A response to “The irrational atheist” part 1

There are times in life when you feel that something wrong in the world needs addressing. This is such a time. I doubt I’ll get any feedback or response or anything from the parties involved, but maybe over time a few people will read this 12 part analysis on a book that feel cannot be overstated in saying it is one of the most intellectually dishonest books I have ever read.

I speak of course of Vox Day’s 2008 ebook, The Irrational Atheist. Day’s claim that this is a response to the ‘new atheists’ using their own weapons of logic and reason is wholly false and I am here to refute claims, chapter by chapter, made by Mr. Day to show that it is not this fantastic response to atheism.

Ground rules

– I’m not going after every little snippy comment he makes, for example, referring (without context) to Dawkins’ arguments as being “shell games”. You don’t have the bandwidth and I don’t have the patience.

– Vox has a remarkable tendency to stay on some assumptions, then change those assumptions as it suits him. For example he frequently refers to atheist “high” and “low” “churches” (hence assuming they can be considered religions) and then later down the track excluding atheism from religion when he speaks of religious values being extremely important and helpful. I’ll try and record what happens but it’s difficult so please bare with me.

– There are some larger but nonetheless snippy comments. I’ll respond to the ones that stuck out for me, but again, it gets ad nauseum after awhile.


Chapter 1: A Pride of Atheists

The first error I noticed here was Day’s definition of the “Unholy Trinity” that he claims to be attacking. While the title page suggests this trinity consists of “Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens”, there is less talk of Hitchens in the book than there is of Dennett (www.dawkins.net The Four Horseman). Indeed other writers, such as Onfray, are included into the scene far before Hitchens is considered at all, but this is a minor point and has to do with how he writes, not exactly what he writes.

The first propter hoc argument comes in the form of “Vox’s first law” stating ‘any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity’ (p6). A bold claim, considering that moments prior in this discussion the first hypothetical raised by Day was allowing that his belief that “Jesus is coming back some day, but does my insanity actually affect you in any way?” (p6). As a matter of fact, it does, and has been frequently cited as causing a great deal of trouble when particular strains of insanities think it is allowable to blow up research centres, start jihads, sacrifice innocents (thousands in the Bible for instance) and generally get into whatever insanity does. When Day talks of the “crazies that believe humanity is the result of ancient alien breeding experiments”(p6), there is already a tone of superiority. What makes Day’s insanity any better or worse than the so-called crazies? This unjustified superiority continues with his definition of the Age of Enlightenment.

The Age of Enlightement, according to Day, was a root for the “muderous excesses of the French Revolution”  and that “dozens of other massacres in the name of human progress is usually considered an unfortunate coincidence by their philosophical descendents”(p7). Here’s me thinking that the French Revolution was a political-based revolt, centered around the excessive plight of the peasantry against a minority of excessively rich aristocracy based almost entirely on Marxism! Even still, was the French Revolution a good thing, as in, you know, stopping the subjugation of millions? I am also curious as to what ‘human progress massacres’ have occurred in more recent(or less recent times). Is human progress the Crusades? Spanish Inquisition? The Holocaust? Are these scientifically based and Age of Enlightement-related concepts? They are not, and as a christian whose values are apparently designed to espouse peace and civility, Mr. Day should be careful chucking those stones around so close to his glass house. This is treading into the definition of so-called High Church and Low Church atheists, which we’ll get into now.

 The definitions of High Church and Low Church atheists are difficult to define, being that they are entirely self serving. We’ll get into the problems with High Church atheists first. A High Church atheist is someone who is strongly compelled to atheism and its tenets. Enter Dawkins, who is criticised as considering himself a “level 6 strong atheist” on his own scale of 1-7 (7 being a perfect atheist). Mr. Day neglects to mention what precisely this entails. Dawkins, as a scientist, is open minded to everything with evidence, and that most things cannot be entirely disproven (as in every little claim made up by anybody). Dawkins considers the evidence of God as comparable to the evidence of unicorns and the flying spaghetti monster- equally unprovable and equally zero evidence. What’s not to get? Vox makes the error of suggesting that atheist and religion are two polar opposites, without considering atheism is an entirely different structure to religion. Atheism as based on scientific understanding (in this case) versus religion based on faith (hence allowing for a healthy amount of level 1 believers who don’t accept alternatives).

