my cup of tea.

      1. Yes perfectly valid , I just think there is this idea that atheism takes something away from you when in fact it can actually bring you peace and it can be quite fulfilling.

      2. And if one does feel a void, then who is to say that is not a valid response to one’s experience of and thoughts about the world?


  6. Is something preventing Clay Naff and his comrades from building these alternatives they keep harping about? How is “gnu atheist” critique of religion in any way interfering with their efforts?

    My problem is with whining about mean strident atheists. It is lazy at best.

  7. Funny thing is, it is actually a religious guy who pointed out the problem with this sort of reasoning by Naff.

    JRR Tolkien wrote Gandalf as calling Sauron a “Wise fool” because he was so bent on dominating everyone else he couldn’t quite imagine someone toppling him and not wanting to replace him as dark lord.

    With guys like Naff, its the same problem.

    What we are aiming at isn’t a Godless religion.

  8. Despite your reservations the only way to break out of this identity crisis is with ‘Brights’.

    1. The only way? Really?

      I can’t see the Brights being able to do – or actually doing – anything that secular humanism can’t and isn’t.

      And humanism is very compatible with gnu atheism; for ex., as the BHA notes, humanists look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.


      1. ‘Brights’ need some new thinking. The ‘new atheism’, humanism and all ideologies have run out of steam. What better way to start than with ‘Bright’?

    2. Though I’m a great fan of Richard Dawkins, I think ‘brights’ was an embarrassing mistake. It sounds vain and arrogant, as if we atheists are claiming to be more intelligent than everybody else. Which is just not true (anybody can be an atheist regardless of IQ); there may be some evidence that the average atheist is more intelligent than the average theist (though I suspect any such evidence would be wide open to statistical arguments); but EVEN IF TRUE I think it’s boastful to publicly and repeatedly proclaim this.

      Oh, and it’s subverting a perfectly good English word which already has a well-known colloquial meaning of ‘intelligent’. So I’d expect ‘brights’ to be gifted children or something like that, not atheists.

      (Never mind that homosexuals managed to redefine ‘gay’, for which I still haven’t forgiven them, lexically speaking – and where’s the evidence that the average homosexual is happier and more carefree than the average person? That doesn’t legitimise doing it again).

      1. Dawkins didn’t come up with “Brights.” He seemed to sign on out of good will and curiosity over whether atheists could spread a meme.

        The ironic thing is that the Brights (and the Brights Network) were some of the earliest advocates for what we now call ‘accomodationism.’ “Don’t criticize religious liberals — let’s drop the dreary emphasis on how there is no God and join with them to work for common causes! Yea!” That’s a reason why I didn’t join.

        And still they get lumped in with arrogant elitism. The cheerful, positive, upbeat name was and is misunderstood — good intentions which backfired.

        1. This is, BTW, the big reason I have a problem with the “meme” idea (which was originally only meant to be a metaphor, I think I’ve heard Dawkins say).

          Ideas (and word meanings) really aren’t self-replicators, as mountains of work in linguistics tell us — they are much more malleable. Only dead words and ideas maintain their meanings. Stuff that is being used and is useful gets appropriated and modified in often very unpredictable ways.

          “Brights” is a perfect example. Try to start a new word sometime… it’s impossible. Everybody gathers around and gets their grubby little paws on it, and pretty soon it’s agreed upon that it means “snob”.

          The word “meme” is yet another prime example. Those who know its history take it to be some kind of rarefied idea-replicator abstraction, while a linguist knows it’s just a fancy way of saying “idea”. The teens know it’s a jpg on the Internet with a snappy caption on it.

          Actually getting ideas appropriated faithfully by the masses is exacting and very difficult work. It’s never as easy as letting a cockroach go and following it as it multiplies.

      2. I may be mistaken, but I believe “Brights” was actually Dan Dennett’s creation/term. And he meant it to be a positive-sounding term for non-believers, since most names have a negative slant. But I don’t think he meant it to be a jab at believers being not bright. I think I read somewhere that even he admits it was not the best choice for a name.

