Note about my militant atheist students

Fairy 1I would like to point out, in a manner that does not originate with me, that being very against and even very mad at some entity that you have decided does not exist is perverse. In fact, to carry on an agonistic attitude to God, it is necessary for Him to show up in order to be insulted and rejected. Attacking empty air is the behavior of a madman. If God does not present Himself, but instead retreats in the manner of Russians before Napoleon and the Germans, then the militant atheist is in the equally odd position of actively pursuing his hated one across the icy steppes, braving starvation and chill weather to catch a glimpse of his beloved, um, I mean, enemy. In the Fall semester, I had one student ask me what percentage of the course was going to mention God so he could decide whether to continue with the class or not, in a manner that suggested that he had a God allergy, and thus needed “accommodating,” another who wanted me to simply remove religious references from an ethics course – so much for Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Berdyaev, critiques of attempts to create naturalistic foundations for ethics, and most of the other articles – and two more, in another class, started posting rude and derogatory comments about the readings and, by extension, me in “discussion” submissions – one even claiming that bringing up God in an article defending the notion that life is worth living was “shameful.” My rather satisfying response to the students turned trolls was to ban one of them, since he had been warned, from further comments and for me to apologize on their behalf to the rest of the class for exposing them to such gross behavior. Having such violent hatred and animosity for something that is not there, in your own opinion, really is bizarre. I might think it fun to imagine that fairies exist at the bottom of my garden, but, having abandoned this fantasy, it would seem strange to develop a pathological hatred for them whereby any mention of those fiendish beings roiled my blood. Say the word “fairy” and my hands congeal in serpentine writhing. Slobber drips from my chin. My eyes enlarge in obscene wrath, and hiccups and groans besmirch my lips. Begone ye tiny winged creatures! Thy presence sickens me and disturbs my peace of mind. Return from whence thy came and leave thy gallivanting to creatures that actually exist! From this time forward, only cats, possums, skunks, little birds, and raccoons, all of which have truly trod my land, shall occupy my sovereign estate. Oh, fairies, how I hate thee! Thy bewitching murmurings and flutterings are only the more annoying for being nonexistent. Thy enchanting ways that excite the imagination are just abhorrent. Furthermore, anyone who utters thy name shall be anathema! Begone, ye wraith, ye figment, ye nullity, and disturb my mind no longer! Should ye persist in thy malevolent, but illusory, ways, I shall be forced to call down upon ye, the fairy king’s indictment. Pixem, poxen, berate the moxen. Kitherway, hitherway, our lord rightly. Return to thy fairy hole. Batten the hatch. Nevermore to scurry brightly, flourish nightly, gyrate unsightly. Let my mind with verities suffice! Hoorah!

Fairy 2

I thought I might submit this to the faculty assembly as a kind of form letter to students averring the condition Deus absconditus in extremis. Because, you know, a good dose of sarcasm never goes amiss.

Fairy 3

40 thoughts on “Note about my militant atheist students

  1. Of course a single explanation does not cover all instances – but I interpret mainstream militant atheism as being an indirect attack on any residual influence of Christian humans, rather than God; on the basis that Christians would tend to limit, and perhaps prevent, some aspect of the post 60s sexual revolution in which that militant atheist is (now, or at some point in the future) intending to participate.

    • Hi, Bruce: sexual revolution; abortion – which is obviously related. For one or two of the students God and Christianity seem to have a hex on them, and should be circumvented in case of bad juju; one had, literally, a superstitious aversion. (The how many times guy.) It has been a new development in my classroom experience.

  2. I have detected this in young men and I can’t put my finger on it. Every time I say “thank God” (which is a usual expression in my country and it’s said without religious intention), my nephew gets mad and argumentative). Like a vampire seeing a cross.

    Tell your students that an American newspaper offered a gig to Karl Marx about explaining the history of philosophy without mentioning God and Marx refused

    • I said “Thank God,” as an expression too when talking to a linguistic professor of mine during her office hours. She corrected me. “No, thank goodness.” I momentarily paused, thinking “are you serious woman?” and carried on. I’m not sure if she objected due to being allergic to the of the word in such a way or it was her own background in linguistics, simply wanting to be precise in language. Either way, she was culturally autistic, which is slightly ironic given she was relatively knowledgeable of how different cultures used language to communicate, though in a logical, nuts-and-bolts kind of way.

