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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Barry Arrington blows it by assuming he knows the mind of an atheist

I think it's ridiculous for atheists to get dragged into the argument from evil. As soon as you start down that path you are conceding that you are willing to debate "sophisticated theology" and not whether god(s) actually exist. The atheist must then be prepared to read a massive amount of literature beginning with St. Augustine of Hippo through Thomas Aquinas and including the most famous "sophisticated" theologians of the 20th century like Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne. If you don't engage the arguments made by those people, and many others, then you are not being honest.

The "problem of evil" is not simple and atheists do not do themselves any favors by pretending that it is. That's exactly the criticism we level at theists who don't even try to understand nonbelievers.

Let's look at an example of a stupid argument used by a Christian. Barry Arrington thinks that atheists are "simpering cowards" [The New Atheists Are Simpering Cowards]. Why in the world would he think that?

Because he's using the argument of angst to promote the idea that atheist logic is flawed. What is the argument from angst? It's a favorite of naive Christians like Barry Arrington and it goes like this. Friedrich Nietzsche was a troubled man and part of his problem was that he couldn't cope with the moral freedom that came from abandoning god. It drove him crazy. (Syphilis may have helped, but he was certainly manic-depressive.)

Christians would have you believe that this is what should happen to all intelligent people who don't believe in any gods. Here's how Barry Arrington explains it ...
Nietzsche was wrong and tragic and, in the end, insane. But at least he was brave and honest. Brave enough to stare into the abyss and honest enough to report back what he saw there. He would be disgusted by the puerile, simpering cowardice that characterizes atheism in the 21st century.
Apparently, the people of Denmark are just not experiencing enough angst and that's because they are "simpering cowards." They have built a secular society that avoids facing up to the extremely troubling aspects of not believing in god(s). This pretty much applies to most of the people in my neighborhood as well. We seem to be getting along just fine without any gods to guide us but, according to Barry Arrington, we aren't suffering enough.
I feel like my ears are going to bleed at the bleating of the new atheists who write in these pages. They go on and on and on and on about how morality is rooted in empathy and the avoidance of suffering. Nietzsche would have spit his contempt on them, for they are espousing the “herd animal” Christian slave-morality he disdained and which, ironically, they claim to have risen above. How many times have the atheists insisted, “we are just as ‘good’ as you”? Why have they failed to learn from Nietzsche that “good” means nothing. Why do they insist that they conform to a standard that they also insist does not exist?

The answer to these questions is the same: They refuse to acknowledge the conclusions that are logically compelled by their premises. And why do they refuse? Because they are simpering cowards.

I can respect while disagreeing with a man like Nietzsche, a man who follows his premises where they lead, even if they lead to asking questions such as “Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us?” I have nothing but contempt for smiley-faced, weak-kneed, milquetoast atheism that insists that God is dead and all is well because we are just as nice as you.
For the record, I do not insist that gods are dead. They never existed in the first place. Being good was an important value for all societies long before they invented the Christian god.

In addition to their ridiculous "problem of evil," it looks like Christians also have a "problem of good." They don't understand how you can be good without god. It's probably better if they keep believing in their gods because, otherwise, the streets would be full of ex-Christian mass murderers. Here's what Barry Arrington thinks ...
When Nietzsche urges us to go beyond good and evil, he is urging us to recognize the implications of God’s death for morality. God is the only possible source of transcendent objective moral norms. If God does not exist then neither do transcendent objective moral norms. And if transcendent objective moral norms do not exist, neither do “good” and “evil” in the traditional senses of those words. There is only a perpetual battle of all against all, and “good” is a synonym for prevailing in that battle, and “evil” is a synonym for losing.


  1. We are cowards because we accept death as a finality? We are cowards because we live without hope of divine intervention in times of peril? We are cowards because we teach our children to think for themselves, and trust their own judgement? Arrington is a jackass.

    Dave Bailey

  2. It's really weird to see christians always whine about how atheists aren't behaving like there are "no morals if atheism is true". It's almost as if religion isn't needed for morals. So what we see is Barry being angry and confused that atheists aren't acting in the way his religion lead him to believe they should. It just doesn't compute for him, the poor guy.

    It's particularly weird to see Barry highlight Nietzsche as the prime example of an atheist who rejects "trascendentally objective morals norms", since Nietzsche still didn't go out and start raping, pillaging and murdering either despite this. So what the hell is really the problem with atheism and morals?

