Escapee from the Meme Machine mentioned Lloyd Eby's article "Giving privilege to atheism in today's America" this morning, describing it as a "load of garbage" and a "neverending well of lies." His hyperbole isn't far off the mark. Eby's misconceptions are myriad, but two of them are worth addressing in detail: his mistaken opinion that atheism is a religion, and his incorrect assessment that atheism is somehow "privileged" in America.
Atheism is, by definition, the absence of religion. A declaration such as Eby's that non-religion is actually religion is, at root, tautological nonsense. Eby uses a definition of religion that includes the phrase "system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith," declares that atheism is based on faith ("belief in something for which there is no proof"), so atheism is therefore a religion. Logic, when tortured in this manner, is all but useless. Like the famous algebraic puzzle that purports to show a=2a (made possible by a division by zero), Eby's conclusion rests upon a similar fallacy: the false equivalence of P and ~P.
Is atheism, as Eby puts it, "privileged and set up as an establishment by government?" Only for the delusional. For those delusions to bear any semblance to reality, the following things would have to be true:
- our currency would carry the inscription of an atheist national motto "In no gods we trust,"
- our Pledge of Allegiance would contain the phrase "under no gods,"
- each session of the Supreme Court would begin with the intonation "no gods exist to save this honorable Court,"
- each legislative session would begin with a statement that prayers are both inefficacious and unnecessary to good governance,
- religious days such as Christmas and Easter would not be national holidays, and
- postal delivery would not be interrupted for days of religious observance.
It doesn't take much reflection to realize that it is religion and not atheism that is privileged in America. That we have not succumbed to government-enforced Christianity, as many on the Right pine for, is a testament to the strength of our belief in freedom of conscience.
Actions such as restoring previous non-religious versions of the Pledge of Allegiance and our national motto, and restarting mail delivery on Sundays) would not be atheistic in intent, merely neutral. This expression of non-preference (not preferring monotheism over polytheism, Christianity over Islam, or organized religions over idiosyncratic ones) would be a loss of privilege for religion, but only to the extent that it would place religion and non-religion on the same footing.
Even radical steps such as these would not be privileging atheism, merely no longer granting privilege to its ideological opposite. Official advocacy of a neutral stance with regards to religion is not the establishment of non-religion; it is merely the non-establishment of religion. A government that neither discourages nor encourages, neither aids nor hinders religion is--in Eby's mind--a "privileging" of atheism.
Things are not better when he discusses the ongoing evolution "controversy." Eby describes evolution--which, of course, he calls "Darwinism"--as "incomplete, implausible, and insufficient to explain or account for all the perceived complexity of observed biological organisms." I do not comprehend that someone with a doctoral degree in philosophy can seriously argue that the Creationist/ID stance that "God did it" is somehow a complete, plausible, and sufficient explanation. Is it possible that his education did not include any mention of the "uncaused first cause" fallacy? His repeated use of "Darwinist" is aggravating, but not as much as this verbal flatulence:
[Richard] Dawkins and similar proponents of secular Darwinist evolution are attempting to have things both ways. Their secularist naturalism and atheism are really religious claims, and their heated defense of Darwinist evolution is really a defense of their religion. If religious claims are ipso facto out of bounds in a scientific endeavor or investigation, then their own stance is out of bounds. Thus they cannot be allowed to get away with holding that their secularist naturalism and atheism are to be privileged as scientific, while claiming that intelligent design is religious and non-scientific.
Eby's rhetorical construct is based on the false equivalence of religion and non-religion. No matter how strong his faith, it cannot make his wishes come true.