Please Stop The New

June 29, 2010 at 9:46 am (By Maxwell James)

While I agree with most of what Ron Rosenbaum says here, I really wish he’d drop the request for a manifesto, even if it is half tongue-in-cheek. If agnostics deserve anything in this life, it’s a lack of manifestos and mission statements.

Also: Branding anything as “New” just indicates that it’s going to be stupid. Less, please.


  1. realpc said,

    He called the New Atheists ignorant and stupid, so we know right away that he doesn’t have a convincing argument. His whole argument is that he doesn’t understand how something came from nothing. He doesn’t like the arrogance of the New Atheists., but he can’t find anything really wrong with their science or logic. They think they know, or someday someone will know, how something came from nothing, and he thinks maybe no one will ever know.

    That’s just a batch of words, the kind of argument they enjoyed during the Middle Ages, but that many of us are bored with now.

    There are alternative (non-mainstream) scientists who have good evidence against materialism. Since atheism depends on materialism, those arguments could be effective against New Atheism.

    And there are different ways of being an agnostic. One way is to say “I don’t know how all this came from nothing.” That kind of agnostic never thinks about whether there are “gods” or non-material mental beings, etc. They are pretty sure there aren’t, because they are too smart to fall for “ignorant” supernaturalism.

    But you can also be an agnostic who is NOT too smart to believe in supernaturalism, when it makes sense and is supported by evidence, and / or when we experience it for ourselves.

    I am an agnostic of the non-smart variety. I don’t care if some of my beliefs have been held by ignorant people all over the world in all times. I don’t need to feel smarter and superior just because I am Western educated.

    The New Agnostics would have to come up with something better than “how did all this get here?” Neo-Darwinists “know” exactly how it all got here and won’t hesitate to tell them. New Atheism is based entirely on neo-Darwinism, and if you like banging your head against walls, then maybe you will enjoy arguing with a neo-Darwinist.

  2. Donna B. said,

    New & Improved with only 1/2 the calories!

  3. Ron said,

    Do female agnostics want/need a womanefesto? Inquiring minds and all….

  4. Icepick said,

    New & Improved with only 1/2 the calories!

    Slimmer, trimmer thighs! Yay!

  5. Rod said,

    On the question of the existence of God, most of us are dealing with degrees of uncertainty. Nobody can see past the Big Bang, so we cannot establish with certainty whether there is a Big Banger. Still, most of us reach a tentative conclusion.

    A radical skeptic should leave open the the possibility that proof of the existence of God, one way or the other is possible. Certainly, a series of miracles on a Biblical scale would move the needle closer to the theist side. My favorite Biblical miracle is God causing the sun to remain in the sky an hour longer so Israel could win a battle. What would happen if the earth stopped spinning? It seems so over the top. Wouldn’t just smiting the enemy with fire and brimstone be sufficient? Suspension of the laws of physics on that scale makes walking on water seem positively pedestrian.

    So, if there is a God, He could prove His existence. I don’t see how an agnostic could ever be certain that He wouldn’t. On the other hand, the non-existence of God may be impossible to prove. The material universe may yield many answers, but the existence of the natural world does not rule out at least the possibility of a supernatural origin.

  6. wj said,

    Ron, that’s because atheism, even more than any religious belief, is a matter of faith. Blind faith. An agnostic admits he doesn’t know; an atheist insists that he does know. But where one (or perhaps more) religions could conceivably be proven true, atheism is a belief where, as you say, proof is essentially impossible.

    Which makes it all the more poignant that atheists typically insist that they believe in objective reality rather than faith.

  7. Maxwell James said,

    Both skepticism and atheism are good words that have been appropriated by idiots. Bright idiots.

  8. Danny said,

    Why do we need these labels at all (he asked naively)? And who’s more insufferable at a party: the atheist, the agnostic, or the religious fanatic? I still wince in these discussions whenever organized religions are presented as the chunk of the population that believes in God. I fully recognize the dangers and downsides of all religions but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a Higher Power. And I never understand when words like “proof” or “truth” are used in these discussions. That’s just not what faith or belief in a Higher Consciousness is about, there IS no proof, it has nothing to do with that part of our brain.

  9. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Rod: from now on I shall refer to God as The Big Banger.

    I also plan to adopt Maxwell’s “bright idiots”.

    This is annoying to me because I have something vaguely similar (NOT a manifesto) in the works (probably for PJM), but didn’t jump on it right away, so will now appear to be playing catch-up or mimic. That’s what happens when an idea’s time has come.

    I’m more concerned, however, with why the need to believe (including believing in unbelief, as many accurately point out the New Atheists do), and whether it is possible and/or desirable, and evitable or inevitable — in the face of science — for humans to live without it. Because I think it’s science that has more than anything else shown us how little we know, how much more there is than was dreamt of in our philosophy, and how little perhaps we can ever know.

  10. Maxwell James said,

    In a related vein, I rather enjoyed this Tyler Cowen post on “portfolio models of dogmatism.”

  11. William O. B'Livion said,

    Personally I’m an apatheist.

    Don’t know, don’t care, and it’s not the relevant question anyway.