    It would seem, then, as though there really is no need for a "transcendent, objective moral system of norms" when people still manage to behave themselves even if they in Barry's view have come fully to terms with this "lack".

    In the end Barry's frustrations is a bit like people being maddened by the lack of a deductive refutation for hard solipsism. It doesn't matter that there's this weird and intractable philosophical problem, because it doesn't seem to have any actual real-world impact. People behave as if the world really is external to themselves, even if they can't prove that it is.
    So why bother with this esoteric philosophical morality question when it's the same? People act morally despite the lack of Barry's god so there isn't actually any problem in need of Barry's god to "solve" morality questions.

  3. So Barry Arrington and, apparently, Nietsche, never read Euthyphro?

    1. Don't make the mistake of assuming that Barry Arrignton actually knows jack about Nietzsche's philosophy. The "Nietzsche" Arrington is talking about—including the parts about the "death of god"—are uninformed by anything the man himself actually wrote or thought.

    2. As I understand it, Nietzsche's atheism was the exact opposite of what creationists/fundamentalists say it was: in fact, by accusing Nietzsche of nihilism or relativism, they are falsely ascribing to him beliefs he opposed, indeed, what Nietzsche would call an ungenuine or inauthentic atheist-- they're accusing him of believing exactly that which he considered a "brainwashing" by religion. The irony is extreme.

      For Nietzsche, the belief that atheism naturally leads to nihilism was anathema and inauthentic. Religious people are brainwashed to believe that atheism leads to nihilism, because religious people presuppose that only God can be the basis of values, so if an atheist agrees with that and says, "Oh yeah, I'm an atheist, so to be consistent I must be a nihilist," then that person has been kind of brainwashed to accept the presuppositions of religious people, and thus that person is like an escaped hostage with Stockholm syndrome who's been brainwashed and sympathizes with his/her captors. That kind of person is not an authentic atheist. The despicable talking head pundit S. E. "I so wish I weren't an atheist" Cupp comes to mind.

      For Nietzsche, authentic atheism meant rejecting the belief that only gods could be sources of values. Thus, an authentic atheist would never be a nihilist, and would never accept Christian doctrines. Why should we believe that only gods could be sources of values? We humans create values, so we should take responsibility for that we create.

      Arrington, like other creationists/fundamentalists, lies about and reverses Nietzsche's position. He cites Nietzsche as his authority agreeing that atheism leads logically to nihilism, as Arrington is trying to prop up the ridiculous Christian belief that only gods can be the basis of morality-- exactly what Nietzsche opposed!

      If you want to prop up your absurd belief that only gods can be the basis of morality, do it yourself, but don't cite Nietzsche as your authority on that, because it was the very thing he was opposing.

  4. Barry is just undergoing a meltdown. According to his own numbers, he has only banned 49 people from UD. Since he whipped his banned list a couple of months ago, these must be since that time. And, as far as I can tell they have all been because of people disagreeing with him (or Gordon Mullings, or Denyse) and not due to offensive or abusive behaviour. Otherwise Joe and Mapou would have been banned years ago.

    Given all of his defence of an objective morality, and the fact that he is an American lawyer, I can only conclude that he does not believe that freedom of speech is based on an objective standard.

    1. Quote of the month (from Barry speaking as moderator; bold type and block capitals as in the original):


    2. If that continues Barry is going to have ban creationists including our own quest lol

    3. William Spearshake: I can only conclude that he does not believe that freedom of speech is based on an objective standard.

      Arrington uses his awesome lawyer skillz to fight against free speech. In Colorado he was an advocate for laws to ban pr0n.

      Combative anti-abortion attorney Barry Arrington, also a Republican candidate for the District 20 state Senate seat, leads the charge for [pr0n-banning] Amendment 16, talking in detail about the horrors of bestiality and gerbil-jamming while accusing his opponents of "scare-mongering" about censorship.

      Yeah, that's our Barry. Push for a law to ban free speech, at the same time accusing your opponents of censorship.

      "A woman having oral sex with a dog and persons inserting small rodents into the rectum," he [Arrington] volunteers. "Don't tell me that's in the same category as Catcher in the Rye."...

      The energetic Arrington is a sworn enemy of Planned Parenthood: He uses big billboards to solicit business from people "injured" by abortions...

