Monday, June 26, 2017

Atheists Brook No Dissent

We take it as an article of secular faith that atheists are more open minded. Many professed atheists cling to their beliefs because they want to show the world that they reject all religious dogmas in favor of science?

We accept, unthinkingly and unknowingly, that the religious adhere to their dogmas while atheists, rational to a fault, are more open to alternative perspectives. After all, religions—some of them, at least—have notably conducted inquisitions to rid themselves of heretical beliefs.

On this topic history has been flashing a few warning lights. What was totalitarian Communism but an effort to transform cultures and make them more godless? No atheist will accept that Communism represents the goal he is seeking. And yet, people who claim to be empirical thinkers cannot dismiss the Communist effort to atheize culture. If you only accept the evidence that seems to prove you to be right, you are not thinking empirically or scientifically.

If atheists hold up British or American culture as their role models, they will have to recognize that those cultures were based in religious principles. They were not founded or constructed by atheists. As David Hume famously noted, ethical thinking does not and cannot come from science. Science is about is, he said, while ethics is about should.

Communist cultures brooked no dissent. In truth, they perfected the arts of brainwashing and indoctrination. The notion of thinking differently, of entertaining different opinions, was anathema. They wanted to create a culture where everyone thought the same thoughts, believed the same beliefs and felt the same feelings. In the past certain religions aspired to achieve the same goal, but today, those who yearn most avidly for groupthink tend to be atheists.

Today’s masters of political correctness-- dare we note that they are inevitably atheists-- are keeping dogmatism alive. They label differences of opinion as hate speech. They shut down people who hold divergent points of view. 

If you do not think as they think you will be shunned. If you think that this is an anomalous condition, limited to faculty lounges, you should note that in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood and in the San Fernando Valley, saying that you voted for Donald Trump will cost you work. It will make you unemployable. For the record, the San Fernando Valley is the epicenter of the American pornography industry. If you are in porn, you should not to speak well of Trump. Link here. Call it, news you might not want to use.

Some religions have more dogmas than others, but most religions also have widely divergent opinions about nearly all matters, theological and otherwise. Obviously, there are limits. But, a journey through the arcana of theology will show you vast differences of opinion. Thomists and Franciscans and Jesuits are all good Catholics. But, they certainly do not think the same thing.

Now we have a scientific study of the issue. Conducted by scholars from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, the study showed that atheists are, ounce for ounce, more intolerant than the religious.  They are more narrow minded and more incapable of accepting different points of view.

True enough, atheists believe that they are more open minded. Yet, when you poke beneath the surface of the atheist mind, you will someone who is more, not less bigoted than someone who follows a religion.

PsyPost summarizes the results:

New research indicates that religious believers can be better at perceiving and integrating different perspectives than atheists in Western Europe.

“The main message of the study is that closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious,” the study’s corresponding author, Filip Uzarevic of the Catholic University of Louvain, told PsyPost.

The research was published April 27, 2017, in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“The idea started through noticing that, in public discourse, despite both the conservative/religious groups and liberal/secular groups showing strong animosity towards the opposite ideological side, somehow it was mostly the former who were often labeled as ‘closed-minded’,” Uzarevic explained. “Moreover, such view of the secular being more tolerant and open seemed to be dominant in the psychological literature. Being interested in this topic, we started to discuss whether this is necessarily and always the case: Are the religious indeed generally more closed-minded, or would it perhaps be worthy of investigating the different aspects of closed-mindedness and their relationship with (non)religion. ”

The researchers found that Christian participants scored higher on a measure of dogmatism than nonreligious participants. The Christian participants, for instance, were more likely to disagree with statements such as “There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.”

On one score, Christians seem more narrow-minded. They believe that most truths have already been discovered. Yet, the question feels unnecessarily vague.

Does it refer to moral principles or to scientific fact? One might argue that the moral precepts discovered, say, by Aristotle, Confucius and the Bible have not been significantly modified or superseded over millennia. One might also argue that science is making new discoveries every day; the book of science is certainly not closed.

As the researchers dug deeper they discovered that atheists were more closed-minded than the religious:

Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.

Intriguing, don’t you think?  Atheists are more intolerant of contradictory statements. They are less likely to engage with people who hold different opinions. They prefer to dismiss differing opinions as extreme.

Is there something about atheism that entices people into extreme positions? Is there something about this exercise in pseudo-rationality that deprives people of the ability to think differently? Is there something about  atheism that tends toward the dogmatic and that makes people incapable of considering alternative points of view.

Perhaps they should all take a course in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas. While Catholic theology has room for the Platonist Augustine and the Aristotelian Aquinas— whose views often diverge—today’s atheists reject all dissenting opinions, even those that are based on scientific fact.

To offer some obvious examples, the nature lovers among us, nearly all of whom would reject the least whiff of religious reasoning, will tell you that if you do not accept their view of climate change you are a denier. They will not engage your point of view, or even the point of view of experts like Richard Lindzen. They will dismiss you as an extremist or bigot. And they will accuse you of trying to exterminate the human species. People will die… they will intone.

