Normally, when I use this space to criticize something Paul Campos has written, it has to do with the misguided elements of fat acceptance or the medical realities of obesity that Campos strives so mightily to deny. But Campos is in fact a well-rounded crank, and if there’s anything predictable about the fellow, it’s that he consistently chooses positions guaranteed to satisfy a given blinded or self-martyred segment of the population, because this makes it easy for him to blithely ignore obvious and damning arguments against to the the crap he extrudes into this columns.
In a piece published yesteday, Campos–who in the past has groused about the unfairness of orthodox evolutionists who just refuse give creationists (and presumably their evidence) the voice they deserve–makes some remarkably daft observations about atheists, and in particular demonstrates that he is clueless about the manner in which they regard theists as well as the reasons so many atheists supposedly think that Barack Obama is somewhat less theistic than his public comments imply.
Campos starts off by mentioning that Barack Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation on Inauguration Day has caused problems for both Obama (because liberals are obviously unhappy with the choice of a bigoted creationist money-grubbing windbag to speak on January 20th) and Warren (because Obama is pro-choice and pro-stem-cell research, positions those in Warren’s church are vehemently against).
Campos is a strict relativist and it shows right away: He says that progressives compare Warren to “figures of liberal demonology” such as James Dobson “with some accuracy,” yet a few sentences later, in the course of synthesizing reasons for Warren’s supporters being resistant to him accepting Obama’s invite, admits that Warren likens abortion to the Holocaust. What more does this fool need in order to be convinced the comparison to Dobson is dead on, and that one need not be a political liberal to loathe Dobson’s execrable statements?
Campos then, as usual, refers to something he himself has said or done, an indulgence that only serves notice that he is about to found an opinion rooted in arrant relativist bullshit, and then proceeds to say some very trite and stupid things, some of which you’ve heard before.
When I posted about the Obama-Warren controversy on the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money, several commentators simply assumed that Obama’s avowals of religious, and specifically Christian, belief must be insincere.
Such comments come from a perspective that could be labeled fundamentalist atheism. Fundamentalist atheists hold some variation of the following beliefs.
First, no truly intelligent person can be a theist, let alone a subscriber to the tenets of any complex theological belief system such as Christianity. For fundamentalist atheists, belief in what are referred to dismissively with phrases such as “magical figures in the sky” is a form of primitive thinking, appropriate to children, Neolithic tribes, the Dark Ages and the like.
For such people, something they refer to as “science,” or more generally “the enlightened modern view,” has all but logically disproved the validity of what they consider a remnant of a superstitious period in human history.
Campos is correct about how people radical enough to demand evidence of those making claims about something find religious belief itself to be archaic and silly, but his statement as whole is a non sequitur, because no inteligent atheist I know thinks that only dumb people can be religious. In fact, that extremely bright people–many of them working scientists–can adhere to fundamentalist Christian views is precisely what is so vexing to many, as it indicates just how powerful the reach of irrational theism can be if introduced to people early enough in their lives.
Barack Obama presents a problem for this viewpoint. Since it’s obviously absurd to claim that people like Obama lack the necessary intelligence to grasp these truths that are so self-evident to the fundamentalist atheist, our fundamentalist friend is left with a couple of options.
First, he can claim that the otherwise intelligent person has been, as it were, brainwashed by his upbringing, his education, his psychological quirks (this latter explanation is especially popular among those who see religious belief as a form of unconscious wish-fulfillment) or some other ideological factor that remains impervious to what fundamentalist atheists likes to call “reason.”
(Needless to say, the fundamentalist simply assumes that his own beliefs aren’t a product of such distorting factors. How does he know this? He’ll tell you it’s because he can use “reason” to show they aren’t!)
The alternative is to assume that obviously intelligent people who profess religious belief are lying. This belief is reflected in the assertion, repeated several times in the responses to my blog post, that surveys showing atheists to be a small minority of the population are inaccurate, because lots of people who are “really” atheists – like, apparently, Barack Obama – lie about it.
(One thing the fundamentalist atheist’s belief system never seems to require is any evidence for such claims beyond simply asserting them).
Even after stripping away the portions of this verbal slag heap that attempt to place the scientific method and blind faith on equal epistemological ground, Campos fails to address something he is surely aware of–that if Obama is in fact an atheist, it would be political suicide to make such an admission. No one questions that Obama is intelligent, and perhaps he is a “man of faith.” Campos seems to think that all atheists believe that Obama is one of them and require that this be true, butfor Campos to extrapolate a few comments on his blog to the entire godless population of the U.S. is moronic, albeit no more so than most of what he has to say.
Once again, Campos has taken an issue with only one legitimate side and tried to portray it as a situation in which the good guys just don’t get it. Sorry, Paul, but we do, and you’re not the avant-garde voice of unexplored reason you think you are; you’re merely one more shrillseeker.