John Haught is a terrible philosopher

There’s a story on Salon.com entitled The Atheist Delusion in which theologian John Haught talks about his new book, “God and the New Atheism.”

He really doesn’t get it.

Here are some quotes from the article which I found to be particularly bad, followed by my responses.

My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what’s going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they’re the normative, central core of faith. And they miss so many things. They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity — the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society. They give us an extreme caricature of faith and religion.

This crap again?

Courtiers reply.

Next!

The new atheists don’t want to think out the implications of a complete absence of deity. Nietzsche, as well as Sartre and Camus, all expressed it quite correctly. The implications should be nihilism.

Oh please, drama queen. But lets run with that anyway and see where it takes us. Suppose the implications were nihilism. So what? In what way does that make relgion true? All this says is you don’t like the implications. Since when does what’s true depend on what you like? It’s called Argument from Consequences and it’s a logically fallacy. Look it up, moron.

And they [Camus, Sartre, and Nietzshe] thought it would take tremendous courage to be an atheist. Sartre himself said atheism is an extremely cruel affair. He was implying that most people wouldn’t be able to look it squarely in the face. And my own belief is they themselves didn’t either. Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus eventually realized that nihilism is not a space within which we can live our lives.

Again with the argument from consequences? What a moron.

And whatever happiness Camus thought we could attain comes from the sense of strength and courage that we feel in ourselves when we shake our fist at the gods. But none of the atheists — whether the hardcore or the new atheists — really examine where this courage comes from. What is its source?

They don’t discuss it (in books about religion) for the same reason they don’t discuss the reasons people like candy. Because it is completely freakin’ obvious! It’s like this, if a person is of the type to go into an existential funk if they don’t have such courage, and also are unable to believe ridiculous stories which would relieve them of the need to have such courage, and subsequently, oh, I don’t know, I suppose in your fantasy you imagine they become nihilists and commit suicide? Well, that’s a fine strategy for a set of DNA to go about propagating itself, isn’t it? People with such minds would soon find themselves vanishingly scarce. So this vast “courage,” which is actually only required to overcome a lifetime of brainwashing — if you were never brainwashed in the first place, no such courage is usually needed — is a direct product of evolution. Once again, this guy is a freakin’ moron.

You can have hope [as an atheist]. But the question is, can you justify the hope? I don’t have any objection to the idea that atheists can be good and morally upright people. But we need a worldview that is capable of justifying the confidence that we place in our minds, in truth, in goodness, in beauty. I argue that an atheistic worldview is not capable of justifying that confidence. Some sort of theological framework can justify our trust in meaning, in goodness, in reason.

Once again the argument from consequences — and once again, “consequences” which have not been shown to be actual consequences. And “we” need a worldview that blah blah… who is this “we” you speak of? I have no such need. And hope for what? For everlasting life? You’re kidding yourself, and if you need hope of that, well, you’re in a sad plight, but the sadness of your plight in no way makes your fantasies any more real. Don’t be such a whiny crybaby, grow up and face reality.

But that principle of scientific Puritanism is often violated by scientists who think that by dint of their scientific expertise, they are able to comment on such things as purpose. I consider that to be a great violation.

Yes, only theologians who have spent their lifetimes pondering ancient books of bullshit are qualified to comment on things like purpose, and whether any such thing exists. Because… well, no reason is given, this is just asserted. I call bullshit. The scientist is more qualified than the theologian in all areas of thinking because the scientist has demonstrated that unlike the theologian, he can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

The hidden assumption behind such a statement is often that faith is belief without evidence. Therefore, since there’s no scientific evidence for the divine, we should not believe in God. But that statement itself — that evidence is necessary — holds a further hidden premise that all evidence worth examining has to be scientific evidence. And beneath that assumption, there’s the deeper worldview — it’s a kind of dogma — that science is the only reliable way to truth. But that itself is a faith statement. It’s a deep faith commitment because there’s no way you can set up a series of scientific experiments to prove that science is the only reliable guide to truth. It’s a creed.

Ah, the old accusation, “you use faith too! You’re just as dumb as me!” He’s pulling a fast one here though. The thing is, science works, bitches. Faith most emphatically doesn’t work, given any sane definition of the word “work.” The Great Theologian will protest, “ah, but you cannot prove that my particular pet unfalsifiable claim is false, so nyah, nyah, nyah.” If that is the entirety of what the Great Theologian supposes is required for faith to be considered to “work,” then the Great Theologian is often out-thought by many an eight year old kid. I’ve addressed this at length before.

