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Shaker

"Atheists these days aren't miserable enough!"

... and are dishonest to boot - or at least they are according to alleged 'atheist' Damon Linker:

Quote:
In a controversial column from last March, I argued that most contemporary atheists are being fundamentally dishonest in claiming that godlessness "is not only true but also unambiguously good for human beings." It most certainly is not, I claimed, referencing passages of philosophy and poetry to show that, viewed honestly, atheism is "utterly tragic" and that the denial of this tragedy amounted to little more than "sentimental, superficial happy talk."

Many readers were not amused. A number of the most indignant critics limited themselves to colorful variations on "how dare you say that!" But some gave a more substantive reply, wondering if I meant to imply that a genuinely honest atheism would involve living in a state of perpetual psychic misery.

That's a fair question and one I'd like to answer by making a case for existentialism as the most honest form of atheism.

Existentialism differs from the greeting-card version of atheism so prevalent today, in taking its cue from the realization that life without God is hard.


This is a ploy I've seen used before - imply that only Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre et. al. were true atheists and that modern-day non-believers haven't "earned" their right to non-belief.

To fillet this load of old pony in detail would take too much of my time and give the article and its thesis more head-room than it merits - kudos to the many commentators who have bothered to take it on and skin, gut and bone it. Aside from glaring errors of hard fact (Linker, January 2014: "... an existentialist like Albert Camus"; Camus, November 1945: "No, I am not an existentialist"), Linker assumes that (a) existentialism entails atheism, ignoring the numerous theistic existentialists such as Kierkegaard; and (b) treats atheistic existentialism as the only meaningful and valid - and, what's even worse, honest - kind even worth talking about, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of atheists are not existentialists any more than Camus was.

Despite being a very high-profile, world-renowned professor of genetics and therefore a busy man (even more so as he's writing another book at present) Jerry Coyne lays down the smack in a way I couldn't have bothered to do.

This car crash of an article is perhaps one of the most egregious examples of psychological projection I've ever seen. Linker's laughable Sturm und Drang idea of atheism seems to picture him as being arrested at the level of the quintessential angsty fifteen year-old just getting into black metal.

Very poor Damon - 2/10.
Mr Spock

Doctor David Starky is my favourite atheist.
Mr Spock

Doctor David Starky is my favourite atheist.
trentvoyager

Mr Spock wrote:
Doctor David Starky is my favourite atheist.


Well he's miserable enough for all of us - atheist or not!
Shaker

He does come across that way when he's presenting! That said, when he's being interviewed and he's nicely relaxed he does come across as a nice chap.
Ketty

I really enjoy David Starky.  He's an excellent historian.  I first became aware of him when he was a presenter on Talk Radio before it went all sports-oriented.  

Hmm, that's just brought back some happy memories . . .  
Jim

An excellent historian?
Is that supposed to be ironic?
Mr Spock

Jim wrote:
An excellent historian?
Is that supposed to be ironic?


He is an excellent historian!  
Jim

Well, depending on whether or not one wants a historian who wears his bias as a badge of honour, i suppose.
Shaker

A good many of them just do, though, Jimbo - look at Niall Ferguson.
trentvoyager

Jim wrote:
Well, depending on whether or not one wants a historian who wears his bias as a badge of honour, i suppose.


Always been my problem with him too.
Mr Spock

Jim wrote:
Well, depending on whether or not one wants a historian who wears his bias as a badge of honour, i suppose.


As long as you're not bias
Jim

Yep.
That's why, if I'm doing research on a specific topic, espicially in relatively modern history, I always use a range of historians, trying to select some from as wide a political spectrum as possible.
Starkey is OK if all you want is history from a Conservative (Large 'C' deliberate) POV.
Shaker

Perhaps it's a fault to which historians are particularly prone? Without interpretation history can end up as rather a long and dry list of names and dates.
Jim

That's where my discipline of Egyptology gets landed in the proverbial.
So-called acclaimed historians publish a theory, others try to mke the evidence fit it, and write a 'history' to fit their conclusions...as time goes by, this becomes fact - when the truth may be totally unrelated to the 'history' accepted as fact in all the textbooks thanks to romanticising notions of nineteenth and twentieth century 'experts'.
Hence my desire for as many opinions as possible before formulating my own, in the full realisation that it IS only opinion, and subject to scrutiny.
Shaker

Jim wrote:
Hence my desire for as many opinions as possible before formulating my own, in the full realisation that it IS only opinion, and subject to scrutiny.

Jim, old fruit, old bean, old stick, old pal o'mine, in any other area that would be spoken like a true unbeliever
Ketty

Jim wrote:
An excellent historian?


Yes, in that he always makes it interesting (well, for me at least).  He amuses and entertains me.

Jim wrote:
Is that supposed to be ironic?


No.
Lexilogio

Jim wrote:
Well, depending on whether or not one wants a historian who wears his bias as a badge of honour, i suppose.


I think all of the TV ones do - don't they?
Shaker

Wouldn't make for ratings-worthy TV otherwise. The real spadework of real history and historians, the minutiae and drudgery and attention to fine detail, wouldn't make it to our telly boxes. Something like Kennth Clark's Civilisation and Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man wouldn't get anywhere near a TV these days.
Jim

Neil Oliver is OK (I have to say that as I just completed a course in medieval Celtic and Scottish history in which he was a tutor.)
He's a very nice guy to talk to, and his politics are never shown on TV.
He does belong to a party, though, but I very much doubt if anyone could guess which one!

Simon Shauma's last outing om Israel was frakly dismal.
Ketty

It's like Message Boards I guess: it's the controversy that brings in traffic and activity.  It may not always be welcome and pleasant, but it makes for entertainment.

When I used to listen to him on Talk Radio I often used to take a sharp intake of breath and think "I can't believe he just said that!", but it made for interesting listening.  He's got a sharp brain and a very cutting wit.
trentvoyager

Quote:
He's got a sharp brain and a very cutting wit.



It's the whiff of lavender he has about him
Ketty

trentvoyager wrote:
Quote:
He's got a sharp brain and a very cutting wit.



It's the whiff of lavender he has about him


 Possibly.  
Jim

One TV historian whom I admired, both as a broadcaster and as an author, was the late Magnus Magnusson.

    I did not share his political views*, nor his atheism, but his concise, witty, erudite and informative style of presenting and writing have always captivated me.

    His works on Biblical history, Viking sagas and a brilliantly readable one volume history of Scotland have been acclaimed internationally.

* - Liberal...but one of his daughters is SNP.
Quizzimodo

Lexilogio wrote:
Jim wrote:
Well, depending on whether or not one wants a historian who wears his bias as a badge of honour, i suppose.


I think all of the TV ones do - don't they?


Simon Schama tends to be unbiased, at least as far as I can see

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