Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Richard Dawkins Says It's Wrong to Indoctrinate Children...

...Unless he's the one doing the indoctrination

One of the interesting things about fundamentalist atheism is their tendency to accept the pontifications of hypocritical people at face value.

Richard Dawkins is a brilliant example of this. His vaunted "lying for Jesus" argument has become a central weapon in the rhetorical aresenals of many fundamentalist atheists despite the fact that he's been caught being dishonest using it.

Likewise, Dawkins' argument that children shouldn't be indoctrinated into religion has gained some evident traction amongst fundamentalist atheists. Why, even ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaes thinks so.

So indoctrinating children into religion is bad.

...Oh, unless it's Dawkins' and Ulvaes' religion. Then it's A-OK.

Aside from starting work on a children's book, Dawkins has sponsored a summer camp for atheists.

Dawkins says that the camps are intended to "encourage children to think for themselves sceptically and rationally."

But interestingly enough, Dawkins has made it plainly evident that, to him, thinking for oneself "sceptically and rationally" entails thinking exactly what Dawkins wants them to.

Naturally, Dawkins and company are going to pretend that the camps in question aren't about atheism, but rather merely about secularism.

"There is very little that attacks religion, we are not a rival to religious camps," says camp organizer Samantha Stein. "We exist as a secular alternative open to children from parents of all faiths and none."

So says "atheist rock star" Samantha Stein.

One wonders if Dawkins and Stein realize the extent to which the entire matter defies credulity. An "atheist rock star" accepting funds from Richard Dawkins attacking religion? Apparently we're supposed to perish the thought.

Of course, all of this is aside from the point. There's nothing wrong with parents sending their children to Dawkins' and Stein's camp if they are intent upon raising their children as atheists -- or perhaps even legitimate free-thinkers.

There's nothing wrong with teaching children about evolution or leading them in sing-alongs of "Imagine". In fact both of these -- teaching kids about science and about great music -- can be very good things.

But the least Richard Dawkins could do is stop pretending that he isn't indoctrinating these children in his religion -- atheism, which people like himself have very much transformed to a religion.

Just imagine that kind of honesty from someone who so enjoys vacuously accusing his opponents of "lying for Jesus".


  1. Anonymous12:32 AM

    Richard Dawkins has no involvement with Camp Quest , other than his foundation having made a modest contribution to the initial setting up. It was not his idea, and he is not choosing the activity programme in any way.

    The term "atheist rock star" is a tongue in cheek term used on my personal blog. It's obviously catching on though...

  2. Your comment that,

    "So indoctrinating children into religion is bad. ...Oh, unless it's Dawkins' and Ulvaes' religion."

    is a fairly ludicrous strawman argument based on the false premise that,

    "...atheism, which people like himself have very much transformed to a religion."

    ...which is comparable to arguing that silence can be believed to be noise/music for example. A lack of belief in a belief system is to opt out of that selfsame belief system. It is not an alternative belief within this! The fact that this is an underlying assumption throughout this post is disturbing enough without your thinly veiled personal attacks.

  3. There is an old adage, I believe, that tells us that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    A lot of people would be extremely skeptical about your claim that the only thing Dawkins has to do with Camp Quest is funding it. Personally, I'm one of them.

    And I'm sorry to have to tell you that describing yourself as an "atheist rock star" while you take money for your operation from Richard Dawkins just kind of lays your claim that there's nothing anti-religious about your camps to rest. That claim, frankly, defies credulity.

    Now, that being said, I'd suggest that Joe check the definition of a religion.

    Just because one doesn't believe in a god doesn't mean that whatever organized faith community they may happen to belong to doesn't mean they don't belong to a religion.

    When atheists began to organize their communities around a proprietary canonization of science, they began to build a religion around their belief that no god exists.

    Virtually all of the criticisms directed at religion -- right down to criticisms of dogmatism -- can be applied to organized fundamentalist atheism, regardless of whether you like it or you don't.

  4. Spot on Joe. I wonder if your community gets along as well as mine does being organized around an infinite number of lack of beliefs such as the "religion" of non-belief-in-fairies. Or how about the "religion" of non-belief-in inflatable rubber alligators orbiting Neptune? Is your community similarly "indoctrinating" its members?

    ...Gotta love the arrogance of the all too common theist-centric assumption of a religious status quo that somehow demands a counter-religion in its absence. How telling.

  5. Apparently -- and unshockingly -- Audrey doesn't recognize the difference between non-belief and lack of belief.

    That is, pointedly, that in this case non-belief is a belief in the non-existence of a particular being or entity.

    As that particular belief cannot be proven, it must be embraced based on faith.

