Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Debating deity: D'Sousza v. Hitchens.

I recently sat in on bits of a debate between the lunatic Right-wing Dinesh D’Sousa and Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great. D’Sousa, you may remember, was the Christianist who wanted an alliance with “moderate” Muslims to install a moralistic government that would bash gays, cover up women, ban porn and generally impose the fundamentalist version of Sharia law on the country.

D’Sousa’s argument was that such moralistic campaigns by the state would end the fanatical Islamist movement. He seems to think that the whole terrorist campaign is the result of Muslims being offended by homosexuals and Western “immorality”.

Prior commitments kept me relatively busy during the debate but I could hear bits and pieces. So I will report on what I heard and about something interesting that happened afterwards.

It was my unfortunate experience to mainly hear the D’Sousa arguments. All I can say is that he is a smarmy debater who falsifies facts and uses bad logic to try to make his case for a deity.

D’Sousa finds it necessary to defend religion because some religious folks are engaged in nefarious, vicious actions, from flying planes into buildings to bombing abortion clinics or shooting staff who work there. These folk act based on the religious beliefs they hold. It is my contention that all actions come out of positive beliefs not out of negative beliefs.

As I noted once before atheism is a negation of a belief not a positive statement of belief. The atheist says he has no reason to believe in a god, he denies a belief but the atheist qua atheist asserts no belief. Individual atheists do, of course, assert positive beliefs but they do not do so as atheists but in entirely different intellectual categories. For instance, the atheist may be a conservative, socialist, libertarian, fascist, etc. It would be his positive beliefs that inspire action not his negative ones. As I put it previously “you can not get positive principles out o a negative concept. Not believing in a god doesn’t tell you how to live, what to value, what sort of society to yearn for, etc. By itself it gives no directions, values or beliefs. How could it? It is the lack of a belief”

The Islamists or Christianists who act in evil ways do so precisely because of their faith. A positive belief (in the sense of one that is asserted as factual and no in the sense of being beneficial) causes the individual to take positive action (in the sense of acting as opposing to not acting). The lack of a belief inspires no particular action. When an atheist acts in a particular way it is because of other positive beliefs he may hold not because he is an atheist.

This is important because D’Sousa was making the point that since religious folk are burdened by the vile actions of other religious folks then atheism must be blamed for the actions of all atheists. He entirely neglects the fact that the religious act because they are religious while the atheist can not act merely because he is an atheist. It is not atheism that causes the atheism to act but other beliefs he may hold.

D’Sousa wanted to blame atheists for the atrocities of Pol Pot and other Marxist dictators. Ostensibly atheistic these regimes didn’t kill because they were atheistic but killed because they were Communistic and were creating the utopia for which they yearned. It was their positive beliefs that lead to positive action not their non-beliefs.

D’Sousa seems incapable of understanding the difference. Or perhaps he does and is simply dishonest. In his case I suspect the later is often the case.

Two remarks I heard him make were so clearly false that I can not fathom any reason for making them except dishonesty. It was, again, related to the example of dictatorial regimes.

One was that D’Sousa kept referring to the Nazi regime of Hitler as atheistic. That is just absurd. One German attending the debate told me he was baffled by the remark as Germany, under Hitler, was highly religious. Hitler himself was a member of the Catholic Church and never renounced his faith, nor did his church ever find him worthy of excommunication. Hitler died a Catholic in good standing.

The second dishonest remark was D’Sousa’s claim that Cambodia, under Pol Pot, was the quintessential example of a “secular” society. He seemed to be saying that these evil regimes were the best examples of secular government.

Again the German attendee was confused. He remarked to me that he couldn’t think of a single German that he knew who actually attended church. He always thought of today’s Germany as an example of secularism. And he is correct. This is also true o virtually every successful, Western nation around. The United States is pretty much alone when it comes to religiosity among the Western, modern nations.

And, I should point out, that among the Western nations the religious US is pretty much alone in its tendency to execute people with a regularity that is frightening -- with the most religious backwater states, such as Texas, taking pride in how many people they can kill in any one year. The US is again pretty much alone in an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy that is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. To the degree that other Western nations have been involved it has been under duress from the United States and in a very limited capacity.

The reality is that most the West today is secular and relatively peaceful. D’Sousa must know this. I sincerely doubt he is that ignorant and thus conclude his comments about secular societies being dictatorial is based on dishonesty and not ignorance.

After the debate Christopher Hitchens remarked to me that he was surprised that “so many libertarians” had sided with the religious side of the debate in a post-debate poll that was done.

Actually Mr. Hitchens was in error. He assumed the audience to be predominantly libertarian. In reality it was predominantly conservative with libertarians making up no more than 20% of the audience.

