The Atheist Cacangelist

Screenshot 2018-11-03 at 09.30.50Richard Dawkins is reigniting his career as an atheist cacangelist.   What you may ask is a cacangelist?  Its a new word (I think) which should not be added to our dictionary.   The word evangelist comes from the Greek – meaning the messenger of good news.  I have often described Richard Dawkins as an atheist evangelist…but it doesn’t really work because atheism has no good news.  So since the word ‘cac’ means bad (in English it has a similar more rough but equally appropriate meaning)…it seems to me that cacangelist (messenger of bad news) fits Dawkins and his like perfectly….there is no God, there is no good and evil in the universe, there is no purpose…and if you get cancer etc thats just your bad luck…You are a blob of carbon going from one meaningless existence to another.

Richard Dawkins is in the process of bringing out a childrens book seeking to indoctrinate children into his faith.  This brought to mind an article I wrote before ‘the wee flea’ days which was published in EA in 2012.  Versions of which also appeared in The Scotsman and Desiring God.

The New Atheism – A Publishing Phenomena. 

If God died in the 1960’s then someone forgot to tell the British publishing industry. Books about God have been the surprise bestselling phenomena of the past 18 months. There is no doubt that the books are in general well written, entertaining and informative. They are written in a populist style about subjects which most people would consider important and interesting. Little wonder that they have proved a hit. Yet there are other reasons why they have hit the spot.

The first is fear. People are afraid of religion. Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris et al love to warn us that the religious are going to bomb us, take us back to the Dark Ages and abuse our children.

Another reason for the popularity of these works is that they appeal to the prejudices of their readers. Prejudices such as all religions are essentially the same and that therefore what can be said about one must apply to the others. The illogicality of that should be obvious – but sadly when it comes to matters of religious belief logic often seems to be thrown out of the window. Most people who read these books are delighted with them, not because they challenge pre-existing beliefs, but rather because they reinforce them. The books are read with all the delight of a believer reading Holy Writ, one can almost hear the Amens and Hallelujahs being shouted across Atheist living rooms and media outlets!

In addition, whilst making some clear and reasonable criticisms of religion, criticisms which religious people have to face up to and indeed have been doing so for centuries, the New Atheist authors are able to get away with their sweeping generalisations, ad hominem arguments and simplistic philosophy because they are largely appealing to people’s ignorance.  In a world where thanks to Google and Wikipedia, everyone has instant ‘knowledge’ to suit their own prejudices, it is easy for the wisdom of previous ages and of those who have studied and thought about these issues for many years, to be dismissed as irrelevant and meaningless.   Thus our New Atheist writers are able to dismiss all theology as useless as a chocolate teapot. They know that we largely live in an ahistorical society where despite the interest in genealogy people are rooted in the here and now and are largely ignorant of the past, thus enabling the New Atheists to make sweeping historical generalisations which they will never be challenged on.

The New Atheists generally do not debate – they shout. They know that they are right and that their position is the reasonable and intelligent one, therefore everyone who disagrees with them is ipso facto not intelligent enough to debate with. If anyone doubts the crypto–religious nature of the New Atheism just pay a visit to the Dawkins website, complete with its testimonies and ‘converts corner’. Try challenging atheist doctrine and you will soon find yourself on the receiving end of abuse normally reserved for heretics by the most extremist religious cults.

This lack of debate is exacerbated when the other point of view is almost never carried in the secular media. Of course occasional critical columns or comments are offered, but these are usually about style rather than substance. The British Media no more ‘does’ religion, than do British politicians.   And to some extent the Church in Britain is to blame for this – divided, defensive and dumbed down, it has created a ghetto mentality and a Christian market, with the result that any attempt to break out of that is met by defeatism at home, and derision abroad.

The New Atheist movement may be a publishing phenomena but it is also a political movement and as such carries all the dangers of fundamentalist involvement in politics. Should we be worried? Yes. When fear, prejudice and ignorance are used to influence politics and stifle debate, then all those who want an open and tolerant society should be warned. Atheist fundamentalism may prove to be just as potent, intolerant and dangerous a force in British society as any religious fundamentalism.

