Lisa Miller, Newsweek's Religion Editor, thinks you are boring. Okay, actually she thinks that arguing over religion is boring. So stop it. Seriously.

She wrote an article title and subtitled so:

Two White Guys Walk Into a Bar … Let's move beyond faith versus reason.


Well, maybe she thinks a specific documentary was boring.

Fourteen minutes into the new film Collision, my fingers started to itch for the fast-forward button. I desperately scanned the movie's press materials: "How long can this go on?" I wondered. (Answer: 90 minutes.) The documentary, which opens this week, shows the public intellectual Christopher Hitchens and an Idaho pastor named Douglas Wilson arguing in one drab venue after another over whether Christianity is "good for the world." So uncinematic is this picture—two middle-aged white men talking—that my attention insistently wandered toward anything humanizing and finally dwelled, for too long perhaps, on a fleck of something on Hitchens's eyelash. All the while Hitchens and Wilson went on and on and on and on, always well mannered, never conceding a thing. Really, what's the point of all this?

I haven't seen this particular film, so I couldn't answer her question. However, her question coupled with the sub-header under the headline suggest that her question is reaching further than two white guys locking horns about religion over beers. What is the point of this, Lisa? I'm tempted to ask rhetorically the point of the Civil Rights movement, but no doubt Miller and those of her ilk would find it boring and melodramatic, so I will leave it for now as I found it; a silly question framed impossibly poorly.

What does she think of you, dear Think Atheist reader?

The atheists are, more than other interest groups, joyous cannibals and regurgitators of their own ideas. They thrive online, where like adolescent boys they rehash their rhetorical victories to their own delight.

Oh my! What an interesting claim from someone who would only know of her God through indoctrination. I'd argue history might show her, too, but history shows a plethora of gods, yet she doesn't seem keen on worshiping them or protecting them from atheism's masturbatory vomit. Maybe she would if Odin were the God of choice and Christians were powerless in the public realm. I can imagine then that she would find the resulting conversations more interesting and important.

As advocates for those whose lack of belief has historically made them suspect, Harris et al. have been extremely important. But this version of the conversation has gone on too long. We have allowed three people to frame it; its terms—submitting God to rational proofs and watching God fail—are theirs.

Lisa seems to think that it is unfair that prominent atheists have framed the god question with reason and science. After all, belief is largely emotional and can't be reasoned with and science is not able to prove negatives, therefore it is a faulty system to judge this particular claim. I'd invoke Russell's Teacup, but Miller would find it as irrelevant to her special belief as any other god claim such as Horus or Zeus.

There are other voices out there, and other, possibly more productive ways to frame a conversation about the benefits and potential dangers of religious faith.

The strident atheists are annoying to Miller. Despite centuries of proselytizing by fire and brimstone preachers and followers alike, Miller would like to say that all is even after a mere handful of years of New Atheism. The music is too loud for her and she demands a quieter party. This may be why she starts recommending atheists that we should emulate.

In 2003 the historian and poet Jennifer Hecht wrote Doubt: A History, an exhaustive survey of atheism. She advises readers to investigate questions of belief like a poet, rather than like a scientist. "It is easier to force yourself to be clear," she writes, "if you avoid using believer, agnostic, and atheist and just try to say what you think about what we are and what's out there." Hecht is as much of an atheist as Hitchens and Harris, she says, but she approaches questions about the usefulness of religion with an appreciation of what she calls "paradox and mystery and cosmic crunch." "The more I learn, the more complicated things get, the more sympathy I have with religion," she told me one recent morning by phone. "I don't think it's so bad if religion survives, if it's getting together once a week and singing a song in a beautiful building, to commemorate life's most important moments."

See? An atheist that sympathizes with religion! An enemy that helps you apologize for your atrocities, maybe? An enabler for your addiction? You don't have to chase that dragon with me, just don't be too harsh when I do? Okay, for the sake of argument, let's go along with it. What next?

We need urgently to talk about these things: ethics, progress, education, science, democracy, tolerance, and justice—and to understand the reasons why religion can (but does not always) hamper their flourishing. This new conversation won't be sexy, but let's face it: neither is two white men in a pub sparring over God.

Urgently? Does she mean that it is time for atheists to listen to what people like her have to say about things like ethics, progress, education, science, democracy, tolerance, and justice?