        1. No, “Brights” was originally coined by activists Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert. Dennett did like the term, however, and once wrote a column where he tried to create the term “Supers” for the supernaturalists. “Brights” and “Supers.” No negative connotation. Didn’t catch on.

      3. How is it that even fans of Dawkins attribute to him positions he hasn’t taken? He never, to my knowledge, advocated the use of the term “brights”.

        1. He was actually an enthusiastic early supporter just like Dawkins.

          Part of the rationale behind the Brights was to mimic what the gays had accomplished in such a short time. If it worked for one reviled minority…

        2. Diane – “He was actually an enthusiastic early supporter just like Dawkins.” To whom do you refer? – Dan Dennett? Just asking because your post immediately follows one which refers only to Dawkins.

          @gbjames – I’m positive I first read that usage of the term ‘bright’ in something by Richard Dawkins. I remember it because I agree with (almost) everything Dawkins says, so I noticed that point of disagreement.

          [Hoping WP puts this where I think it’s going to put it]

            1. Thank you for doing the research that supports my comment below. 😀

              I thought I remembered Dennett’s article being in the NYT.

            2. Thanks for the link. I had read Dennett on the subject but had not seen this early Dawkins contribution.

              I stand corrected.

          1. infinite-etc.–Damn, I think I just still had Dennett on my mind from Uncle Ebeneezer’s comment. Clearly misread gb.

            Doesn’t really matter much, though, as the comment applies to both of them (D & D). In fact, I had the clear impression that they’d discussed the matter privately before coming out simultaneously and enthusiastically in favor of the Brights.

            Not every idea is wildly successful.

    3. ‘Humanism’ has been too focused on the ‘god-shaped hole’. ‘brights’ have to finally make the break and accept (and be proud?) of their identity.

  9. Why would I want to replace religion? For all the claims that Stalin was an evil crusader for atheism, it seems to me that he wanted to replace religion with his own ideology. I don’t want something else to fill the mindless authoritarian niche, I want the mindless authoritarian niche to disappear.

  10. “But consider: If we cannot make accommodation for those who don’t share our particular worldview, we can only prepare for war (of one type or another).”

    The implication is that there is good in a religious world view which overlaps with a secular viewpoint if we only would make an effort to see this similarity. The common ground, therefore, needs to be emphasized according to this perspective.

    Take for instance: Equality for women and men. Hmmm. Common ground? Secularism: both sexes can focus on developing their potential. Religious view: both sexes can focus on what various interpretations of ancient holy books written before science was a household name them them what is best for them to do. Hmmm.

    Enemies and war? It is more like taking a courageous stand against viewpoints that are ill-informed and out-dated, but are given respect and consideration because, well, it’s religion, you see. Naff wouldn’t accommodate racism, because I guess he sees no good in it. But any racist could tell you the good in it.

    Self-appointed peaceniks like Naff do not understand the dynamics of the Overton Window. It takes all kinds to effect societal change. Good cop/bad cop kinda of thing. Since accommodationists seem to bristle when being referred to as accomodationists, perhaps calling them meddling, self-apppointed peaceniks would go over better? 🙂

    1. ” . . . the dynamics of the Overton Window. ”

      Oh, I agree. But ironically I think they’re doing their part to keep the Gnus in the limelight. Without “controversy,” New Atheism wouldn’t be getting nearly so much coverage, so many column inches.

      It’s the old, “any publicity is good publicity” truism. Keeping the discussion in the public eye keeps the subversive ideas of rationalism, secularism, and freethinking out there where people can’t help but notice them. It reminds people that a significant number of people in their own community, region, or nation happily hold non-religious views, and it has to catch the eye of those who are open to change.

      Moving from “is atheism even an option?” to “what kind of atheism is the best?” is actually a huge step forward.

  11. * Applause *

    leading public figures in New Atheism are known only for what they seem to be against

    Clearly whatever “New Atheism” is, it isn’t ‘Naff.

    the semi-reflective passage

    How can an analysis of self be hemi-demi-semi reflective? Perhaps if it isn’t analyzing all of “self”. But that wasn’t Naff’s problem.