On Writing the Dawkins Letters

 

29 thoughts on “The Atheist Cacangelist

  1. If Dawkins is so against faiths using education and children to spread their message just who is it he is aiming his ‘childrens’ book at? Next thing he’ll be setting up an atheistic academy…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or maybe there will be a (State-sponsored) “League of the Godless”, as in the USSR. Communism was not overthrown – it merely changed form.

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    2. The atheists are not interested in the hard yards and money involved in setting up schools or any other charitable institution, when Governments do these very things, at taxpayer expense.

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  2. I think “Dysangelist” might be better Greek 🙂

    The adjective *kakos* is the opposite of the adjective *kalos*.
    The adverb *dys* the opposite of the adverb *eu*.

    Christianity, the religion of the Incarnate Word, testified to by the Word of God in the words of men, ought to be very respectful of the meanings and nuances of the words it uses. Which is a reason to use theological words with great care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David – just a quick note from a semi-retired typesetter and bit of a pedant:

    Phenomena – plural (same as Criteria)
    Phenomenon – singular (same as Criterion)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Messages from the Mythical and commented:
    And to some extent the Church in Britain is to blame for this – divided, defensive and dumbed down, it has created a ghetto mentality and a Christian market, with the result that any attempt to break out of that is met by defeatism at home, and derision abroad.“…This sadly sounds like the Church in our locale as well, perhaps in the forseeable future if we do not turn it around. A Christian side culture is necessarily on the margin, and it is a ghetto in terms of quality.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s no longer a matter of public education being used to spread religion, it is already happening. The problem is that it is atheistic humanism that is being spread. Any mention of true Christianity, here in the states, in the classroom is tantamount to holy treason against the state’s religion. Speaking from experience as a teacher/substitute.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What you are appealing to, Mark,
        is the first amendment to the constitution of the United States.

        First Amendment – Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        I’ve heard it argued that we can’t allow the mention of Intelligent Design theory in British schools because of a ruling in a United States court that ID is prohibited under the first amendment. Apart from being incredibly lazy, those who appeal to that judgement are partly responsible for the growing numbers of people who reject evolution for no other reason than that ‘scientists’ are telling them what to think and they don’t like it.
        Anyway, that line of attack on religion will fall down just as soon as it’s seriously used to attack the civil religion of the United States:

        The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag—”I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        Yours,
        John/.

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  6. Take your linguistic point, but I’d try again for something that doesn’t put non-partisan people off by sounding like that English word you mentioned, not to mention aggressive political coinages like “kakistocracy”.
    Telling atheists that Dawkins talks you-know-what is never going to convert anybody – just foster self-pity at being “persecuted” by rude faith-heads.
    (And yes, the irony is deliberate.)
    How about this one? https://www.etymonline.com/word/dys-

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I find this line so interesting:

    “and if you get cancer etc thats just your bad luck…You are a blob of carbon going from one meaningless existence to another.”

    Yes. It is bad luck. This, from Bill Bryson:

    “When cells are no longer needed, they die with what can only be called great dignity. They take down all the struts and buttresses that hold them together and quietly devour their component parts. The process is known as apoptosis or programmed cell death. Every day billions of your cells die for your benefit and billions of others clean up the mess. Cells can also die violently- for instance, when infected- but mostly they die because they are told to. Indeed, if not told to live- if not given some kind of active instruction from another cell- cells automatically kill themselves. Cells need a lot of reassurance.

    When, as occasionally happens, a cell fails to expire in the prescribed manner, but rather begins to divide and proliferate wildly, we call the result cancer. Cancer cells are really just confused cells. Cells make this mistake fairly regularly, but the body has elaborate mechanisms for dealing with it. It is only very rarely that the process spirals out of control. On average, humans suffer one fatal malignancy for each 100 million billion cell divisions. Cancer is bad luck in every possible sense of the term.”
    ― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

    I prefer that bad luck that learning it was the design of another being for a child to die of cancer. And then pray to that being for solace for the death of that child that they had decreed should get cancer……..

