Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jerry, Jerry, so much threatiness, and so little time!

Consider this Coyne post of the general topic (and Coyne's fave):

Scientists (mainly) are either

a) as repulsed by religion as I, Jerry Coyne am, or

b) scum-sucking, lily-livered, good-for-naught, traitorous, accommodationist, fatheistic, Neville Chamberlain, cheese-eating surrender-monkey apostates!


In this particular post, Jerry makes one of New Atheism's two novel arguments: Everything bad comes from religion. 1, 2 And at the end of this exercise in intellectualism, Jerry adds:
and our own country almost became a theocracy
Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Are you engaging in hyperbole, badly, or are you really sort of a paranoid John-Bircher type? Look away from your computer and toward the wall. Slowly. Any black-helicopters outside your window?

Really now—you expect such nonsense from your garden-variety screwball commenter on Pharyngula, 3 but not from someone of Coyne's stature.

No Jerry, we did not "almost become a theocracy." And in further news:
  • Under Herbert Hoover, we did not "almost become an oligarchy"

  • Under FDR, we did not "almost become a communist state"

  • Under John Kennedy we did not "almost become a Catholic state"

  • Under Jimmy Carter we did not "almost become a technocracy"

  • Under Ronald Reagan we did not "almost become a fascist state"

  • Under Bill Clinton we did not "almost become a wantonly hedonistic state"

  • Under Bush 43 we did not "almost become a theocracy" (for completeness)

  • And under Obama we are not "almost a socialist state with an illegal president"
Making arguments about equal in veracity and substance to those made by the birthers is no way to go through life.

A civics lesson for Jerry. People championing laws that they believe are aligned with their religion (something I don't recommend—but what I think Jerry is talking about, at least in part) is not "almost a theocracy". It's playing by the rules of our constitution. You see Jerry, you'd have to abandon the constitution in order to move our nation into a theocracy. If, for example, I vote for Proposition 8—I am playing by the rule of law. 4 If our nation was "almost a theocracy" then there would "almost" not even be a vote, but rather an edict. This is not rocket science.

Say this ten times: Legal Vote ≠ Edict Issued.

The first is what we do. The second is what a theocracy does. Any questions?

Jerry, if you really want to know about theocracies, you should ask a Baptist. We suffered under a Roman theocracy and a Presbyterian theocracy. We can tell you for both practical and biblical reasons why they are a very bad thing. And we can tell you that saying we were "almost a theocracy" is like saying a fish is almost a bicycle.

Aside:

In Coyne's post James Wood is quoted:
Dawkins is an essentially 19th-century figure; he sounds amazingly like Huxley, or the Russell of "Why I am not a Christian."
This is an insult to Russell—perhaps the last, great, intellectual atheist. (Yes I know there are many great intellectuals who are atheists—I'm talking about those who applied their thinking to atheism in substantive and novel ways.) Dawkins is certainly not in Russell's peer group:

Russell :  Dawkins ::  Sir Laurence Olivier : Keanu Reeves


1 The other novel argument developed and advanced the New Atheist elite is: If God designed everything, who designed God? If that doesn't make you stop and think, nothing will! Why, the extent to which Dawkins et. al. have advanced the state of intellectual atheism—it boggles the mind.

2 Except for the Iraq war—that is excluded on the basis of the Hitchen's Exception. And the occasional torture of a prisoner is okay; that we know as Harris's First Anomaly. And Eastern Mysticism is awarded a get-out-of-jail-free card, known in academic circles as Harris's Second Anomaly.

3 That means you, raven. Any death-cult sightings today?

4 For what it is worth, I'd have voted against Proposition 8. What unbelievers do is of no concern to me, as long as it doesn't harm others.

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