I was not present for the poll so I asked him what the breakdown was. He said it looked to be about a 50/50 split. He was disappointed at that but I was pleased. Yes, if the audience was predominantly libertarian I’d be unhappy -- libertarians tends to be more intelligent and less likely to be theistists. But when I realized that a predominantly conservative audience had split 50/50 on the god question I took that as an encouraging sign.

This audience, for the most part, should have been D’Sousa’s core group of supporters. That he could only muster half the audience in support of his position is just another sign that the United States is finally joining the West in the post-Christian era.

Photo: From a different debate. D'Sousa is on the far left and Hitchens on the right.

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22 Comments:

Blogger Ethereal said...

I saw that debate as well. Just like you, I think that D'Sousa is not ingorant at all. I personally think that he is dishonest. Since D'Sousa is on Fox news and work for them and many people like Fix news, well, America is done for.

I live in the tidewater area of Virginia, and my friend let me tell you, It is extremely religious here. Every air broadcast is a christian channel that encourages christians to hate liberals, gays, and non-believers.

It's the twlight zone here in Virginia and the US. Your articles keep me sane.

Robert

July 20, 2008

 
Blogger Ember said...

I would be one of those Libertarians who are pro Christianity for many reasons. I've heard D'Souza. He is toxic. But I've also heard many interviews with Hitchens. He is equally prejudiced and nuts. Yeah, well, I believe in true objectivity which means seeing the bad as well as good in everyone.

I just wrote this personal post http://emberglow.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/are-bailouts-any-good/ . I used your post on Mark Twain's observations on religion. My post shows how we're all in a fix of one kind or other. Religious belief or disbelief is a very very personal matter.

I have gone through super Christian phase and I have come out of it as a moderate. But that does not mean that I would even dissuade any boy or girl, man or woman from going that way. Everyone must find their own answer. As long as we respect and respectfully leave each other alone (when we totally disagree with each other) it is OK.

People must have the right of conscience and ''pursuit of pleasure'' within reason without the interference of any other parties. If someone wishes to think or hold opinion that men having anal sex with men is wrong, Let them think so as long as they do not actively harm homosexuals. If some people want to hang fancy lights on a plastic Christmas tree in late December, let them do so. And if there are people with exactly opposing opinions derived from their own reason, experience and conscience, fine. That should be the golden rule.

Human beings will always bicker and disagree with each other. Divorce is one proof of that! ;-)

October 29, 2008

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Ember: Your post exhibits a certain amount of schizophrenia. You take opposite positions at the same time. You say you believe in true objectivity. But you also say: “Everyone must find their own answer.” The latter is not obejctivity but subjectivity in an extreme form.

That said, I agree with your general view that people should leave each other alone.

October 29, 2008

 
Blogger Ember said...

I meant objectivity as in against holding rigid and exclusive opinions. We all must have an open mind. Both D'Souza and Hitchens are so very calcified in their opinions and prejudices that they can hardly be called Objective.

I am no deep student of philosophy but I side with Kant. He wonders, ''Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon then: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me.''

Then he's also stated, ''Accordingly, there must be something whose nonexistence would cancel all internal possibility whatsoever. This is a necessary thing.''

It is agreeable with my instincts, sensibilities, reason, intuition etc. But then someone may find it totally hypothetical and reach totally different conclusions. I can respect that if that conclusion has been arrived at by sincere and thorough reflection. I am objective in that sense. Objective within reason.

If someone says he can rape women and children, murder people because there are no laws or no morality in this nihilistic soup of a universe. I cannot allow that, regardless of the fact it affects me or not. You may say in this sense I am subjective and hope others are too.

October 31, 2008

 
Blogger Kaleb T said...

GZ: Have you heard about the recent debates between Hitchens and Christian author and pastor Douglas Wilson? Just wondering.

November 28, 2008

 
Blogger Chai Rose said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 07, 2009

 
Blogger Chai Rose said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 07, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

The following comments were left, then deleted. I will repost them absent the authors name as he chose to delete them. But the comments are worth reading and rebutting. Perhaps they were deleted because he discovered he was wrong.

""Hitler died a Catholic in good standing." Talk about being dishonest.

Or is it that you don't know what "Catholic in good standing" means?

I bet it's the former.

You cast stones and then commit the same sin. "

Second comment:


Here is a link that proves you are wrong about Hitler:

http://www.geocities.com/chiniquy/Hitler.html

Browsing through some of your others posts I see you are guilty of stretching the truth and outright lying.

Why are you wasting your time posting lies about truths you claim are lies?

Odd...

My Reply will follow.