      ...And just who really supports Amendment 16 remains murky. For all their talk about protecting Colorado's women and children from hard-core pornography--Planned Parenthood's Reinisch recalls Arrington as particularly obsessed with "women and dogs"--the proponents don't have Colorado's prosecutors in their corner. The Colorado District Attorneys Council has decided not to take a position, says its president, John Suthers. ..."The prosecutors don't want people going to them and saying, `There's a Penthouse on the shelf down at the 7-Eleven. Get rid of it.'"
      [Talking Trash: Supporters of Amendment 16 include a titillating coalition of Pr0n-again Christians and Denver bluebloods. Ward Harkavy. Westword [Denver]. 1994.]

  5. and not due to offensive or abusive behaviour. Otherwise Joe and Mapou would have been banned years ago.

    And Barry himself, of course. 'Simpering cowards'! 'Whiny cry-baby!' 'Monster!'. Let it all out, man.

  6. An analogy that helps me understand the nature of theological problems like the "question of evil," and why it is not a knock down argument in favour of atheistm

    Quantum mechanics is widely described as arguably the most successful and well-supported theory in all of science. But it is also widely claimed that no one, not even the physicists who specialize in it, actually understand it. This is because the experimental findings that have led to the theory raise a number of questions whose answers have not yet been answered by experimental evidence.

    So, when confronted with the "problem of evil", the Sophisticated Theologian can simply respond by saying "Scientists don't yet understand the true meaning of the double-slit experiment, but that doesn't mean quantum mechanics is false." And the Sophisticated Theologian would be correct.

    However, I think it is also obvious where our Sophisticated Theologian's analogy fails: While the results of the double-slit experiment remain incompletely understood, there is no doubt that those results exist. The experiment has been done, and the results obtained.

    If physicists had spent centuries debating the results of the double slit experiment without first having carried out the experiment, we would not consider them sophisticated intellectuals who deserve to have entire university departments devoted to their discipline. We would be more likely to consider them ridiculous buffoons, more deserving of being provided a tent at a carnival so people could pay a quarter and be amused by their silly antics.

    So it should be with the Sophisticated Theologians, who spend their lives pondering questions such as "If God exists, how could there be evil in the world?" without first establishing that God actually does exist.

  7. lutesuite,

    Your analogy becomes clearly flawed the moment someone brings up something like the fine-tuned universe or the first cause. I don't know how this "analogy" can help in situations like that

    1. Your analogy becomes clearly flawed the moment someone brings up something like the fine-tuned universe or the first cause. I don't know how this "analogy" can help in situations like that.

      So, sorry, has the existence of God now been established beyond any reasonable doubt by those arguments, to the degree that the results of the double-slit experiment is an empirical fact?

    2. What the hell does the universe's alleged fine tuning for life [FT4L] have to do with it? Any assertion that alleged FT4L is evidence for God is dependent on the God of the Gaps fallacy or its ID equivalents, and should be dismissed as such. Moreover, FT4L itself is utterly ridiculous-- it is incorrect to say that, when a change in causes would produce different effects, that is a "fine-tuning problem." There's a known dynamical relationship by which effects change if (hypotheically) causes were to change, so it's not a fine-tuning problem at all. If your father's ejaculate had been ever so slightly different when he and your mom conceived you, you'd be a different person with a different set of chromosomes. That's not a fine-tuning problem because we know effects must be consistent with causes. No problem.

      Secondly, it's totally irrelevant. The Problem of Evil disproves the existence of any all-powerful and benevolent god. Period. Full stop. It does not disprove the existence of gods who "work in mysterious ways", but a mysterioso god is not a benevolent god, but just a weird alien playing a joke on African kids with malaria.

      So if any theist whips out fine-tuning, we simply shrug and say, #1, you're invoking god of the gaps like a 16th century witch-hunter, #2, the universe is not fine tuned for life because life tuned itself to the universe and #3, you're changing the subject because you lost the goddamn argument: observation disproves the existence of any god that is benevolent and all-powerful. Period. Full stop.

    3. I can't seem to find the exact link at the moment, but I recall a Christian theologian (I think) commented on his blog following the debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll. When WLC trotted out the fine tuning argument, Carroll responded that if the universe was tuned specifically for life, then there was no reason for the initial entropy of the universe to have been as low as it was, which is much, much lower than would have been necessary for life to arise.

      The blogger actually conceded that Carroll was correct on this point, but then went on to suggest that God caused the universe to have such a low initial entropy so that we could use it as a sign of God's existence.

      Give them credit: Religious apologists are endlessly creative in the new arguments they can come up with to accommodate the evidence that has refuted their old ones.

