Is the New Atheism an Unpleasant Blend of the Academy with Cable News Culture? Andrew Sullivan Thinks So, and Takes After Jerry Coyne and Daniel Dennett

Jerry Coyne, at his blog, summarized Daniel Dennett’s talk this weekend at the big atheist convention ho-down in Burbank, California this weekend (and which I went to) thus:

Dan Dennett talked about interviews with active priests and ministers who are atheists, and also mounted a hilarious attack on theologians like Karen Armstrong, who mouth pious nonsense like, “God is the God behind God.” Dennett calls this kind of language a “deepity”: a statement that has two meanings, one of which is true but superficial, the other which sounds profound but is meaningless. His exemplar of a deepity is the statement “Love is just a word.” True, it’s a word like “cheeseburger,” but the supposed deeper sense is wrong: love is an emotion, a feeling, a condition, and not just a word in the dictionary. He gave several examples of other deepities from academic theologians; when you see these things laid out — ripped from their texts — in a Powerpoint slide, they make you realize how truly fatuous are the lucubrations of people like Armstrong, Eagleton, and Haught. Sarcasm will be the best weapon against this stuff.

And to what Coyne said, Andrew Sullivan today offered this tart take-down:

They’re really charming, aren’t they? It is as if everything arrogant about the academy and everything sneering about cable news culture is combined into one big snarky smugfest. Maybe these atheists will indeed help push back the fundamentalist right. Maybe they will remind people that between these atheist bigots and these fundamentalist bigots, the appeal of the Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun.

Now, now, Andrew. Love thy nay bear.

Oh, and here’s a nay bear:

 

And here’s two more nay bears (Jerry Coyne and Russell Blackford at the Burbank atheist conference):

100_9348

 

And who is thy nay bear?

I’m coining the term for anybody who puts up a big bear yawn toward things of first-rank importance to you (such as your belief or disbelief in God, or UFOs, or evolution, or Buddhism, or Obama, or whatever). The nay bear is rough with the things you hold dear, and steals your metaphorical loaves and fishes from the trunks of your pampered and polished ideological cars. It’s very important to (at least once in a while) listen to your nay bears, and not push them away all the time, and defame them. We all have our nay bears, and we might be in the role of somebody else’s nay bear, and all of our nay bears are telling us something.

So love your nay bears, even if they take your shirt. Or your fish. This is my evening sermon for the soul (especially my usually narrow shrew of a soul). Good night, nay bears. Good night, soul. Good night. Yawn.

100_9309

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is the New Atheism an Unpleasant Blend of the Academy with Cable News Culture? Andrew Sullivan Thinks So, and Takes After Jerry Coyne and Daniel Dennett

  1. Veronica Abbass says:

    “Maybe they will remind people that between these atheist bigots and these fundamentalist bigots, the appeal of the Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun.”

    Andrew Sullivan has obviously left a few words out of this sentence. “[T}he Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun” for whom?

  2. santitafarella says:

    Veronica:

    I understand your point, but I think Sullivan is drawing a contrast. In comparison with the rhetorical harshness of ideological atheism and fundamentalism, the nonviolence and compassion promoted in at least some parts of the gospels (and which Andrew appears to take as their essence) is like coming up for air and sunlight.

    In this sense, I agree with him. Love thy nay bear.

    —Santi

  3. James Sweet says:

    In comparison with the rhetorical harshness of ideological atheism and fundamentalism, the nonviolence and compassion promoted in at least some parts of the gospels… is like coming up for air and sunlight.

    This statement is silly. I could just as easily say: “In comparison with the rhetorical harshness of the majority of the Bible, the nonviolence and compassion promoted by some ideological atheists is like coming up for air and sunlight.”

  4. santitafarella says:

    James:

    Good point. I agree with you.

    —Santi

  5. Pingback: Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”: Intelligent Design in Checkmate? « Prometheus Unbound

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s