  3. American education now inculcates, in addition to political conformism, a type of self-adoration or narcissism. Your plaintiff students who object to the word God have no notion whatsoever of the difference between themselves and you, education-wise. They cannot imagine someone who knows more than they and they think that they already know everything. They assume, in fact, that they know more than you. Many aspects of contemporary American life lend support to this assembly-line self-adoration, but self-adoration is not a viable attitude. Sooner or later vanity collides with something real. Or maybe it merely collides with another instance of vanity. Narcissists are notorious for getting on one another’s nerves.

      • @Bonald – The less they know, the worse position they are in to estimate what they don’t know. The classic is a C student saying “I wrote exactly the same thing as the A student.” Answer: “No you didn’t!” The odd thing is that the supposed “A” student quite often can’t tell the difference either. I used to get students claiming “He wants us to say exactly what he said.” Response? “No. Just get it right. I don’t care how you express yourself. Use any words you choose, so long as you are correct.”

        The big one for me these days is “This guy isn’t right. It’s possible to have a coherent and plausible ground for ethics that doesn’t have anything to do with God.” Strangely enough, they never provide this ground nor even try to provide it. If they could, they should receive the Nobel Prize immediately. I’ve looked at that issue from every angle and have never discovered such a thing.

      • @Richard Cooks. I agree with you that there isn’t possible to have a coherent and plausible ground for ethics that doesn’t have anything to do with God. However, unlike you, I haven’t examined the question from every angle. Do you know a book or another resource that I could read to have a good grounding in this subject? (written for the non-academic, if possible). Thank you very much.

      • Hi, imnobody00 – Dostoevsky, by Berdyaev, does a good job of showing why God is necessary for ethics and why all alternatives turn into sacrificial nightmares. It’s short and I think reasonably accessible. Dostoevsky’s “Ivan” from The Brothers Karamazov is the one who quotes Voltaire “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him” after all.

        The most common alternative to God based ethics is biology based ethics, perhaps. I don’t mean to be egoistical, but I wrote an article for my students, which they tend to have trouble understanding, about why all such attempts fail for the same reasons. Briefly, they try to show that ethics is useful, rather than true (moral realism), but they end up saying that useful ethics is a morally good thing – which assumes the truth of moral realism again. They’ve begged the question by assuming the truth of the conclusion. Morality is morally good because morality is morally good.

  4. Pingback: Note about my militant atheist students | Reaction Times

  5. I agree. I’ve mentioned before that I had an elderly militant atheist female student who tried Dawkins’ Spaghetti Monster nonsense on me. I thought “You know I do this for a living, right?” I’ve heard professional comics have the same thought when they encounter a heckler – and I was being heckled in my own context. The students don’t know what they don’t know, and many of their recently educated teachers are in the same boat.

    • A quarter century ago, I was something like 19 years old and a militant atheist. A friend of mine organized a meeting with a young man of a similar age who was going to a seminary to learn to become a priest. Well, young men don’t mince words, so after I stopped ranting, he told me this.
      “Theology and philosophy can be taught at elementary school level, high school level, university level. Most people who go to some Sunday school at all, study it at elementary school level. In the elementary school physics class, you learn that atoms consist of a bunch of ping-pong balls glued together with other ping-pong balls orbiting them. In college level physics, quantum physics, one learns they are something entirely different. But you did not even study elementary school theology and philosophy. Your ‘understanding’ of Christianity is what you think your friend thinks his religious grandma was taught in Sunday school fifty years ago. That is like as if you would think atoms consist of not balls but cubes glued together with other cubes orbitting them. Now imagine you go to a college student studying quantum physics and tell him, man, physics is totall bogus, all these cubes, they ain’t real, this makes no sense at all. What do you expect his answer would be?”
      Aaand that was the end of my militancy.
      (BTW intersectional oppression studies professors do it for a living too, so that in itself is not a good argument 🙂 )

  6. I teach a class on cultural geography, and to illustrate the concept of cultural diffusion give lectures on the diffusion of Christianity and atheism. I make it clear that true beliefs diffuse in the same way as false beliefs, and that my description of the origin and dispersal of these ideas says nothing about their epistemic value. Only atheist students get angry. They refuse to believe that their personal illumination was exposure to a meme. The irony is that their worldview has no other explanation for metanoia.