Miller is defending a morally and intellectually bankrupt position. And the plummeting numbers in many Christian churches are probably not as alarming as the rise of non-believers and their growing chorus. Other religions are not as much of a threat as reason and science. So why not deride the very direct conversation as being boring and ineffectual in an effort to create more malleable atheists that won't snicker at their absurd beliefs and actually have the gall to point it out in the public forum? Perhaps they prefer we treat them as they treat Fred Phelps and his hate group the Westboro Baptist Church? Disagree with a few items and leave the core infrastructure unmolested so no one has to give any long, hard thoughts about themselves and their equally wacky beliefs.

Fuck you, Lisa Miller. And the fairy tale you rode in on.

Lisa's Article

Views: 35

Comment by Ashli Axtell on October 23, 2009 at 11:35pm
I think her sweater is boring.

(That's about as deep as her entire commentary.) What the hell is a "joyous cannibal," anyway? Is she making us out to be some sort of tribal, primitive naked persons, toasting up missionaries for dinner?

Maybe she should be out critiquing theme parts or romantic comedies.

I love that she compares groups of individuals requesting freedom of religion and expression to Jerry Falwell calling Tinky Winky gay. Also, I find it interesting that she repeats that Hitchens and Wilson are white men, and points out that they're middle-aged. "Unhumanizing?" What's more human than two humans talking?

Then there's this, the last paragraph in her article:

This week Harvard's humanist chaplain Greg Epstein comes out with Good Without God, a book arguing that people can have everything religion offers—community, transcendence, and, above all, morality—without the supernatural. This seems to me self-evident, yet the larger point is important. We need urgently to talk about these things: ethics, progress, education, science, democracy, tolerance, and justice—and to understand the reasons why religion can (but does not always) hamper their flourishing. This new conversation won't be sexy, but let's face it: neither is two white men in a pub sparring over God.

Does she even understand the words she's typing here? What do these sentences even mean when strung together?

There are plenty of folks discussing "ethics, progress, education, science, democracy, tolerance, and justice." I bet even Dawkins and Hitchens have said a thing or two about them...
Comment by a7 on October 24, 2009 at 9:38am
nice piece mate. This shows me that we have these brainwashed braindead fuckers on the run, lets get the largest knife we can find, I am sure such a knife will be found in the US, stick said knife in and twist till their screaming.

Man American atheists really have it tough and lets be honest atheisim has to take a really good foothold and have effect on policy.

Although not a die hard atheist the president has taken the word of science in stem cell research,

regg, I have to disagree, surley the fanatical muslim are the number one danger in a world wide sense.

Ashi, what the fock is all this nonsense about tinky winky being gay ? no way man, if any of the tubbies are gay its the one with the right gay hat.

keep safe lassie's and laddie's

Comment by Reggie on October 24, 2009 at 10:54am
regg, I have to disagree, surley the fanatical muslim are the number one danger in a world wide sense.

What I had meant by saying that other religions were not a threat was that they are not a threat to Christian faith. Christians can happily believe in their particular faith while next to a Muslim who has different views, but are still religious. Atheists challenge the foundation of religions by attacking the very concept of a god or gods, something most other religions leave well enough alone for obvious, self preserving reasons. Also, they can now explain away other religions by saying that they all worship the same god, in truth. But atheism won't allow for this scam of a deity. That is what I meant by reason and science being a threat to Christians (or any religion).

And I don't disagree with you about Islam being a major threat in that different sense.
Comment by Ashli Axtell on October 25, 2009 at 12:08am
@a7 - Yeah, well, Jerry Falwell wasn't really all together now, was he? :) I concur with your hat theory.

I was thinking today - what bothers me most about this article is probably the "joyous cannibal" remark. She kind of glosses over it with snitty sarcasm, but it's the same thing that religious groups have done for centuries in order to make themselves appear better than the groups they're trying to silence - or in far worse cases (which aren't ours), enslave or slaughter - they try to make them seem inhumane.

By referring to atheists as joyous cannibals, it draws a parallel with the immoral and indecent and automatically places atheists and atheism in a negative position when compared to religious followers or religion itself.

That's so irritating.
Comment by Reggie on October 25, 2009 at 9:56pm
Jerry Coyne weighed in on this very article on his blog Why Evolution is True. He brings up some other good points about Miller's hypocrisy and then ends it nicely with:

Perhaps Miller could devote a few words to explaining why you don’t need faith to be moral, a position that doesn’t seem so “self-evident” to many Americans. Now that would be doing her readers a service! Instead, she feeds them intellectual pablum. But where is the religion editor who does otherwise?


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