If you had a camera in the upper room when the disciples came together after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we would not see it. I’m not the only one to say this. Even conservative Catholic theologians say that. Faith means taking the risk of being vulnerable and opening your heart to that which is most important. We trivialize the whole meaning of the Resurrection when we start asking, Is it scientifically verifiable? Science is simply not equipped to deal with the dimensions of purposefulness, love, compassion, forgiveness — all the feelings and experiences that accompanied the early community’s belief that Jesus is still alive. Science is simply not equipped to deal with that. We have to learn to read the universe at different levels. That means we have to overcome literalism not just in the Christian or Jewish or Islamic interpretations of scripture but also in the scientific exploration of the universe. There are levels of depth in the cosmos that science simply cannot reach by itself.

Now he’s just talking cross-eyed badger spit. Grow the fuck up, and learn to tell the difference between thinking and imagining, you muddle-headed moon-eyed dipshit.

And for those of you dear readers who may protest that my use of such words as “moron,” etc. constitute an ad hominem fallacy, well, you’d be right, if they formed a part of my arguments. They do not, they are just literary flourishes, gratuitous insults, for my own entertainment, not part of my argument.

~ by scaryreasoner on December 18, 2007.

12 Responses to “John Haught is a terrible philosopher”

  1. Well, that saves me the trouble of having to write about Haught’s bafflegab.

  2. But that principle of scientific Puritanism is often violated by scientists who think that by dint of their scientific expertise, they are able to comment on such things as purpose.

    I’d venture to suggest that scientists are able to comment on such things as purpose by dint of their being human bloody beings.

    Oh, and apparently secular philosophers aren’t qualified to talk about purpose either? Boy, will they ever be cross when they find out!

  3. For that matter: “scientific Puritanism”? I’m sure he defines that at some point, but still. Is that supposed to be one of those tu quoque terms like “fundamentalist atheist” that’s supposed to make us balk and have a Road to Damascus moment on being confronted with the assertion that we’re the same as what we fight? Because if so… seriously, Puritanism?

  4. Fallacious, ad hominem argument: because Haught is a moron, his claims are wrong.

    Valid, non ad hominem argument: Because of his claims, Haught is a moron.

  5. This fellow seems to be just another sellout to the system wherein one figures out how to survive in the world of political-social “intellectualism” and make a living advocating ideas in which those with power are invested. The central question of whether or not god exists is finessed, which is maddening to anyone who understands the idea of science. Haught is just a lost man trying to make a living among people who are more lost than he is. The man has lots of company. Much like a tobacco company’s executive saying cancer isn’t the result of tobacco use.

  6. “…a further hidden premise that all evidence worth examining has to be scientific evidence.”

    Huh? This idiot thinks there is some kind of non-scientific evidence? Evidence is evidence. Science deals with evidence. Wishful thinking is not evidence.

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  8. Fantastic post.

  9. […] Haught, the terrible philosopher, again. John Haught, about whom I’ve written before is at it again, this time with a piece entitled Amateur Atheists, which seems to be in much the […]

  10. PROSECUTION
    Is there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather. Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say “no.” I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.
    THE UNIVERSE
    First, looks at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.
    ONLY TWO EXPLANATIONS
    The universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them. What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one. Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God?
    CHANCE EVENTS
    What are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance.
    CONSISTENCY AND ORGANIZATION
    Now let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother’s womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year’s calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.
    MICROORGANISMS
    Let us turn to the micro-world or quantum mechanics. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro (the whole universe and galaxies) and micro aspects (quantum), is purposeful and meaningful. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.
    CHANCE OR DESIGN
    The universe has to be created by someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.
    A DEMAND AND ITS OBJECT
    One witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man’s heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world. As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as “man.” At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.
    THERE IS GOD IN THE HEART
    Do we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving –God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear. By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.
    NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GOD?
    Once, an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: “You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it.” I said, “Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you.
    “THE WORDS AND THE HEART”
    A young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, “Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already.” He said, “What do you mean?” I went on to explain: “Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side.” He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, “You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?”Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning you will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God.
    Finally is there is a God. Who is he? Who among all the most ancient religions of the world who was the only one who claim to be God’s son?
    There must be a written record of God and God’s son. Among all the ancients’ written records is there such a book?