    • There is genius. There is crazy. There is crazy genius. But there is not supposed to be such a thing as stupid genius, this should be a contradiction in terms.
      And yet, the Dawkins of The Selfish Gene is genius, there is no other word to describe that, genetics was originally really at odds with darwinism and he managed to create a good synthesis that makes intuitive sense to me. I mean mostly the biology part, the meme part is just speculation, but not wrong. Imagine an idea that “having lots of kids is good”, people who believe it have a lot of kids and also make their kids believe in this idea, they have a lot of kids, this necessarily leads to the idea getting widespread.
      And yet, the later Dawkins, the preacher of atheism is just embarrassingly stupid. I don’t know how it is supposed to work, but it is really like that.
      Anyway, memetics is a useful model and there is a hope those students will understand that they were exposed to a meme later on, kind of like how Moldbug explained it in “How Dawkins got pwned”.
      What makes the model useful is the idea that random mutations really do happen in ideas, consider the children’s game telephone. They arise out of random misunderstandings. And some of them do have a fitness advantage and precisely therein lies the irony. A great fitness advantage of a meme is if it says something like “Others demand that you take their word on faith, but what I tell you is pure critical thinking. Believing me is not belief, it is rational skepticism. Obeying me is no obedience, it is rebellion. People who believe in me are just like-minded critical thinkers, not a cult where uniformity of belief is demanded.” Basically, in an anti-authoritarian era, memes can evolve anti-authoritarian camouflage on the outside. But of course they are not so in the inside. For example, one can trigger a bunch of new atheist students into a burn-the-heretic rage by questioning global warming.

      • I think your last point is critical: “meme can evolve anti-authoritarian camouflage.” Memetic immunity co-evolves with memes and the fitness of a meme is its ability to infect a mind with the mimetic immunities of the present time. This is why “old time religion” is a dud when it comes to evangelism. This is why many people here could listen to NPR for a year without danger of contracting liberalism.

        At the same time, memes that have lost power to infect retain power to irritate. Listening to NPR irritates me. Richard’s MA students are irritated by mention of God. True immunity is an ability to [listen to] maniacs talk about their mania with complete equanimity.

      • I don’t think that is why they are irritated. Look, the essence of leftism is envy. Hence, the aesthetic of leftism is that there is nothing greater than you, nothing worthy of your admiration.

        The essence of nobility, or rightism, is the opposite. That there are greater things than you, worthy of your admiration. Such an attitude is the sine qua non of any aristocracy, because only people with such an attitude will serve willingly and loyally.

        In this logic, God is simply That Which Is Greatest. If there are various great things, they all point towards some kind of ultimate greatness. The rightist soul either does believe in the Greatest, or when not, then disbelieve in it with sadness, it would be so much better if a Greatest really would exist. The rightist atheist thinks like without the idea of infinity, you cannot understand mathemathics, you cannot say that the limit of a function is infinity. So infinity should exists, and it is really sad that it does not. It does because we can only approach it as a concept in our heads, and we cannot go and put our fingers into its wounds. We cannot approach it is a thing, as an object.

        While leftist atheist is glad, not sad, thinking when God does not exist, because he is allergic to the idea of the Greatest, precisely because it is at the base of all ideas of greatness. Infinite greatness gets infinite envy.

  7. They understand the word “God” as a symbol, metaphor, go-in for the word “authority”. “Someone who can tell you what to do.” I mean, factually, this is not even a wrong interpretation. Right now I am struggling with the fact that I consider Christianity a good social technology, but have no faith myself. And basically what I am figuring out is what I guess a lot of people who did not have much faith did in the past: using the word “God” as a metaphor of the laws of nature, a personification of the laws of nature. Logos. And that is inherently “authoritarian”, I mean, imagine if gravity was a person, what would he say? “Don’t jump out that window or I will break your bones.” Reality is authoritarian.
    So what they really hate is authority, plain and simple.
    And this is a good occasion to bring some NRx cynico-realism in. There might be people who hate authority because they really want to be “free”. But one can suspect that most of the time, deep down, they want to BE authority. That is, they want power and respect from themselves.
    There are people who mean leftism seriously. George Orwell was probably a sort of a honest idealist. But they always and necessarily lose to the sociopaths in their ranks who want power for themselves. Every leftist revolution ever will be betrayed. Because when a coalition of sociopaths and misguided idealists manage to pull down some authority or power, there is nothing preventing sociopaths from grabbing that power for themselves, the misguided idealists are really not a match for them, they will keep arguing it is not right and fair but not fight back. What did Orwell do? Once he noticed the socialist party he was in is led by power-hungry socio-paths, he left them and joined another one. Kept repeating this. Never fought them.

