Friday, September 12, 2014

The Cult of Victor Strikes Again

I hate to pick on Victor Reppert so much, but he seems to be asking for it when he interprets the words of prominent atheists in a way that totally misrepresents their meaning and casts them in the most uncharitable light possible.  Inevitably, his followers, the Cult of Victor, pick up on these misrepresentations and start ranting about how terrible this atheist "gnu" is, and how all decent atheists should publicly disavow him, along with any other "gnu" that is on their list enemies.

In this instance, Reppert was referring to an article written by the late Victor Stenger, in which Stenger discusses the adversarial relationship between science and faith, and points out how religious faith has hindered scientific progress that might help humanity to solve some of the very serious problems faced by modern humanity.

Here's what Reppert says about the article:

So, unless faith ends, the WORLD IS COMING TO AN END.

Why should someone who believes this refrain from using force to end religion? Religion matters to people, and so the "devil" can tempt us to use force to support it. But the devil can tempt unbelievers to use force to the end of religious belief by any means necessary. Atheists tend to get upset when atheism is called a religion. But it is a position concerning the great issues, and it profoundly affects how we live our lives. Atheists may not consign you to hell for not agreeing with them, but they will consign you to the kid's table, and for some people that is an even worse fate.
And of course, his blinkered cultists chime in with this:
Or the gulag.

Let's not pussyfoot around this: militant atheism, insofar as it has been a force at all historically, has been a tremendously brutal force. The reason that there's no imminent threat of the actions of militant atheists in America is that right now they're seriously outnumbered, even with the growth of the irreligious.

Stalinists are also a pretty peaceful bunch when they comprise the low single digit percentages of a given population.
and this:
If fellow atheists would only disavow such "cranky preachers" as Dawkins, Harris,, and refuse to fund their crankiness by not buying their books and attending their (paid) lectures, then Victor wouldn't feel the need to expose them for what they are.

Let's be clear about this.  Victor Reppert has not exposed anything.  He has misrepresented Stenger's words.  The use of force is not at all what Stenger discussed, or suggested, or implied.  He said that he hopes America will become more secularized, like Europe.  We should abandon our religious faith and replace it with scientific understanding.  That's all.  Here is Stenger's own conclusion to the article:
In conclusion, it is time for scientists and other rationalists to join together to put a stop to those who claim they have some sacred right to decide what kind of society the rest of us must live in. We must act for the sake of the betterment of humankind, and the future of our planet. Based on the favorable signs that young people are increasingly abandoning religion, I have great hope that perhaps in another generation America will have joined Europe and the rest of the developed world in casting off the rusty chains of ancient superstition that stand as an impediment to science and progress. I just hope it's not too late.
As you can clearly see, he is not calling for the use of force.  He is not a Stalinist.  He is not a militant.  He has said nothing that is reprehensible, or that atheists should disavow.  I think reasonable theists should instead disavow the misrepresentation of people who make reasonable appeals for the abandonment of religious faith.

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