Day’s critique of Harris observing Buddhism is equally ignorant. The proposals of Harris’ belief rest upon the ethical tenets of Buddhism, not the religious observations of reincarnation and so on. Furthermore there is plenty of non-religious Buddhism floating around, and how religious can a religion be that doesn’t include a God?

What follows is an interesting assessment of figurehead atheists, coupled with the consideration that atheists are rude and uncaring in arguments. Day suggests that (from Wolf’s observations) people sufferring from Asperger’s syndrome (a form of mild autism) “tend to be male, intelligent, impaired in social interaction, and prone to narrow, intense interests”. While this may speak reams about… roughly 40% of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis being in a university and all (my classes are slightly female dominant), what does this say about Mr. Day himself? Indeed we could comfortably apply this suggestion to the presidents and prime ministers of most of the developed world.

Are atheists really that prone to attack with intolerance? What could the suggestion that atheist figureheads are Asperger’s sufferers any more than ad hominen? Consider, after the argument that all atheists are rude and intolerant, the following ignoratio elenchi logic:

Agnostic: I don’t believe there is a God. Because I haven’t seen the evidence.

Atheist: There is no God. Because I’m an asshole

touche Mr. Day, you’ve clearly presented your case. Notice by and by that the Agnostic claim is incorrect- Agnostics have no interest in the debate as opposed to expousing scientifically based atheist ideals that shoud really be left with, you know, scientific atheists.

It is interesting to note that in Chapter 1 Vox quickly establishes that Agnostics are people he agrees with as their inoffensiveness is not liable for any cause for concern. I type this not to upset the agnostics by and by, but keep this in mind for the next point.

As stated in Ground Rules, the tendency for Vox Day to change his definition for self service is worth paying attention to, none so much perhaps as it is in the next argument. Vox agrees that High Church Atheists are extremely law abiding compared to Christian counterparts (when looking at prison records). However a strong percentage of the prisoners looked at placed “no religion” as their preference. You and I would consider this group agnostic, or at least undefinable in any conventional terms as it includes applicants whom have put down things like “Jedi”. Mr Day however defines this group as belonging to the Low Church Atheists (those who don’t believe in God based on evidence but are not the argumentative type) and summarily declaers that “it becomes clear that… Low Churches [atheists] are nearly four times more likely to be convicted and jailed for committing a crime than a Christian”.

So we are at an impasse. One on hand this Low Church atheists are not Low Church atheists at all, but rather the multitudinous agnostics et al. that cannot be defined in conventional terms and summarily cannot be analyzed (there is equal chance for instance, that they are people who are born christian but are more theist in belief). On the other is the suggestion that they are all agnostics (which almost certainly is not the case), in which instance Vox Day has made no claim beyond that a group of people he thinks are reasonable and acceptable people are highly likely to commit crimes that will wind them up in jail.


Points I missed but couldn’t be bothered to talk about further

– There’s this random passage within Chapter 1 waffling about about singularities and scientic/fictional based apocalyptic events and how they bare similarity to religion. I have no idea what the point of this particular passage is, it’s certainly not about atheism and the links he makes between religion and ‘apocalyptic techno-heretics’ is tenous at best (both the Bible and some branches of science fiction talk about a world ending event: WOW!!!!)

– The suggestion that democrats, despite being considered the more intelligent party, are twice as likely to have dropped out of school than have a master’s degree, is a false dilemma argument. Where are the statistics for the Republicans, and furthermore what is the percentage of drop outs to people with master degreess?


I know this is rough around the edges but I have to act fast as it gets tiring quickly.


~ by freeze43 on May 6, 2009.

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