  8. Mr Cocks,
    As a female, I am outraged that you even dare to show your face, let alone teach in a seat of high learning or have the audacity to write and post online whilst proudly bearing a name that is an insult to any woman. It is a slap in the face of us all. I cannot imagine why the faculty has not insisted, nae, demanded that you change your patronym!
    patronym! Another instance of the hegemonic nature of the patriarchy.
    We demand that this word be cleanse from all dictionaries.
    To compound the insulting nature of your last name, we cannot but notice (how could we not!) that you first name is Richard, i.e Dick!
    As a consequence, we demand that you change your first name to something that do not refer to the violent herstory of violence against wimmin!
    Each and every time you step into a classroom or theater, your female and female-identifying male students die inside.
    Sir, you are a murderer!

      • Are you confessing to being a bibulous cv*t?
        (via references to Whisly Galore, of course?)
        Or an inveterate skirt-chaser, or Casanova?, since you state that you get plenty of p*ssy!
        Or are you identifying as the seriously hot character in the James Bond movie? (where they were also very fond of sexual innuendos…)
        (As you can see, I am the product of an education that was based on a lot of “explications de textes”. I’d be curious to know if American students are taught this skill)
        PS: typo on my first post: “be cleansed”

    • @steve – Good move! When I was a grad student, professors would treat someone announcing he intended to enter academia like a cancer diagnosis. Oh, man! That’s too bad!

      • I got that reaction from professors, too. It was one of the reasons I went into business instead. The notion at the time was that the business world was far less beset with pointless political squabbling than the academy. Perhaps that was even true, back then. No longer.

        Come to think of it, my partners and I started our independent firm 25 years ago *precisely* to get out from under corporate politics – which, in their practical aspect, tend all to take the form of diktats handed down from on high by the weenies back at headquarters. That was a good move, in every way I can think of, apart from the massive economic hit we took in the first few years of getting things going. Among other things, I’d never have been able to post at the Orthosphere if I had been an employee all this time.

        My brother took the opposite course. A brilliant scholar. He invested about 15 years beating his head against the wall of the academy, until he realized that he just didn’t have enough victim points ever to get a tenure track job. He pivoted to public service in a field that does concrete beneficial work for citizens – read infrastructure – and has been a happy man ever since.

      • Hi, Kristor:

        Does your company have an HR department? The college here’s HR dept. went from 4 members to 24 in order to police morality.

      • Every company larger than a few bodies must perforce have an HR department, even if it is only outsourced to one of the big payroll providers. And all such companies are required to comply with all sorts of DIE laws, and what is more they have to *show* that they are thus complying – in other words, they have to present an appearance of complying. And the business risk of litigation from a disgruntled employee means that internal enforcement of HR compliance policies must be concrete, and have teeth. So, the appearance must be more than just notional; more than just posting a PC placard in the store window. Every company must periodically train employees about their diversity and sexual harassment policies and procedures, which must be followed, and documented.

        HR is exploding everywhere right now. Demand for diversity professionals is through the roof. It will be the saving grace of HR employment, which in other respects is plummeting as more and more HR administration is automated.

      • Thanks, Kristor. I did not know that. That sounds horrendous and not much better than academia. Are these DIE laws at the state or federal level? If it’s at the federal level, things are worse than I had imagined.

