Friday: Hili dialogue

January 17, 2014 • 3:39 am
Hili asks about New vs. Old Atheism (I suspect by “Old Atheists” Hili means folks like Robert Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell, and H. L. Mencken.)
Hili: What is the difference between a New Atheist and the Old Atheists of yore?
A:  New Atheists may be old or young, but they haven’t lost their capacity to learn, whereas a contemporary atheist who admires only the dead Old Atheists and bashes the new ones is unable to learn.
(Photo: Sarah)
1517561_10202547423274135_1185627595_nIn Polish:
Hili: Czym się różni Nowy Ateista od starego ateisty?
Ja: Nowy Ateista może być stary, ale nie stracił zdolności uczenia się, natomiast stary ateista zgoła odwrotnie.
(Photo: Sarah)

9 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. > I suspect by “Old Atheists” Hili means folks like Robert Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell, and H. L. Mencken.

    Or the Maquis de Sade. From “Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man
    (1782)”:

    PRIEST – Who is there can penetrate God’s vast and infinite designs regarding man, and who can grasp all that makes up the universal scheme?

    DYING MAN – Anyone who simplifies matters, my friend, anyone, above all, who refrains from multiplying causes in order to confuse effects all the more. What need have you of a second difficulty when you are unable to resolve the first, and once it is possible that Nature may have all alone done what you attrubute to your god, why must you go looking for someone to be her overlord? The cause and explanation of what you do not understand may perhaps be the simplest thing in the world. Perfect your physics and you will understand Nature better, refine your reason, banish your prejudices and you’ll have no further need of your god.

    1. That is beautiful. I like that it predates Darwin and still has that very apt sentence “and once it is possible that Nature may have all alone done what you attrubute to your god, why must you go looking for someone to be her overlord”. Thanks for posting this.

      1. Agreed that it’s a fine quote per se, but it won’t be a good idea to buttress our rational arguments with quotations from the Marquis de Sade. It would be the equivalent of Godwinning ourselves.

        1. Yes. Some fallacies are so much a part of the human beast that we can’t ignore them. It’s not good enough that an observation/argument be correct, it must be from an acceptable source too. Stupid, but real.

        2. Indeed. It’d be right there with quoting Stalin (which is unfair to the good Marquis, who never murdered anyone).

          But I like this text for containing exactly the same atheist arguments that we use today, which just shows you how little changes in theology. We have to repeat the same things for two hundred years now.

  2. Hmm, I know that look. But I think it really means, “I wonder if I can get any tuna for lunch?” Thinking about tuna and atheists often presents a similar aspect…

  3. There are a lot of definitions which try to make a distinction between “Old” and “New” Atheism. I don’t think looking at the historical timeline is going to help, since so-called “New Atheism” has more to do with arguments and attitude than age.

    Most of the descriptions of New Atheism worth paying attention to — meaning they come from gnu atheists themselves and not from critics building up straw men — focus on 3 main aspects: 1.)bringing both a scientific approach and modern scientific discoveries into the debate on God’s existence; 2.) focusing on the epistemic dangers of faith itself; and 3.)demanding that the topic of religion be treated like any other claim in the marketplace of ideas — and seeking to encourage its elimination as a basically bad idea.

    By default then “Old Atheism” would be characterized by 1.)agreeing that science can say nothing concerning God and thus science and religion can be compatible; 2.)focusing on the dangers of religious “extremism” and counting moderates as allies; and 3.)demanding that the topic of religion be treated as special because it is so much a part of people’s identity and — seeking to encourage the acceptance of moderate views as coexisting ideas.

    Some atheists in the past would qualify as “New.” And there’s a lot of overlap and exceptions.

  4. “New” atheists are just like “old” atheists, except you’re not allowed to burn them at the stake.

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