    I am always amazed that you think without God there is no meaning. Your poor grandchild(ren?). Your love for them is only possible through the prism of believing in a God and the associated afterlife? I love my wife, I take meaning in my love for her and her love for me. I love my job. I get meaning and joy from the work that I do. I even get joy and happiness from my dog each day for the total and utter unconditional love I get from him. I am indeed a collection of cells (only 18.5% is carbon by the way) but my life has meaning from so many sources. I give meaning to other people as well. And I dont want the afterlife as a reward for doing so. That strikes me as a little selfish to be honest.

    Mind you, if God is needed for meaning, I do wonder what is meant when a child gets cancer…

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    1. You may love your wife and your job – but ultimately that is meaningless because according to you they are just a collection of cells (it was the atheist Russell who said carbon!) heading to non-existence….any meaning you choose to give to that collection of cells is cute but ultimately meaningless. Which is why atheists never live consistently with their own philosophy…

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      1. Its not meaningless though. It just wont last beyond my death. But the love, the impact of that and everything else I do does carrying on (both the positives and the negatives).

        Do you only derive meaning from knowing that some part of you will forever know who you are and what you have done? I live for the impact now and my lifetime and the memory of me. Not the memories I will take somewhere else. My love is not conditional on something having everlasting meaning.

        Oh I think that the full quote is:

        “In the visible world, the Milky Way is a tiny fragment; within this fragment, the solar system is an infinitesimal speck, and of this speck our planet is a microscopic dot. On this dot, tiny lumps of impure carbon and water, of complicated structure, with somewhat unusual physical and chemical properties, crawl about for a few years, until they are dissolved again into the elements of which they are compounded.”

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      2. But the impact of what you do does not carry on forever…..and your love is meaningless – limited to time and space…before vanishing into oblivion…at the end of the day – everything is meaningless.

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      3. When meaning is something I create and attribute as I choose, I can also choose to deny it to whomever I choose: there is nothing to stop me treating those I consider “meaningless” as badly as I like, as much as my personal power makes possible, and justifying it to my own all-powerful self, whose morals are surely better than anyone else’s or I wouldn’t have (“freely”) chosen them.
        At which point I need no God, because I have declared myself one.

        And those sorts of god always end up fighting among themselves: pagan “myth” simply describes and portrays in story well-observed facts, which our current crop of “strongmen” are poised to rehearse over again. And “survival of the fittest”, which actually meant “the best adapted to its environment”, is read and practised as “survival of the strongest and most pitiless”.
        Example: Humanity’s response to climate change is not reducing in the slightest the greed of the rich and powerful, but attempting to exclude &/or eliminate the poor and weak potentially competing for what’s left.

        “Religion”, and God knows its awful perversions, has not tamed human wickedness (but who decides what is “wicked” and who deserves protection?) but I can’t see utilitarian and individualistic, competitive “social Darwinism” doing any better.

        And I read with interest that cells require constant “reassurance” from one another to behave normally and survive. I think there could be a whole new post developed from that, David…

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    2. When meaning is something I create and attribute as I choose, I can also choose to deny it to whomever I choose: there is nothing to stop me treating those I consider “meaningless” as badly as I like, as much as my personal power makes possible, and justifying it to my own all-powerful self, whose morals are surely better than anyone else’s or I wouldn’t have (“freely”) chosen them.
      At which point I need no God, because I have declared myself one.

      And those sorts of god always end up fighting among themselves: pagan “myth” simply describes and portrays in story well-observed facts, which our current crop of “strongmen” are poised to rehearse over again. And “survival of the fittest”, which actually meant “the best adapted to its environment”, is read and practised as “survival of the strongest and most pitiless”.
      Example: Humanity’s response to climate change is not reducing in the slightest the greed of the rich and powerful, but attempting to exclude &/or eliminate the poor and weak potentially competing for what’s left.

      “Religion”, and God knows its awful perversions, has not tamed human wickedness (but who decides what is “wicked” and who deserves protection?) but I can’t see utilitarian and individualistic, competitive “social Darwinism” doing any better.