    And now for the pivot point:

    It’s fine to assert that the laws of physics are foundational — provided you recognize that this is not knowledge but belief.

    The laws of physics are, of course, foundational for physics. (Besides the methods of science, naturally.)

    In this sense it is the sole basis for nature, and we now *know* that. Because “Science. It works, bitches.”

    [If you really need a hammer on this mole, I note that both WMAP and Planck now has tested that the universe must be a result of a spontaneous process (i.e. zero energy – or inflation wouldn’t work).

    This means among other things that everything we see, the observable part of the universe, is founded by physics law.]

  12. Actually, new atheism is just one part of a disturbing trend. At the moment there is a well-funded and highly organized drive, sponsored by the UN, to eradicate measles and polio without giving the least thought as to what we are going to replace them with.

    Luckily, these efforts are being countered by religious groups who recognize the importance of ignorance, superstition and disease to the well-being of humans.

    There are even organizations who try to eradicate poverty. If that were to be succesful how on earth would people cope with the loss?

  13. The whole notion that a major part of the justification for religion is to provide social support and solidarity in a hostile world speaks, if I may say so, very much of a specifically American view of society — that is, a view that assumes a weak state in which voluntarist (and mostly religious) organizations have to fill in the gaps (through private hospitals, food banks etc.) that in most other developed countries are the subject of statutory provision. US accommodationist thinking like Naff’s assumes this purpose so instinctively that he thinks it entirely reasonable to demand that the atheist position not only be true, but come equipped with all the institutions of communal solidarity and apparatus of emotional support that institutionalized religion has so successfully co-opted over the centuries — in other words that it provides a “full drop-in replacement” for religion in the lives of believers.

    Well, it isn’t, and it doesn’t, and there’s no damn reason why it, or we, should.

    1. If new atheists were to provide a plan for a “full drop-in replacement” program complete with organizations, leaders, and institutional doctrine then the same people who are now whining about new atheism being so “negative” and “empty” would be screaming bloody murder about how fascist it has become.

  14. With a name like ‘Naff’, what can be expected? Check the Urban Dictionary if you are not British.

  15. If the so-called “new atheism” was boiled down into one simple statement this statement would not be “religion is bad.”

    It would be “religious claims are hypotheses.”

    Everything else — the conflict between religion and science, the inherent problems of “faith,” the poisonous nature of religion, the need to criticize the source — is derived from that simple approach. Take out the supernatural and you’ve removed what defines religion AS religion. If there’s value left it’s secular.

    So I think a lot of the “replacement for religion” could be found in the parts of religious organizations and institutions which still make sense without the supernatural nonsense. No need to reinvent the wheel. Take down the holy symbols and harness the good will which was done in the name of a god which didn’t exist and use it for the betterment of humanity.

    If you think the religious won’t want to continue to have community, charity, and do good works if they don’t get promised an afterlife then the problem with that doesn’t lie in the hearts of the atheists.

  16. The trouble, as I see it, is that leading public figures in New Atheism are known only for what they seem to be against.

    You know, I just love the airy, casual way that gnu atheist critics dismiss the significance and difficulty of getting the vast majority of humanity to stop treating religion as a sacred identity and instead start approaching it with scientific rigor. Oh, they seem to say … that part is so easy. Yes, we know there’s no God. It’s boring and dull. The hard part is going to be building a brand new social system.

    Uh huh. Tell you what. Let us get a little bit closer to persuading the general public that God doesn’t actually exist and it’s okay to figure this out and say it … and THEN we’ll put you in charge of the Building Committee.

  17. “There is room to imagine, interpret, and explore.”

    Investigating the preternatural does not obligate one to make vacancy for the social side-effects of mythos. Informed speculation should always take precedence in the face of unhinged gullibility.

  18. Does anyone here accept any of the criticism of the new atheism?

    If not, fair enough.

    If so, which bits? I would be interested to know.

    (For the record I am anti new atheism, and am probably a tiny minority around these parts! :))

      1. I’m trying to understand whether new atheists and their supporters acknowledge any potential problems and pitfalls in their approach (but simply don’t admit it most the time for tactical reasons), or whether they genuinely don’t believe there are any.