  11. Nice unattributed rip off of a bunch of crap from The Normal Christian Faith you got there rafael. Do you always plagiarize?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=zvSF-aaALooC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=%22PROSECUTION++Is+there+a+God%3F%22+%22I+will+not+try+to+say%22+%22yes+or+no+to+this%22&source=web&ots=g7e8Bd84dT&sig=UDzG5EwbsGr_KJeUvaNV-vp–3I&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result

  12. Here is my newspaper column on the decline of religion. Please use it any way you wish.

    A huge news story, barely noticed

    (The Charleston Gazette – Nov. 9, 2010)

    By James A. Haught
    Philosopher-historian Will Durant called it “the basic event of modern times.” He didn’t mean the world wars, or the end of colonialism, or the rise of electronics. He was talking about the decline of religion in Western democracies.
    The great mentor saw subsiding faith as the most profound occurrence of the past century — a shift of Western civilization, rather like former transitions away from the age of kings, the era of slavery and such epochs.
    Since World War II, worship has dwindled starkly in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced democracies. In those busy places, only 5 or 10 percent of adults now attend church. Secular society scurries along heedlessly.
    Pope Benedict XVI protested: “Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience.” Columnist George Will called the Vatican “109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.”
    America seems an exception. This country has 350,000 churches whose members donate $100 billion per year. The United States teems with booming megachurches, gigantic sales of “Rapture” books, fundamentalist attacks on evolution, hundred-million-dollar TV ministries, talking-in-tongues Pentecostals, the white evangelical “religious right” attached to the Republican Party, and the like.
    But quietly, under the radar, much of America slowly is following the path previously taken by Europe. Little noticed, secularism keeps climbing in the United States. Here’s the evidence:
    | Rising “nones.” Various polls find a strong increase in the number of Americans — especially the young — who answer “none” when asked their religion. In 1990, this group had climbed to 8 percent, and by 2008, it had doubled to 15 percent — plus another 5 percent who answer “don’t know.” This implies that around 45 million U.S. adults today lack church affiliation. In Hawaii, more than half say they have no church connection.
    | Mainline losses. America’s traditional Protestant churches — “tall steeple” denominations with seminary-trained clergy — once dominated U.S. culture. They were the essence of America. But their membership is collapsing. Over the past half-century, while the U.S. population doubled, United Methodists fell from 11 million to 7.9 million, Episcopalians dropped from 3.4 million to 2 million, the Presbyterian Church USA sank from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, etc. The religious journal First Things — noting that mainline faiths dwindled from 50 percent of the adult U.S. population to a mere 8 percent — lamented that “the Great Church of America has come to an end.” A researcher at the Ashbrook think-tank dubbed it “Flatline Protestantism.”
    | Catholic losses. Although Hispanic immigration resupplies U.S. Catholicism with replacements, many former adherents have drifted from the giant church. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that 20 million Americans have quit Catholicism — thus one-tenth of U.S. adults now are ex-Catholics.
    | Fading taboos. A half-century ago, church-backed laws had power in America. In the 1950s, it was a crime to look at the equivalent of a Playboy magazine or R-rated movie — or for stores to open on the Sabbath — or to buy a cocktail or lottery ticket — or to sell birth-control devices in some states — or to be homosexual — or to terminate a pregnancy — or to read a sexy novel — or for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. Now all those morality laws have fallen, one after another. Currently, state after state is legalizing gay marriage, despite church outrage.
    Sociologists are fascinated by America’s secular shift. Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard, author of “Bowling Alone,” found as many as 40 percent of young Americans answering “none” to faith surveys. “It’s a huge change, a stunning development,” he said. “That is the future of America.” He joined Dr. David Campbell of Notre Dame in writing a new book, “American Grace,” that outlines the trend. Putnam’s Social Capital site sums up: “Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate.”
    Oddly, males outnumber females among the churchless. “The ratio of 60 males to 40 females is a remarkable result,” the 2008 ARIS poll reported. “These gender patterns correspond with many earlier findings that show women to be more religious than men.”
    Growing secularism has political implications. The Republican Party may suffer as the white evangelical “religious right” shrinks. In contrast, burgeoning “nones” tend to vote Democratic. Sociologist Ruy Teixeira says the steady rise of the unaffiliated, plus swelling minorities, means that “by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population by 2040, and conservative white Christians, who have been such a critical part of the Republican base, will be only about a third of that — a minority within a minority.”
    Gradually, decade by decade, religion is moving from the advanced First World to the less-developed Third World. Faith retains enormous power in Muslim lands. Pentecostalism is booming in Africa and South America. Yet the West steadily turns more secular.
    Arguably, it’s one of the biggest news stories during our lives — although most of us are too busy to notice. Durant may have been correct when he wrote that it is the basic event of modern times.
    (Haught, editor of The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s largest newspaper, can be reached by phone at 304-348-5199 or e-mail at haught@wvgazette.com. This essay is adapted from his ninth book, Fading Faith: The Rise of the Secular Age. His personal skeptic site is http://www.wvinter.net/~haught )

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