      And I read with interest that cells require constant “reassurance” from one another to behave normally and survive. I think there could be a whole new post developed from that, David…

      Like

  8. David

    To the atheist, there is no such thing as objective meaning as you define it because there is nothing to assign it. Thus only that which I choose to ascribe can have any meaning for me.
    My philosophy would only be inconsistent if I chose to believe your world view – which I don’t.

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    1. Jon,
      the problem of inconsistency cannot be resolved simply by choosing to reject someone else’s world view! Consider Hume’s famous maxim:

      [N]o testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish: And even in that case, there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.

      Now this is on the face of it, a rather robust defence of unbelief but a major difficulty with consistency arises when we acknowledge that miracles — as rigorously defined by Hume — are special cases of the more general ‘singularities.’ There was a time, not so long ago when Hume’s maxim — whether or not consciously — was invoked to deny such singularities as the beginnings of time; matter; energy and life. In pushback against the still emerging Big Bang theory, Fred Hoyle coined the term ‘Big Bang’ in an attempt to belittle the whole idea. Such was the consistency with which Hoyle held his Humesque rejection of singularities that he became a major promoter of the Panspermia hypothesis. The discovery of background radiation made it difficult to reject the premise that Life, the Universe, and Everything has a beginning. There is a book called The Big Bang Never Happened but few people are consistent-enough followers of Hume to think its Steady State theories worth considering.

      On the other hand, it has been observed that the generation, educated since the Big Bang became part of everyone’s background knowledge, is much less resistant to the idea of the miraculous than would have been expected before. It’s not that there has been a revival of faith, yet; just that this Big-Bang-aware cohort doesn’t treat the idea of miracles as a prima facie reason not to listen.

      [Genesis 1:1] In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

      I’m not saying that it isn’t a challenge to be consistent in belief of what the Bible teaches but I am saying that consistant rejection of the Biblical world view is well-nigh impossible.

      Yours,
      John/.

      Like

  9. I would argue that not all atheists are noisy, intolerant and spreading dogma. Most atheists and agnostics go about life judging nobody at all. But that isn’t news worthy. And nobody hears about it. Just as the Ku Klux Klan is not representative of all Christians and ISIS not representative of all Muslims, Dawkins et al are not representative of all atheists/agnostics.

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  10. One of the most refreshing things about people such as Richard Dawkins, is they are unafraid of telling the truth, and revealing religion and its contents for what it truly is – nonsense.
    Such people must also be applauded for ( in part) allowing the door to be opened for others to reveal the revolting actions of a great ,many within the church itself. (Hitchens’ exposure of Mother Theresa, for example)

    It is also important that Prof Dawkins and others are lauded for their stance against Intelligent Design and the continual push by those who believe such anti-evolutionary clap-trap should be taught in schools.

    Atheism has always been with us right from the ”beginning”; only, ”back in the day” it was ill-advised to make much, if any, noise against the church unless one wanted to hear the crackle of kindling or the thumbscrews being oiled.
    While the religious have been preaching their infernal and fallacious, ”God is love message”, and damning to hell all those who refused to toe the line, it is only quite recently that atheists have Taken it to the Streets. ( to paraphrase the Doobie Brothers).

    That such emotive faith sounding language is used against Dawkins in rather silly attempts to drag him down to the level of those who would refer he simply fade away must surely make him smile. Based on his reactions to the innumerable, virulent hate-filled emails he regularly receives from so many Loving Christians(sic) it would seem that he must be touching some very raw nerves.

    The complaints leveled at Dawkins etc are water off a duck’s back and merely examples of how those who once held the reins and used God Given Rights (sic) to suppress most overt criticism now come across merely as hard done by whiners!

    I am sure Richard would understand the sentiment when I write:

    God Bless Dawkins.
    Good for you!

    Ark.

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  11. Considering that another word for ‘evangelist’ is ‘gospeller’ it would be quite appropriate to say that Dawkins is a deilspieller.
    Yours,
    John/.

    Like

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