        1. If you are serious about this, then go over to Free Thought Blogs. Crommunist’s series on intersectionality deals with a lot of the problem with the approach taken by “New atheism”.

          New Atheism’s approach, such as it is, tends towards airing conflicts out in public. Thunderf00t criticized this with his “House divided” video.

          Just about everybody involved in the movement is a strong personality that holds to the ideal that forthright, often brutal, honesty is more important than the appearance of getting along.

          This shows a qualitative difference between the criticisms of Dawkins you get from New Atheists (such as those that followed the Dear Muslima letter) and those of religious apologists.

          A religious apologist or “atheist butter” as Coyne calls them, will call Dawkins philosophically naive and ignorant. New Atheists will point out why they think he is wrong, or what he is driving at isn’t sensible.

          New Atheists will criticize each other for substance far more than form, because we are more concerned with whether something is right than whether saying it is nice.

          This has an effect of New Atheism appearing to be less friendly to certain groups than it really is, though I personally think the transparency revealed by these fights is better than the sort of secrecy employed by groups like the Vatican.

          With us at least you know what you are getting rather than the more deceptive route taken by accomodationism.

  19. Pure speculation, but perhaps NAs sell lots of books but don’t seem to be leading a large, successful social movement is because it’s still too costly for many atheists to come completely out.

    At least it seems that way here in the good ol’ USA.

  20. And I hope that Naff deigns to read your interview in Haaretz, which was superb. He would learn something.

  21. I do not feel empty or that I have a void in my life. Sure, I am more comfortable around those who are not constantly trying to convert me.

    I’m suddenly not sure that I have been at the same site “Why Evolution is true” as that described by Naff. I read these articles or mental meanderings every day. I don’t see people clamoring for a replacement religion, nor even a replacement social structure. Just people that have one common interest and discuss many different topics.

  22. I can see it now a soaring cathedral room a hushed congregation the altar flanked by two tesla coils and a mail clad speaker reading from on the origin whilst bolts of electricity surge from the sides of the altar to strike the speaker. This to be followed with a sing along from a well known rock band balls of burning hydrogen soaring to the top of towering glass towers followed by a collection for the upkeep and restoration of the cathedral. Just what the masses need so that they have someone to bond with.

  23. lol.

    What the hell does “God-shaped hole” even mean? haha.

    Do people also have a “Unicorn-shaped hole” they need filled? How about a “Gremlin-shaped hole”?

    I’ll tell ya what. Fill whatever this “hole” is with technical scientific knowledge. How’s that? Will give people with actual productive things to do and at the same time give them the ability to assess the quackiness of claims thrown at them.

  24. All this self-responsibility can be a pain. It was nice to be reminded how imperfect we all are, how we were all born sinners, thinking the devil was working hard to make me sin.

    Kind of like I was expected to sin. And when I did, I could always ask my invisible friend, yet again to absorb my guilt and clean my slate.

    Now I have to represent, stay informed, think, read books, keep my wife happy, stay out of trouble and work hard.

  25. The complaint against atheism appears to be that it isn’t a religion. I’d like to offer the following analogy.

    Atheism is the harsh intervention required to excise the cancer of religion; humanism (or whatever you choose) is the rehabilitating therapy or reconstructive surgery that helps you live afterwards; and secularism is the broad medical framework under which both these operate.

  26. Atheism is iconoclastic. If it causes others to question their beliefs then it has succeeded, not failed. Worldviews like humanism may offer replacements but ultimately it is for the individual to find their own.

  27. Naff’s article (and as an Englishman, I find the name hilarious in a way that others will find hard to grasp) is the finest example of atheist buttery aka concern trolling I’ve sen since the last one.

  28. How can this Naff possibly say that “there is no super-natural”, but then say “whoa whoa, hold your horses on atheism”? if there is no supernatural, there is no supernatural. If it’s all natural, then that’s it.

    1. If there’s one thing you can’t afford to do when you get paid by the word, it’s shut up.

      1. Ha, ha, so true, and something we probably abet more than we should.

        Fortunately, few people read anymore…

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