Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings?
Um…the crazy letters and videos Cho sent to NBC? The news media letting us know that, as far as school shooters go, Cho was the school shootiest of them all?
The dimwitted and pompous twits, such as Mr. D’Souza, using the tragedy to argue the irrelevant?
Atheists are nowhere to be found.
Oh, I’m sure there are at least one or two on the campus, probably mourning with their classmates at the loss of friends and faculty, demonstrating proper respect for the dead, rather than being dimwitted and pompous twits using the tragedy to argue the irrelevant.
Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing.
Positively shocking that this would be the case in a country that is overwhelmingly religious. I suspect Mr. D’Souza also scratches his head with awe and wonder everytime some football player thanks God for the big win. Such are the sophisticated thoughts of this right-wing, one-man braintrust.
Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.
I don’t know much about Ms. Giovanni, but I do know that secular does not mean atheist, and I also know that going to a wellspring of imagery and literary substance such as that generated by the world’s religions isn’t much of an indication of anything other than, well, strong belief systems can generate strong symbols, especially when they are a touchstone for a culture.
The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference.
I’d say the main characteristic of the universe is existence, but then I’m not given to interpreting the writing of others with a bizarre anthropomorphic zeal like D’Souza.
Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!
Well, uh, yeah, it is.
However, I doubt Dawkins said we’re “simply” anything of the sort, although we may be something of the sort. I suspect the choice of grammar here is that of D’Souza, attempting to insult materialism through an absurd reductionism, without appreciating that from simple things complex things grow.
To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community.
Whereas D’Souza had to turn down numerous invitations because his dance card was full.
Why, exactly, anyone would be surprised that an atheist scientist has not been invited to speak at ceremonies that invoke religious sentiment is beyond me. Once again, I’m picturing D’Souza scratching his pointy head at the mystery that the Pope doesn’t get published in peer-reviewed biological journals.
What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil.
Yes, Dinesh, but that’s because you’re an idiot.
Here’s how I deal with the problem of evil: people do bad things, and sometimes the world around us does bad things to people too.
I don’t have to wonder why a loving God would turn a blind eye to any of the above, because I know the answer: there is no God.
The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist.
For supposedly being such an educated fellow, it’s disheartening to see D’Souza fall back to such a tired argument, as if the existence of God solves anything about absolute morality (short version: unless “good” and “evil” are defined as “the whim of God at any given moment,” you’ve solved nothing – and if you do define it that way, well, I’d say it’s hardly satisfying or a reason to believe).
For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.
Sure, that’s one way to understand it. A physicist could also dazzle us with all the mechanics behind how energy becomes work to pull a trigger.
It would make the tragedy no less sad.
If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.
I think we could probably use a few more professional talking heads that understand science beyond the level of a household pet with severe head trauma and a limp. Oh, and drooling. Lots of drooling.
Update: Looks like D’Souza caught an earful (or inboxful):
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
–Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden
As I said earlier, this is but anthropomorphism for effect; I highly doubt Dawkins imagines a wisened, white-bearded universe sitting there watching tragedy and triumph all the while rolling his eyes.
Such silliness is for the believer.
What’s more interesting, however, is what D’Souza didn’t quote from the same paragraph
Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind.
This, of course, says nothing about the intentions of moral agents within its confines.
And boy the atheists are up in arms! They’re mad as hell about my post “Where is Atheism When Bad Things Happen.” Many responders informed me that tragedies are normally considered a problem for religion, not atheism. Where is God when bad things happen? Yes, people, I know this. My point was that if evil and suffering are a problem for religion–and they are–they are an even bigger problem for atheism.
Alas, your point was incorrect and did not follow.
The reason is suggested from the quotation given above. When there is a tragedy like the one at Virginia Tech, the ones who are suffering cannot help asking questions, “Why did this have to happen?” “Why is there so much evil in the world?” “How can I possibly go on after losing my child?” And so on.
In my post I noted that Richard Dawkins had not been invited to address the mourners at Virginia Tech. Several atheists–who haven’t yet lost their fundamentalist habit of reading–took this sarcastic statement literally. “So what? The Pope hasn’t been invited either!” My point was that atheism has nothing to offer in the face of tragedy except C’est la vie. Deal with it. Get over it.
Atheism doesn’t attempt to offer anything in this regard, so to suggest it has only X or Y to offer simply doesn’t make sense.
Religious belief does attempt to offer something: there’s a reason for this, it’s God’s will, it is not for us to understand, we will all be together again someday (unless, you know, your kid had done some freaky stuff with his girlfriend the night before).
It also offers, however, a closed door.
If God has his reasons for this, why should we seek to understand? If we’ll all be together again for eternity (maybe), why should we be sad? If bad things happen to good people because that’s the way God wants it, well… to quote the boy genius Dinesh D’Souza:
C’est la vie. Deal with it. Get over it.
What a scientific, and essentially atheist, world view gives us is a chance to understand this tragedy, to identify what drives a person to commit such horrors, to learn how to prevent such terrible events from happening in the future.
Where the religious mind says “God wills it; it is so,” the seeking mind says “There is knowledge; let us acquire it.”
This is why the ceremonies were suffused with religious rhetoric. Only the language of religion seems appropriate to the magnitude of tragedy.
No, they were suffused with religious rhetoric largely because the population is religious.
Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances.
Yet he couldn’t heal the mind and heart of an outcast college boy who decided that mass murder was the best solution to his silencing his demons.
Color me impressed.
If someone started to read from Dawkins on why there is no good and no evil in the universe, people would start vomiting or leaving.
Yes, but they wouldn’t be reading Dawkins, would they? Because Dawkins didn’t say that.
Dawkins said the universe has no good or evil intentions, not that man – a moral agent – has none.
Such quote mining, misrepresentation, and outright lying is a favorite among creationist hacks. I’m willing to bet D’Souza is one.
One clever writer informs me that atheists don’t deny meaning, they simply insist that meaning is not inherent in the universe, it is created by us. Okay, pal, here’s the Virginia Tech situation. Go create some meaning and share it with the rest of us Give us that atheist sermon with you in the pulpit of the campus chapel. I’m not being facetious here. I really want to hear what the atheist would tell the grieving mothers.
To what end? Simply so you can say it won’t satisfy your religious beliefs?
Well, no kidding.
It would not be hard to conceive of a speech that focused on community, on remembrance, and on looking to the future; on using this tragedy to prevent future tragedies; on honoring the dead and inspiring the rest with the knowledge that life is for the living, in more than one sense.
That D’Souza cannot imagine this without the addition of “…such is the will of God…” is an indictment of his religious blinders and particularly small brain (the one that makes him drool, see above).
So, anyway, yeah – religion is kind of silly.
That has nothing to do with Virginia Tech or the innocent people gunned down this week by a very sick and twisted young man. I’d prefer not to even feel compelled to write this post, but it’s hacks like D’Souza that feed the anti-atheist sentiment in this country, and our continued silence would accomplish nothing but to justify the bigotry of discomfited theists.
(all of the above inspired by finding that damned first link here)