    And I can hear it now:

    "But... but... but... that's different!"

    Contemporary religions built a dogmatic worldview based on faith. I can't help but be amused at the impotent outrage of atheists who refuse to admit that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Michel Onfray have managed the same trick.

  6. Ah, yes... the "faith in non-existence" Sunday-school-esque rhetorical gem. There's a degree of arrogance involved in the notion that just because you've postulated the existence of something, it requires "faith" of others to not believe in that thing's existence, much less equivocate such a position to religion. There are an infinite number of figments of others' imaginations, and the notion that one must have "faith" to hold that these things do not (with any reasonable degree of likelihood) exist in reality is an attempt to equivocate two very different things (active belief in existence vs passive non-belief in existence). Some of the less intellectually gifted of the devout often intentionally attempt to conflate the two in order to shift the burden of proof away from proving existence onto proving non-existence. It's a sad, little rhetorical game that children might find compelling, but for those capable of considering (or intellectually honest enough to admit) the implications of it, the problem is quite obvious.

    Non-belief in the existence of any one particular god isn't any more of a position of "faith" than non-belief in the existence of fairies. A-fairyism isn't a religion, it's the state held by a mind that acknowledges that an active belief in the existence of fairies requires proof that has not been found. Patrick likely recognizes this, but instead of addressing it, he's chosen instead to slay the "non-belief/lack-of-belief" strawman. The difference between what Patrick's ham-fistedly attempting to equivocate doesn't evaporate through sarcastic reference to that difference. The infinite number of non-beliefs in the existence of all sorts of propositions isn't remotely the same as the belief in the existence of a specific being, with specific attributes, who has allegedly performed specific acts. Bertrand Russell put this rhetoric in its place with his teapot analogy, and yet its still being brazenly advanced by people who either aren't capable of critically evaluating it or find it convenient not to.

    Not to shatter anyone's delusions of grandeur, but these kind of efforts are not eliciting much "outrage" at all, but rather more bemusement and laughter. Perhaps if Pat simply repeats the premise a few more times and clicks his heels, it might somehow become less absurd.

    In the mean time, let's all have fun creating "faiths" and religions for one other. Remember, each time you posit the existence of something that someone else maintains a non-belief it its existence, you've apparently created a faith for them!

    I'm having a good laugh at all you dogmatic, fundamentalist, impotently outraged a-gnarfsilts out there!

  7. "There's a degree of arrogance involved in the notion that just because you've postulated the existence of something, it requires "faith" of others to not believe in that thing's existence, much less equivocate such a position to religion."

    That's a nice strawman argument you're trying to build up there, Audrey -- and isn't it funny how eager you are to engage in those even while you condemn other people for (allegedly) doing the same -- but it just doesn't seem to acknowledge the basis of this argument.

    Once again, Audrey, I'll point out to you that there's a huge difference between a lack of belief -- what you refer to here -- and flat-out non-belief, or disbelief.

    A lack of belief is simply that -- a lack of belief. Non-belief, as I explained to you before, is a belief in itself: it is a belief, in this case, in the non-existence of God.

    If you had simply said "I do not believe God exists", that would be one thing. But you, Audrey -- as I'll remind you at this point -- used the term "non-belief". This is a statement that you believe God doesn't exist.

    In the absence of evidence that God -- or even a god -- doesn't exist, to accept this statement or hold this belief requires a tremendous amount of faith in it.

    The notion that Audrey seems to resent here is that the burden of proof is just as heavy upon someone who attests to objectively know that something doesn't exist as it is on someone who attests to objectively know that something does exist.

    It's very much like Audrey to demand what she herself knows is an unfair advantage: the advantage of being able to make assertions without being required to support them.

    But I'd point out to her that a lack of available evidence doesn't support disbelief in a particular phenomena, and it certainly doesn't make it any more or less likely to be true.

    There have been numerous phenomena throughout history for which the supporting evidence has been unavailable due to a lack of ability to examine or perceive that evidence.

    For example, people once upon a time thought that physical illness was due to evil spirits inhabiting the body.

    This is a point in history at which medical science didn't exist -- for obvious reasons. Moreover, tools such as microscopes, through which phenomena such as viruses and bacteria, didn't exist either.

    Today, we know very different. We know that viruses, bacteria and other phenomena cause physical illness.

    Now, I suppose the question for Audrey is this: did viruses and bacteria only come into existence when the tools necessary to observe them came into existence? Or did they exist prior to this and the invention of these tools merely revealed their existence?

    We all know the answer to this question. I suspect Audrey does, as well. Now the bigger question is this:

    Does Audrey understsand the implications of this point for her argument?

    I suspect I know the answer to this as well.


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