Any atheist who holds to the dogmatic truths about transgenderism will quickly dismiss the work of eminent physicians like Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer as so much bigotry. They refuse to engage with dissenting views. And, since the Bible tells us that God made human beings as man and woman, then God must be a sexist bigot. Again, dissenting or even differing opinions about these articles of today’s secular dogma are not allowed to be contradicted. Atheists brook no dissent.

Is it fair to say that these practitioners of extremism are all atheists? At the least, they believe themselves to be at war with religions and with any other system of moral thinking that contradicts their dogmas.


Ares Olympus said...

Certainly there is closed-mindedness in all of us, whenever fear is involved, its easier to push out the opposition and declare absolute knowledge on your side and prejudice on the other.

And it does seem fair to suggest this modern nonreligiousity has latched onto "progress" as their god, the idea that scientific and technological advancement shows we're only getting better, while those "measures" point to objective knowledge how to manipulate world, and skips the older questions of what it means to be human, and acting ethically with a society. With so much "safety" and clear boundaries of modern society, we skips skills that were more obviously needed when resources are scarce and more sharing is required to survive. And libertarians take this to the limit in their religion of "individual freedom" first and last.

Stuart: To offer some obvious examples, the nature lovers among us, nearly all of whom would reject the least whiff of religious reasoning, will tell you that if you do not accept their view of climate change you are a denier. They will dismiss you as an extremist or bigot. And they will accuse you of trying to exterminate the human species. People will die… they will intone.

Perhaps it is fair to label such beliefs "nature lovers" or perhaps "Nature worship" as a replacement for a divine God, and interestingly this position, even if defended by Hume's scientific knowledge of "what is", stands more firmly on the ethical side of "Should". And so perhaps it is fair to say "nature lovers" are offering a religious position, one which suggests ethical "shoulds", but "shoulds" always first apply to oneself, and once you apply ethics to nonbelievers, you're doing something different, and you're overriding someone else's right to their own conscience and best understanding of the world.

So it seems best to remember that all close-mindedness comes from fear, and an irrational belief "if everyone else would just act better, our problems would be solved." We have one fear if "progress" stops, and we have another fear that "progress" is leading us to a deadend. Individual choice of the libertarians and moral relativists seems best, if we can absorb the costs.

trigger warning said...

IMO, it is not so much atheism, but materialism (a philosophy requiring atheism), that is the stimulus for intolerance, oppression, and even mass murder on an industrial scale.

After all, if we are just meat machines, then, like cattle, the herd (aka "the masses") must be managed, and occasionally culled (cf., Great Leap Forward, Holodomor, Holocaust, etc), to achieve an optimal outcome. Management involves profit-and-loss calculations, as in Ezekiel Emanuel's Complete Lives health care scheme.

In a world managed by materialists, human dignity and households morph into the concept of "tax units" (individuals or married couples that file together along with any dependents they declare that earn below the filing threshold), the official IRS designation.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Atheism is dogmatic material naturalism. That's their metaphysics, meaning that it requires faith, too. At the root of it all, atheists have epistemological skepticism (when it's not outright hostility) about all truth claims from revealed religions. They're not open-minded at all. Human dignity is optional, because there's nothing special about humanity -- we're just bumbling sacks of protoplasm. And atheists operate in professions and institutions riddled with groupthink, as they cannot tolerate any divergent opinions. Theology is beyond their realm of comprehension, just as the theory behind superconducting supercolliders is beyond mine (though I don't reflexively reject its value or usefulness). It's rationalist chauvinism of the highest order, as they bask in their intellectual magnificence. In essence, I suspect they don't like people very much, even though they is a people... and that's a rationalist problem (or contradiction) of the highest order, no?

And the most extremist, nutty and dangerous idea around today is transgenderism, a direct descendent of relativism. And if/when transgenderism is ensconced in law it will be something uniquely dangerous, as it will mean that someone's feelings/emotions impose a duty on someone else. This is new. Gender identity is not an immutable characteristic, except by choice. Someone who believes himself a woman -- despite the physical testimony of his wedding tackle -- is a denier in the most objective way possible. His choosing to use the woman's restroom because of how he feels is a violation of the kind of privacy humanity has protected for millennia... all because he feels something. And proponents of transgender rights seem incapable of comprehending the reality of what they are advocating for. Perhaps they are atheists as they are materialists, and all we are is a bunch of cells and who we choose to be is who we choose to be. Fine, so if I identify as a British person and choose to drive on the other side of the road, should all the other human beings who identify as Americans have a duty to get out of my way and let me "live my life"? It's poppycock.

Ares Olympus said...

TW, I agree materialism might be a better term. And it isn't categorically incompatible with a religious status.

And if we stayed with tribes of 20-200 people, we wouldn't need so much "management", although in general tribal taboos surely have many more personal restrictions than modern management.

I read this article this morning, about the power of "mass data" and AI which offers further power of "management" for the ability of 7+ billion people to stay orderly. And it suggests "universal basic income" as the pie-in-the-sky answer to ever expanding job losses as automated systems continue to take over more things with less workers.

