TIA Tuesday: The chainsaw runs out of gasDecember 23, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I’ve been looking forward to the end of this chapter of TIA: low-hanging fruit is supposed to be easy to pick, but when it hangs so low that you have to squat down to reach it, it gets tiresome. At least “Occam’s Chainsaw” sputters to a halt on a fairly light note as he tries to address what he calls the “three rational atheisms.” And lo and behold! Vox falls prey to the Gypsy Curse!
There are three variants of atheism that can be considered at least partly rational: these can be described as Somerset atheism, Nietzschean atheism, and Post-Nietzschean atheism.
Somerset atheism is the common practice of moral parasitism described in the previous section. It is a partially rational atheism that functions perfectly well on an individual level but cannot function on a societal level because it depends entirely on the existence of an external morality to support it.
Christianity, of course, borrows its morals (such as they are) from the surrounding cultures, which is why the only real moral innovation in Christianity is the impractical and rarely-practiced notion of loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. In his haste to do evil to his enemies, Vox accuses them of a flaw that is actually a Christian failing, thus fulfilling the Curse and repeating the stumble that has brought him down so often in TIA. But we still have two more atheisms to go…
Now, it might be worth mentioning, just for the sake of completeness, that atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of genuine deities. It is not a philosophy. It is not a moral code of ethics. It isn’t even naturalism or skepticism or any other “ism” but a simple lack of belief in the existence of gods. Even Christians are atheists with respect to the vast majority of pantheons that have ever populated the temples and imaginations of men. Vox has never quite understood what “atheism” is, and that’s why he makes the mistake of proposing that there are different schools (or “churches” as he snidely calls them—as though “church” were a less honorable term!).
Anyway, as we were saying, Vox turns next to the second philosophy, which he mistakes for atheism, namely the philosophy of Nietzsche (and Crowley). According to Vox, this moral system “takes no account of society’s mores in stating that “do what thou wilt” based on the individual’s will to power is the whole of the law. This is entirely rational from the individual’s perspective and it is the variant to which history’s great killers have subscribed.”
Having tried to tag atheism with whatever discredit comes from being associated with Nietzsche, it’s perfectly understandable why Vox’s next step would be to try and link Nietzsche with “history’s great killers.” But I can’t help but notice how similar Nietzsche’s philosophy seems to be to the philosophy that the Christian God is described as practicing. “Do what Thou wilt based on Thy own will to power” is indeed the whole of God’s law for His own conduct, and He does indeed care little for society’s mores, commanding genocide whenever He feels like it, executing “sinners” for trivial offenses like gathering wood on a Saturday, demanding ritual mutilation of babies, and condoning slavery (including the beating of slaves to the point of death)—God does what He has the power to do, regardless of what society regards as good.
So Nietzsche, and by extension the other “great killers” mentioned by Vox, are really only practicing godliness, imitating the example and moral system of God Himself. In that light, it’s rather amusing that Vox shares with us his personal assessment of God’s manifest philosophy.
This philosophy is rational, but it is literally psychopathic in the sense described by Dr. Robert Hare, developer of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a clinical scale used to diagnose psychopathy.
I can certainly agree with the “psychopathic” bit, given God’s past history. But remember, Vox himself lends this philosophy the endorsement of identifying it as one of only three “rational” atheisms in existence. It might seem strange that Vox would use the term “rational” to describe psychopathy, but then again Vox isn’t striving for coherence and objectivity, he’s just out to twist everything into some kind of anti-atheist slander, whether it makes sense or not.
Two swings and two misses. The last pitch is what Vox calls “post-Nietzschean atheism,” typified by Michel Onfray. Once again, Vox mistakes a philosophical moral system for a simple lack of belief in God, and repeats his habitual error of ignoring the secular roots of morality.
Onfray recognizes that if one rejects the source of a moral system, one has no logical basis for retaining that which derives from it. For example, if all men are created equal, removing the Creator from the equation therefore requires abandoning the idea that men are equal unless another basis for that equality can be provided.
The idea that all men are created equal is a product of the Enlightenment, which Vox claims is the result of atheism. Christianity, meanwhile, springs from a tradition in which all men are not created equal. Kings rule by divine appointment, slaves are to serve as though serving the Lord (another rank of non-equality), the Jews are “God’s Chosen People,” and even the larger group of humanity as a whole is divided into “the elect” and “the lost.”
So it might be nice, actually, to find some other basis for asserting the equality of all men (such as, for example, considering the consequences of doing so, versus the consequences of practicing bigotry). Christian-sponsored anti-gay laws and amendments make it quite clear that basing equal rights on religious superstitions is an iffy proposition at best.
But Vox isn’t interested in finding a genuine, universal, non-superstitious source for human rights, because he does not want such a thing to exist. If we can find a real-world basis for rights, then he loses an opportunity to blackmail unbelievers into converting (“submit to God, or you can NEVER be a good person, vile infidel!”). He does not want all men to be created equal, because if atheists are as good as believers, then what’s the point in being believers? Oh, I suppose you could still believe, but from reading TIA, it’s clear that Vox wouldn’t enjoy it as much if he couldn’t presume the moral superiority Christians supposedly hold over atheists.
But I digress. This “post-Nietzschean atheism” is supposed to be the last of the three “rational” atheisms, so it might be interesting to see what Vox thinks is so rational about it.
It is social psychopathy that is an order of magnitude beyond that envisioned by the most rabidly psychopathic intellectual. Not even Leon Trotsky’s vision of an international communism is as ambitious in its ghastly grandeur as Onfray’s sociopathic philosophy of desire. Nietzsche only wished to slay God and rule over His Creation, the post-Nietzschean dreams of total destruction so that he might build a new creation from the ashes.
Goodness, if that’s what Vox considers “rational,” I think I can see why his arguments so frequently appear to be a bit out of touch with reality.
And with that last spray of spittle, the Chainsaw sputters to a long-anticipated halt. Strangely, most of the casualties that litter the field seem to have been Vox’s allies, plus the remnants of his own credibility. But whatever, we’re past this particular bit of logical carnage. Next week, we get to climb up the gang plank for the first leg of our voyage on the Omnidirigible, Hindenberg II. Stay tuned.