  9. I am fortunate not to have been confronted by militant atheists in my classes, though given what I teach, such confrontations would be unlikely. I do, however, see ample evidence of their presence on campus. Among the registered student organizations on my campus there is a “Secularist Student Association,” and it turns out that by “secularist” they simply mean “atheist.” Some time ago, they held some kind of event on the quad, after which sidewalks were scrawled with such clever bits of wisdom as: “You don’t need a god to be good.” (Right, you just need to be a plagiarist to come up with a coherent definition of what it means to be “good.”) I also sometimes see t-shirts bearing such pronouncements as: “Science doesn’t care about your beliefs.” Discourse on such matters these days never seems to get beyond such one-liners.

  10. While I agree with you in general I have always found the argument that an atheist is fighting a phantom he doesnt believe in a bit misguided and shortsighted. While a vehemently disagree with militant atheism and atheist arrogance which is only matched by their ignorance I do not share the opinion that they militate against something that they profess doesnt exist and thereofore are an absurdity. I hold the view that atheists are fighting against the idea of God and feign concern about it based upon the consequences of that idea among the population when it comes to decision making. They dont simply fight as one that beats the air but have a true target and that target is us in whom the idea resides.

    • Hi, Michael:

      I think you describe what is likely to be their self-description, proffered to make them seem more reasonable. I guess we are both engaging in mind-reading of the atheists; what’s going on in their hidden interiors. Some of my students definitely *seem* offended by God and to take His existence as some kind of personal insult. It definitely is not limited to the consequences of believing God on the general population – an idea perhaps pushed by the media and people like abortion advocates. They have a deep and abiding hatred that is not limited to imagined negative social effects. Something similar could be said about a certain leader. His mere existence seemed to enrage certain types before he even did anything. The NYT mentioned impeachment within 9 minutes of his election, or perhaps 20. My mildly stern, let’s get down to business, beginning of classes attitude at a private college had a similar effect on the students.

      The insults and ridicule of theists is what I have just described in another comment. They don’t have arguments so they resort to personal attacks. Unable to get their hands on God, they attack his defenders on Earth – very much in kick the dog mode. My feeling when I am attacked is that I am strictly a proxy for their real resentment.

      I don’t think we can get much work out of the difference between God and the idea of God. Other than for direct mystical experiences, they seem like the same thing. I have claimed that Richard Dawkins is more demonstrably obsessed with, more devoted to, God than most theists. He doesn’t spend much time discussing social consequences, if any.

  11. A Modest Proposal
    Dear Mr Cocks (argh!)
    It is with great distress to my mental health and that of all my (sex) gender that I noticed, and How could I fail to!, that one of your commentators is named Roger.
    This is obviously another kick in the teeth of all of us wimmin and wimmin-relateds who are potential victims of sexual violence.
    As University Professors, you cannot be ignorant of the meaning of the verb “to roger” in British English slang, as in: she needs a good r*dg*ring.
    I hereby demand that you issue a content-warning to all before we read the comments.
    Signed: Outraged from across the Pond
    (PS: I cannot carry over the crossing of words, so I have to use parentheses…)

  12. Atheists profess that we are a transient, accidental coming together of complex molecules on a small insignificant planet, surrounding an inconspicuous star on the edge of an average galaxy in a so-so cluster of them, in the midst of billions of such clusters, while contending that the sum of all these is only one universe in an infinity of them. Yet, despite all these pointers to their own complete insignificance, they proudly consider themselves to be, in their utter certainty, masters and knowers of the universe.

  13. Regarding a ‘ground for ethics without God’: I think that without God, the notion of ethics is absurd. One need have only one motto-to do what one likes, as long as one can get away with it. The most uncomfortable thought for people who adopt this way of life is of Someone from whom one will not be able to get away. It is an idea shared by those who profess to be Christian, but seek the same reassurance in Universalism. It is probably only a matter of time before they combine to gang together against those who believe in a vengeful God.

    • Hi, mickvet: I don’t believe in a vengeful God, but I do believe in non-negotiable reality – that has similar effects. I don’t believe in hell as eternal punishment, but I do believe in a more or less temporary self-created hell. A self-created hell is still hell. I suspect I might have a modest talent in that regard. I take God the Father idea super seriously. He is our father and we are his children, and God behaves exactly as a superlative, perfect, father would, including letting us make our own mistakes and suffering the natural consequences of doing so. Dads with whips and hot tongs and with anger issues who never forgive once an arbitrary points has been reached (biological death) are not this perfect parent, IMHO.


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