I’m barely through the introduction to part 2 “Reason and the New Philosophy of the Non-Rational” of Garrison’s The Irrelevance of Rational Atheism and the New Philosophy of the Non-Rational, and already he’s making me want to head-desk.
His first argument today is that everyone uses faith – the rational atheist has faith he/she will discover everything with science (we don’t, I’m okay with not knowing everything), the irrational-nihilist has faith there is no purpose in the universe (figure that out, having faith in nothing), and obviously the theists have faith.
Garrison sets out to outline an (almost) philosophy of the “non-rational” but resorts to near ad hominens that he was accusing his commenters of in the previous installment.
Considered in view of this backdrop, rationalist atheism is the simplistic, hopeless, drop-bottom dreg way of coping. Seeing the apparent irrationality of rancid religion’s way of coping, and not realizing that such apparent irrationality is but the non-rational working its way in religion, rationalist atheism simplistically concludes that in the face of such non-rational religion and other non-rationality in life and the universe, the god or gods of religion simply cannot exist. [emphasis added]
He gives a little more credit to the irrational atheists (you won’t find too many of them, but Sartre is his favourite example), but only because they are “one step closer to the Christian philosophy of the non-rational”. Now before we go any further, I don’t think there’s any Biblical significance to his non-rational arguments (that he seems to be just making up with no justifications), but perhaps someone with more knowledge might know of some passages that support this idea.
He continues writing (they always do) and begins to deconstruct what’s wrong with our “relativist” secular culture. First, by this he means how we have a very free and libertarian idea of do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. He claims (utterly baselessly) that:
The downside is that such a culture has no firm moral center around which the community as a whole can unite. Everything seems to float in a void that promotes a destructive form of individualism. The end result is a gradual drift-seemingly by default-toward an ever lowering of the quality of life and behavior, a prevalence of narcissism and loneliness and a pervasive brokenness in the human community.
I don’t know where he gets these ideas from, it’s true we don’t all live like pilgrims anymore, but we also have among the highest quality of life ever. While he could counter with depression and suicide rates being higher (I’m not sure of the data on this so I’m speculating), I would rather be depressed and free than a “happy” slave.
He continues by going into how rationalism developed from Christianity, essentially keeping everything but a belief in God. Although he can look at history through twenty-firt century Christian theologian glasses, many different ideas and philosophies were developed through the Enlightenment. And while the dominant thought of the previous 1500 years was Christian, much of the Enlightenment fought to break the shackles of that thinking and develop entirely new lines of thought. Utilitarianism has no scriptural backing (other than potential post-hoc interperting), neither do many lines of thought that followed.
Now we find the best quote so far:
But as we now are witnessing, rationalism was but a passing phase in culture.
Perhaps there has been a shift from the thinking of the Enlightenment, but the Rationalists are still alive and kicking. He does acknowledge the shift to “post-modernism” which is quite an affront to reason – implying everything is relative, however you’d be hard pressed to find a post-modern naturalist whereas the rationalists have produced quite a bit of late (think Dawkins, Hitchens et. al.)
He begins his explanation of why rationalism is outdated by going to World War I (I’m so glad it wasn’t the other one for a change). He claims that the brutality of that war all but destroyed anyones belief that everything could be understood rationally.
Now I’ll admit, in the face of that much senseless carnage, emotions will run high. Very likely many will assume that nothing makes sense and hence nihilism or irrationality is more plausible – however, just because it’s atrocious doesn’t mean it can’t be made sense of. The reality is that World War I occured at the time when a lot of new technology had been developed (namely the automatic rifle and machine gun), but hadn’t been deployed in a major way. Also, with many countries setting up strong alliances, Europe was just waiting for a reason to fight when the Archduke was assassinated. The war was atrocious and showed a dark side of humanity, but it can be understood rationally.
Of course the next paragraph is about how World War II was so much worse (it was), and so we have to invoke Godwin’s Law. And his final blow for rationalism was the ideas of quantum mechanics (which I complained about last time).
Skimming along (because I’m barely half-way through part 2) we find this gem:
Christianity, viewed as a Jewish religion on the basis of its beginnings, therefore pins all its hopes on the empirical historicity of Jewish Old Testament history. If it can be proven that such Jewish history is an empirical hoax, then and then only will Christianity be proven to be a hoax as well.
Well the foundation of Judaism is Abraham and Moses. Moses is disputed whether he exists, as no evidence of an Exodus from Egypt exists (especially in the time period it was supposed to occur), and even less evidence exists for Abraham. So you may not call it “an empirical hoax”, but it definitely is more fantasy and myth than fact.
To argue away rationality, Garrison uses a quick bait-and-switch by pretending to argue against objective / naturalistic rationalism, but suddenly starts assuming all rationalism is subjective or just in your head. Naturally this new strawman is easier to refute – he claims everything outside the mind is “non-rational” and since (subjective) rationalism exists only in the mind then it doesn’t really deal with (objective) reality. It was pretty slick, but still falacious.
Another random argument comes along in assuming all rationalists are head-in-the-clouds utopian idealists. Although I may think the world would run smoother with more reason applied, I’m far from naive enough to assume there will ever be a society that exists “as a state of being where the living environment is free from anything hurtful, threatening, disappointing, or frustrating.” And frankly, I don’t want to be free from any of those things, because they’re damn good motivators. No human is rational all of the time, and so clearly he’s fighting another strawman here.
Oh no, not this line:
For instance, every dictator and despot, such as Stalin or Hitler, and every dogmatic rationalist atheist, such as Marx or Freud absolutizes rationality.
Clearly Hitler and Stalin lost touch with their humanity when they pursued their absolute utopianisms (of whatever form they saw), and as I said just earlier, I don’t strive for a utopia, I just want to not have to deal with ivory-tower ignorance.
He soon moves to conflating his “non-rationality” with random (shit happens) chance. There’s no rationality behind a tornado’s appearance he claims, while we understand how and why it works, it doesn’t explain why it destroyed her house instead of his. This is intellectual garbage, he’s building a philosophy of half-baked ideas and whatever else pops into his head.
At the end he gives up his attempts to sound intellectual and comes off like a forum troll using the dreaded ALL-CAPS technique of emphasization:
Wait-a-minute…this is not the way the Enlightenment, rationalist script was supposed to play out. Nor is this what atheistic rationalist science was EMPIRICALY supposed to discover. Well SURPRISE boys and girls. Welcome to the real world!!! It is pervasively and incurably non-rational to the core…LITERALLY.
So what now, rationalist coaches and atheists? Got any other half-baked ideas you can try to beat down religion? All I can say to you rationalists is “LOTS OF LUCK!”
His mother must be so proud.
I will likely tackle Part 3 before Tuesday, so look for it then (like the Cosmic Fingerprints I’m writing these in advance and scheduling them so it looks like I write opuses everyday, when really most is written while I wait for science to happen behind me.)