    4. I'd love that link, Lutesuite, if you could find it. The Orwellian logic entices me.

    5. Diogenes on UD

      Congratulations: a nice one, Diogenes! I hope you have a backup copy in case Barry decides to delete it.

    6. Hi, Diogenes.

      I've managed to track down that link. (Had to go six pages deep on the Google search. Don't say I don't love you!):

      Make sure you have something nice and soft on your desk before you read it, to protect your forehead from the number of blows it will be receiving.

    7. I love you back, Lutesuite. I needz mah fix and you iz da dealer of mah crack. And now I shall take a deep snort of your link... *eyes roll back in head*...

    8. Piotr: I hope you have a backup copy in case Barry decides to delete it.

      I immediately went to the Wayback Machine and had it take a snapshot of that page. Which I recommend for any debate where IDcreationists have the power to ban or delete.

    9. LOL, Barry pretended he didn't notice your post. Now the whole thread is getting buried under more recent ones, which I suppose is just fine as far as Barry is concerned. A simpering coward indeed.

    10. Lol Good job on UD Diogenes. I don't agree with few things you said but I have a feeing Barry's hands are full.
      Do you know if quest on UD is the same IDiot from this blog? I'm just wondering since the quest on UD has been going after Barry an other IDiots as well

    11. He has noticed it at last. I suppose he lurks here at Sandwalk ;)

      Barrys dismissive reply

    12. Now not only is Barry Arrington a simpering coward by logical argument, but also by empirical demonstration! :-D

  8. That's exactly what I'm saying. One can easily say that without finely tuned universe your experiment would not exist. Your experiment is dependent on the fine tuning of the universe and that an empirical fact

    1. Sorry, I'm not following. For one thing, I've never heard a version of the fine-tuning argument that says the double-slit experiment could only be performed in our universe.

    2. Well what do you want me to say? I just hope you don't drive a 40 ton truck or operate on innocent people If you are a politician everything "is well"

  9. "That's exactly what I'm saying. One can easily say that without finely tuned universe your experiment would not exist. Your experiment is dependent on the fine tuning of the universe and that an empirical fact."

    I'm confused. I don't see your logic. Aside from the fact that the "finely tuned universe" idea is a circular argument.

  10. I'm sure it will surprise nobody that Arrington is a pompous fool whose grasp of philosophy is just as poor as his grasp of biology. Nietzsche wasn't mourning the death of religious systems of morality, nor did he assert that God's death entailed the complete collapse of any moral philosophy. Unfortunately, Nietzsche went mad before he was able to articulate just what this new moral philosophy was, but from what he left us we can tell that he was a thorough and merciless critic of religious morality, which he saw as replacing the classical notion of arete—a morality based on excelling as a person—with a morality that celebrated everything that was debased about people. Think of the quote attributed to Winston Churchill supposedly describing Neville Chamberlain: "He is a humble man, with much to be humble about". A morality based on humility and meekness can quickly ossify into a celebration of everything degraded and cowardly. Nevertheless, he wasn't entirely uncritical of the classical morality either, so it's difficult to say where his sympathies lay. We can only say where they didn't.

    The death of god is not an invitation to abandon morality because morality can only be supported by divine fiat, but the invitation to construct a higher morality that elevates rather than degrades humanity. If you read the phrase in context, which it's obvious that Arrington never has, you'll see that Nietzsche is talking about how, in the modern era, it is impossible to justify moral systems based on no longer existent shared assumptions about god's existence. Instead, we moderns have murdered god, and in order to become worthy of our theocide we have elevate ourselves to become as gods.

    Nietzsche makes this clear in many places throughout his writings, so there's really no excuse for not getting it. One of the clearest statements of how joyous and liberating the "death of god" is for those who are sensitive to its potentialities comes in the prologue of Thus Spake Zarathustra:

    " To allure many from the herd—for that purpose have I come. The people and the herd must be angry with me: a robber shall Zarathustra be called by the herdsmen.

    Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox belief.

    Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker:—he, however, is the creator.

    Behold the believers of all beliefs! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker—he, however, is the creator.

    Companions, the creator seeketh, not corpses—and not herds or believers either. Fellow-creators the creator seeketh—those who grave new values on new tables.

    Companions, the creator seeketh, and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacketh the hundred sickles: so he plucketh the ears of corn and is vexed.

    Companions, the creator seeketh, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers, will they be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers.

    Fellow-creators, Zarathustra seeketh; fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers, Zarathustra seeketh: what hath he to do with herds and herdsmen and corpses! "