    Most of the “New Atheists” are so wrapped up in themselves and their precious intellects they can’t separate their (sometimes justified) hate for Religion (mostly those religions that tell them where they can and can’t stick their wibbly bits) from the question of the existence of God.

    And Dick Dawkins, well, if HE’s an atheist, then I guess I’m heading to the next baptist convention, cause I don’t want to be around people like HIM.

    (And yes, I know, the religious are just like him except the opposite).

  12. Icepick said,

    “The Big Banger” is a wonderful turn of phrase!

    Amba, as for the need to believe, Razib Khan of Gene Expression has written about the topic of belief on many occassions. He just doesn’t have a need to believe, and recognizes that this makes him unusual.

  13. Icepick said,

    And Dick Dawkins, well, if HE’s an atheist, then I guess I’m heading to the next baptist convention, cause I don’t want to be around people like HIM.

    Yeah, there’s nothing worse than an evangelical athiest.

  14. Donna B. said,

    The Big Banger
    bright idiots

    A very useful thread this is!

    I don’t feel a need to believe, though there’s an almost constant social pressure to have some kind of belief and it often comes as an accusation that since I hold one opinion or another, that opinion must come from a (defined by someone else) belief in something.

    A lot of people, myself included, are guilty of saying “I believe” when we really don’t.

  15. realpc said,

    “I’m more concerned, however, with why the need to believe”

    If you don’t actively believe you are part of something greater, you will identify with your conscious ego and ignore spiritual reality. Or you won’t even be able to perceive spiritual reality, because the conscious ego will block it out. In other words, whether or not you think it’s plausible that matter is ultimately made out of Mind, you won’t experience it unless you actively believe. That is my impression anyway. The saying goes “You will see it when you believe it.” You may have spiritual perceptions but they don’t reach consciousness.

    If you actively disbelieve that matter is made out of MInd, then of course you won’t experience spiritual reality either. Active disbelief results from the certainty that modern science has disproven the ancient “superstitions” about super-physical worlds and beings.

    So there are passive disbelievers (agnostics) and active disbelievers (atheists) and both get the same result — a focus on the world of the senses.

    But if you actively believe (because you were taught to believe, or because you think the evidence suggests there are spiritual worlds on higher order dimensions), then you can experience and perceive spiritual information. Consciously as well as unconsciously. As you have more of these experiences, your belief increases, you have more of the experiences, etc.

    It is possible, I think, to be a kind of agnostic who actively believes, which is different from the passive non-believing agnostic. The believing agnostic believes the universe is made out of Mind, that matter is an expression of Mind, but he or she does’t pretend to have detailed information about it.

    I thinkI am a believing agnostic because, for example, I don’t know or even care if Jesus was literally a son of God. I think it’s all a batch of words that don’t meaning anything anyway. I don’t know if there is a God whose name is Yahweh. And if there is, then I think there must be an infinite number of other Gods as well, with all different names and functions.

    And the word God is just a vague word anyway, which people define all kinds of ways. To me, God just means a super-physical being of some kind. It could be good bad, or either depending on your perspective. For example, Yahweh was a good God for the Israelites, as long as they kept their covenant with Him, but he was a terrible God for their enemies.

    So, amba, my point here is that yes it does matter if you believe or how you believe. Your experience of life on earth will be very different depending on whether you are a passive non-believer, an active non-believer, or an active believer. I’m not saying better or worse, just different.

    I live in a spiritual world, where I consider my spiritual perceptions to be real.

  16. Donna B. said,

    So that’s why the Ouija board never worked for me! Damn… all these years… wasted. If only I’d believed.

  17. amba12 said,

    No, real, I really mean not knowing. In a much broader sense than not knowing if there’s a God or not, or if matter or spirit comes first. We don’t even know what “matter” or “spirit” is. We come up with feverish explanations that do little but create tribal enmities and block further perceptions and experiences. I mean not trying to take perceptions and experiences and come to mental conclusions about them. We have any number of hypotheses, or guesses, about what we are, why we’re here, and how the rest of it got here. That’s all our theories and our theologies are. It seems to me the fact is that we haven’t got a clue. And I wonder if we can stand it.

    We do know it all works. It also breaks down and destroys, but that’s part of how it works. It recycles. And we are learning a little bit about how it works. But what it is, or why it’s here? No clue. Lots of fantasies and guesses. My own opinion is that it’s laughable to think that it’s all blind matter whirling mechanically together. That it’s all unconscious but us. That doesn’t begin to fit the evidence, in my view. But beyond that? No clue.

  18. realpc said,

    “My own opinion is that it’s laughable to think that it’s all blind matter whirling mechanically together. That it’s all unconscious but us. That doesn’t begin to fit the evidence, in my view.”

    I agree 10%.

    “But beyond that? No clue.”

    You are right. But not having a clue doesn’t mean necessarily being an “agnostic” in the sense of being apathetic. All this spiritual stuff is happening every instant and we can choose to ignore it, or we can choose to experience and learn from it.

  19. William O. B'Livion said,

    “Yeah, there’s nothing worse than an evangelical athiest.”

    Yes, there is. I won’t elucidate, but there are worse things.

    Evangelicals I can handle, it’s arrogant, elitist, stuck up pricks that get under my skin.

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