I don't know if all that is about "materialism", but it is certainly a consequence of technical advances, and would seem to easily reduce people to their basest desires for the profit of others. Developing our higher humanity inside of a "machine" that of any society will always a challenge, no different than the first specializations we discovered that allowed larger groups to out compete smaller ones.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: His choosing to use the woman's restroom because of how he feels is a violation of the kind of privacy humanity has protected for millennia... all because he feels something.

This works both ways, since you feel something too here. Driving on the wrong side of the road is indeed deadly, but a man dressed up in a feminine way and using an individual stall in the women's restroom hurts no one, except a close-minded sense of what is proper.

p.s. I see Trump got his temporary Travel Ban partially reinstated today! Congratulations!

trigger warning said...

"Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental things and consciousness, are results of material interactions." Wiki

So, I suppose one could afford a "religious status" to deified, material persons (e.g., celebrities like Buraq Obama ["The Lightworker"], Emperor Nero, etc.), minerals, currency (cf. Uncle Scrooge McDuck), weather phenomena (see Aswad al-Goreza), trees, or the ever-popular but rarely seen Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Ares Olympus said...

TW, sure, I think the word is Idolatry, including like "The love of money is the root of all evil"

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Materialism and the love of money clearly go together, since the second suggests a sovereign right to possess and destroy the first at our whim.

Some authors say we define materialism wrongly, since a true love of the physical world would offer a reverance and protection for things we can destroy but can't create.

Shaun F said...

I know a fairly "educated" atheist physicist that is an old friend. We were having a discussion about feral cats, and I explained to him how I knew a man who chose to be homeless (and has been on and off since the 70s) who had domesticated a herd of em and lived with them. The feral cats would approach him, sleep with, and accept food from him. The atheist scientist claimed this wasn't possible. I sent him several photos of said person with tons of feral cats, and he never replied. In general there is an immaturity I notice with atheists, and they are too much into "dialetic" which I find endlessly tiresome.

trigger warning said...

"Some authors say we define materialism wrongly..."


"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more or less."
--- Humpty Dumpty

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

ShaunF @June 26, 2017 at 11:04 AM:

"... endlessly tiresome."

Great capture. The adverb choice is insightful. My feelings exactly.

If you won't consider a story about cuddly feral cats, who are you going to believe?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Foster said...

"Is there something about atheism that entices people into extreme positions?"

Maybe, but another possibility: these atheists travel in circles in which atheism (or at least hostility to conventional religions) is accepted/required, and they have chosen to conform.

Maybe what is actually being measured is conformism, and in a society in which atheism actually carried some risks, one would get a better quality of atheists.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

trigger warning @June 26, 2017 at 11:18 AM:

Are you suggesting Humpty Dumpty was transgender?

If yes, no doubt he will say the literary genre of "nursery rhyme" won't do, and demand another category be created that reflects how he, er, identifies. Not sure how gender gets assigned to a personified egg.

But the main issue with transgenderism is the totalitarian nature of the subjective, and the imposition of duty, which is why the continuation of the quote you cite from "Through the Looking Glass" is equally relevant here:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Ares Olympus said...

Lots of labels today - atheists, materialists, naturalists and I guess trangenderists.

I don't know if I want to offer any conclusions on how they overlap, or which ones are most close-minded. I'm always a bit surprised that people label themselves atheists, while agnostic always seemed more sensible. Agnostics might be so open minded that their brains may risk falling out, so there may be a limit to the sensible middle. Or maybe open-minded itself is closed minded for refusing to make singular conclusions on things that can't be known.

Mostly what I get from Atheists is a reactionary hatred towards religion, and they always have their lists ready for the transgressions and contradictions between teachings and actions. And after all, Jesus seemed to imply we should all be lambs to the slaughter and people who are willing to die for their faith may convert a dozen new members who are curious where that conviction of self-sacrifice can come from. But of course Christians in general don't follow such extremes, so that's confusing looking in from the outside.

Or as Hindu Gandhi supposed said when asked about Western Civilization, that it would be a good idea.

Definitions can trip up all of us as we try to put others inside our boxes.

Anonymous said...

I hope the guy with the cats didn't mind a few thousand flea bites.

What's always puzzled me about the annoying type of atheist is why they will never, ever say "God." They'll use "Ghu" and "Ghod" and "Flying spaghetti monster" and a host of others, but never just simply "God." If he doesn't exist, whyfore this refusal to name hom? Are they afraid of something, and, if so, what? I don't go out of my way to avoid using the name of the Tooth Fairy. I asked big-name atheist Frank Zindler about this once and he said"You know, I don't know why we do it--just an atheist 'thing,' I guess." Like hell it's an atheist thing--non-obnoxious atheists have no fear of God (how could they) or his name. I've asked whole websites full of the other kind of atheist and never got even as much of a reply as I did from Zindler.

Anonymous said...

'Lots of labels today - atheists, materialists, naturalists and I guess trangenderists.'

From the king of labels.

No conclusions, please. I take the name of a Greek god.

James said...

Well it's really hard to believe in "nothing". Right or wrong for some reason people in general like to believe in "something".