April 07, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

The following comments were left, then deleted. I will repost them absent the authors name as he chose to delete them. But the comments are worth reading and rebutting. Perhaps they were deleted because he discovered he was wrong.

""Hitler died a Catholic in good standing." Talk about being dishonest.

Or is it that you don't know what "Catholic in good standing" means?

I bet it's the former.

You cast stones and then commit the same sin. "

Second comment:


Here is a link that proves you are wrong about Hitler:

http://www.geocities.com/chiniquy/Hitler.html

Browsing through some of your others posts I see you are guilty of stretching the truth and outright lying.

Why are you wasting your time posting lies about truths you claim are lies?

Odd...

My Reply will follow.

April 07, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

I said that Hitler died in good standing with the church and prior to that made it clear that this was based on two facts. One was that he never renounced his membership in the Catholic Church and second, that the Catholic Church never found cause for excommunicating him—clearly they didn’t care to look.

The deleted comments pointed to claims made on a specific web site. That site uses quotes from what are called Hitler’s Table Talks. These are talks that were not recorded but were transcribed. The transcriptions were given to Martin Bormann who would then “edit” them as he saw fit. Two copies of Bormann’s version were kept. One was destroyed in the war and one survived. The transcribers themselves repudiated the editions as faithful because of Bormann’s alternations. Bormann was vehemently anti-Catholic. This editing is clearly problematic given that they contradict Hitler’s public positions.

In addition, the same talks supposedly have Hitler denouncing atheism and praising Jesus. Cardinal Faulhaber, who visited Hitler at his retreat, said: “Without a doubt the chancellor lives in faith in God. He recognizes Christianity as the foundation of Western culture.”

Finally, the site mentioned says they don’t know if Hitler was excommunicated but “it doesn’t matter.” Whether or not the church saw Hitler as a Catholic is precisely the point being debated. The author says it doesn’t matter because Hitler was guilty of “numerous sinful crimes” and that alone excommunicates him ipso facto, even if the church never did it formally. Whether the church saw Hitler as worthy of excommunication does matter. Recently a Catholic bishop excommunicated a woman who allowed her 10 year daughter to have an abortion after she was raped, and giving birth put her life in danger. That was worthy of excommunication but they never got around to Hitler.

April 07, 2009

 
Blogger Chai Rose said...

I left the messages and then deleted them. And I stand by them.

You wrote:

"Whether or not the church saw Hitler as a Catholic is precisely the point being debated."

Exactly. And according to Canon Law, Hitler was excommunicated Ipso Facto.

The site I provided simply is a source. Study Cannon Law and you will see that it's true.

Therefore, he was not "in good standing" with the Church as you wrote. The Church did NOT see him as Catholic.

I proved you wrong on an a point you brought up and then wrote is very important.

Thank you for being honest enough to reprint my deleted post that shows you were wrong.

April 09, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Okay, Chai, you are officially a moron. Really, how illogical can you get? You claim that Hitler violated Canon Law and was thus excommunicated even if the church never bothered to take that position officially? When does the church then every take an official view on excommunication for things like the woman who allowed her raped 10 year old daughter to have an abortion to save her life. That woman was excommunicated. But she was already in violation of stupid canon law so there was no need.

The Catholic Church (run by con men and child rapists) does excommunicate people officially all the time even when people are clearly in violation of canon law and, according to you, already excommunicated. That the church never bothered to do this officially says a lot. But then so many Cardinals and Bishops were lined with Hitler and applauding him.

You proved nothing. That you think you did explains why you can believe the absurd and ridiculous claims of the Vatican.

April 09, 2009

 
Blogger Chai Rose said...

I came here thinking you might be a worthy adversary for debate. But now I see all you can do is insult me.

So sad. You waste your time making these posts that are filled with lies and then you can even back them up.

You obviously bought some book on Atheism and you're great at copying the words. But when challenged, you deflect (a common practice by someone losing a debate) and you insult (a common practice of someone who knows a debate is lost).

So again, I will implore you to stop blaming God and the Church for your obvious unhappiness. And I will pray for you.

If you're going to be an Atheist, at least have a good reason. And if you're going to write against believers, at least know what you're talking about.

Simply dismissing all factual information as some elaborate con or some falsified information doesn't do you any good.

Really look at all the information and then make a decision. Don't allow your obvious hatred to blind you and take you done a lonely road you don't need to travel.

Sorry, I don't mindlessly swallow your lies. And I'm sorry that you can't even make a half-hearted attempt to back up your lies.

But go ahead, throw more insults my way. Spread more hatred.

Because I can take it. And I don't hate or dislike you so I won't insult you.

I will pray for you. Perhaps you can find the strength to take an unbiased look at all the information avaialable - including all the good the Church does and has always done. Including the reason people of faith know - yes know - God exists.

God bless...

April 09, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

If there are lies document them. You have failed to site one reliable source for anything you have said -- not one. You are clearly ignorant of who I am or what I think or how I feel but you make statements -- no doubt on faith like the religious beliefs you hold. You make the crap up and then claim it must be true since you believe it. Actually I went to seminary so I studied theology far more than it is likely you ever did.

If you want to assert strange beliefs that are contrary to logic then offer evidence for them. You make assertions and then demand that others accept them as true. I want evidence. You have none. Or, as you claim elsewhere, you have it but don't want to bother providing it.

April 09, 2009

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

Were the atheistic regimes merely lacking belief or did they actively proclaim that opposing belief systems were false?

May 28, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

These regimes worshipped the State and said people must sacrifice for the state and give their all to it. The opposed any and all belief systems outside the state. For them religion was no more evil than other political beliefs. In this sense they were very much like religion which also tends to condemn beliefs outside its own narrow system.

We are told the Christian god acts in ways that resemble Stalin only worse. Stalin tried to know all that people did, God allegedly does. Stalin tried to punish all resistance to him in this lifetime, God does punish "reistance" but for eternity. Stalin had his agents everywhere, God is everywhere. Stalin wants complete control, God wants complete control. Stalin claimed all rights come from the state, God claims all rights come from himself.

May 28, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

These regimes worshipped the State and said people must sacrifice for the state and give their all to it. The opposed any and all belief systems outside the state. For them religion was no more evil than other political beliefs. In this sense they were very much like religion which also tends to condemn beliefs outside its own narrow system.

We are told the Christian god acts in ways that resemble Stalin only worse. Stalin tried to know all that people did, God allegedly does. Stalin tried to punish all resistance to him in this lifetime, God does punish "reistance" but for eternity. Stalin had his agents everywhere, God is everywhere. Stalin wants complete control, God wants complete control. Stalin claimed all rights come from the state, God claims all rights come from himself.

May 28, 2009

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

You could not believe something because you have never heard of it or you could not believe something because you have heard it and believe it to be false. In the case of the latter there is motivation for action. In fact, you seem to be an example of someone motivated by lack of belief.

May 28, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Wrong. I have motivation not over what I don't believe but what i do believe. I believe religion is inherently irrational and thus inherently dangerous. It is a destructive force and thus my belief that it is destructive compells me to speak out against it. I don't think socialism works or makes sense either. I don't believe in socialism but I do believe that socialists do harm and thus speak out against it.

All motivation is based on beliefs I hold, not on beliefs I don't hold. It is impossible to act on a non-belief.

May 28, 2009

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

You said, if I may paraphrase, that the atheistic regimes weren't motivated by their atheism. That only works if you define atheism broadly as a lack of belief. But atheism more commonly means an active disbelief and it could even be construed to mean antitheism. Would you disagree with D'Souza if he said that the atheistic regimes, motivated by their antitheism, murdered millions?

May 29, 2009

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Of course, Dave, if you wish to redefine words to meet your expectations then anything is true. The word atheist is two words combined "a" which means "without" and "theis" which comes from theos which means god. It means without god. It doesn't mean actively opposing the concept of god. It means one who is without a belief in a god. Nothing more. No, the communist regimes believed in communism and no competition for state worship. So just like the Church they set about killing people in institutions they didn't control and who didn't support their beliefs. Their beliefs in communism inspired them to act badly. What you neglect is that other communists were also believers and acted badly as well. Most communists in the early years in Russia were still believers in Russian Orthodox church. The Stalinists allowed the Orthodox Church to exist because they controlled it.

Are you really claiming that the Communists were lying when they said they were doing what they were in order to create a socialist utopia? Come on now, that's not believable -- but I suspect the non-believable is par for the course.

May 29, 2009

 
Blogger DatabaseDave said...

Going with ad homimen after only 3 short exchanges? That was a lot quicker than I expected.

Actually atheism combines 3 Latin roots, a-the-ism. The part of the word you didn't include in your explanation is -ism, the act of, the state of, or the theory of. Of course the -ism part opens the door to atheism being an active belief by definition. In common English atheism means disbelief in god(s) or the doctrine that there is no god. Both of these definitions denote an active belief. I doubt you could find a dictionary that would define atheism as the "lack of" belief without it also having a definition involving "disbelief", "denial", or "rejection".

As for why communist regimes suppressed religion and murdered the religious, certainly they did it because religion was a competing institution. But subsequently they viewed religion as harmful and destructive since it was false and it impeded social progress. In that, their beliefs were similar to your own.

May 29, 2009

 

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