In which I agree with Vox Day

I’ve been reading the comments over at Vox’s blog, and it’s pretty hilarious, not to mention providing double your recommended minimum daily dose of irony. For example, here’s Vox attacking the person who brought up my TIA series:

You’re absolutely wrong. Terrible example and you have apparently not read TIA nor understood that Duncan doesn’t even begin to rebut its arguments. He does not show that religion was involved as a pretext in more than 7 percent of the wars in recorded human history. Nor does he explain why no military tactician or strategist has EVER incorporated religion into their military tactics or strategy. His critique is totally invalid.

Now stop making groundless assertions and be specific. Precisely what about that his argument that religion causes war do you find persuasive?

Notice, the primary crime he accuses his critic of is a failure to read and understand the opposing point of view. He then insists that I failed to rebut his argument, and he demands to know what is so persuasive about my argument that religion causes war. Does he have a point? Does my argument—meaning the argument I actually made, not the one Vox attributes to me—fall apart when examined in the light of the evidence Vox cites?

Turning back to the post in question, what I originally wrote is this:

His main point is that religion is not the primary cause of most wars, which is perfectly reasonable and accurate. [Emphasis added.] Unfortunately, he pretends that Harris and Dawkins and company are claiming that eliminating religion would eliminate war, which is a pretty blatant straw man. (He even admits at one point that Harris and Dawkins “[never] state that they believe religion is the direct and primary cause of war.”)

Yep, as usual, Vox has not a clue what he is talking about. He claims that none of my posts rebutted anything he said, but has he even read what I wrote? Or is he the one who is failing to read and understand what the opposing side is saying? He’s so desperate to dismiss me as “unintelligent, ignorant, and intellectually dishonest” that he completely fails to notice the fact that I agree with him about religion as a false cause of war. In fact, I think Vox is overstating the influence of religion by about 7%.

Let’s ignore, for the time being, the issue of battlefield generals using or not using religion as a tactic or strategy. By the time the generals are on the field attacking the enemy, the war has already been caused. There’s clearly no point in seeking the cause of a war amongst the choices generals make after the war is already underway.

But aside from that, Vox and I are pretty much in agreement as regards the role of religion in the events leading up to the wars of history. My chief critique of Vox’s argument was that he failed to spend any time at all discussing the role(s) that religion did, could, or should play in times of national crisis leading up to possible war. I’m not saying that religion does have such a role or roles, I’m merely pointing out that Vox’s analysis failed to document some very important considerations, not to say the MOST important consideration, in determining what connection, if any, exists between religion and war.

If we do take this into account, though, we can begin to document how really impotent and useless religion is in matters of genuine significance. War is a pretty big deal, as far as the real world is concerned. It changes boundaries, destroys people and lands, changes customs and sometimes even languages. We would expect, if any world religions incorporated a deity Who genuinely cared about mankind (or about good and evil), that at least some religions ought to have an unmistakable or even supernatural influence on the course of events leading up to (or away from) a war.

Naturally, there are may roles that religion could play. For example, if there were a genuine deity to pray to, then national leaders would be able to pray for guidance. If divine wisdom were bestowed on them from above, advising them on whether or not their cause was just and their chance of victory secure, then this would indeed put religion in a highly influential role with respect to the circumstances leading up to (or away from) the war. Likewise if there were practical advice/wisdom to be gleaned from a study of the religion’s holy scriptures, either by the leaders or (in a democracy) by the voters.

Another role religion could play would be the very important role of uniting people into a common body, i.e. a united front with which to face the enemy. Religious faith could play a vital role in supplying manpower for the war effort, as people were led by their god to make personal sacrifices and commitments for the greater good of all. With a real god behind it, religion might influence wars by miraculous means, such as, oh, making the invading soldiers all go blind so that they couldn’t fight.

If religion did indeed have any substantial, real-world influence over the course of events, then (a) Vox would be wrong, but more importantly (b) it would matter which religion were the true religion. After all, if we’re going to fight wars over religion, we don’t want to fight for the wrong one, eh?

What Vox has discovered, though, is that in every real-world case, the true power lies, not in religion, but in purely secular, materialistic factors. Religion is a passive, empty symbol, which men invest with whatever meaning or interpretation suits the need of the moment. And, as Vox has shown, the need of the moment is dictated by secular factors, like politics, or economics, or sheer human cussedness. Casual observers might be fooled by the apparent role of religion in war, but to jump to that conclusion is to stop too soon and to fail to apprehend the purely secular factors that are driving and controlling the religious aspect. Religion is the passive puppet of greater, real-world forces.

Ironically, Vox concludes that Islam is the only religion with any significant influence over whether or not nations will go to war. I think it’s safe to say, however, that that’s more an emotional reaction against 9/11 than a serious historical analysis. In the 93% of wars he says were not caused by religion, he cites geopolitical, ethnic, economic and other secular factors as the real causes, yet if we look at the 7% of wars that are allegedly religious, we’ll find the same factors at work, with religion serving merely the same empty, symbolic role as the colors on the national flag.

It’s as foolish to insist that someone must be wrong all of the time as it is to insist that someone must be right all of the time. (I realize that in saying that, I’m rebutting the theme, if not the whole thesis, of TIA, but I digress.) Not everything Vox says is wrong, and in this case I think he’s a lot more correct than even he gives himself credit for.

The circumstances leading up to (away from?) international war are very momentous and vitally important circumstances. Vox is doing a great service both to believers and to unbelievers by documenting the fact that religion plays no role at all—”does not play a secondary contributory role in war. It does not play a tertiary contributory role in war,” as he says. Religion is utterly passive and irrelevant, a sock puppet that merely “speaks” whatever words it pleases men to put into its mouth.

And that goes for more than just war too. Thanks for the help, Vox. ;)

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Society, TIA. 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “In which I agree with Vox Day”

  1. pboyfloyd Says:

    Absolutely!

    Religious leaders couch their propaganda in terms of ‘with us or against us’ and so on, basically attempting to bully the non-religious into supporting the cause.

    I think that the anti-religious listen to the argument couched in these terms, from a secular leader who happens to be religious, and rail against that whole notion of religion being on the side of warmongers, the idea that, “God is on our side on this one boys!”(which implies that the godless are not, in fact, on ‘our side’.)

    It’s the warmongering leaders and Christian leaders themselves who are painting the war or the need for war AS religious which fools some atheists(certainly I believed, or at least ‘anti-believed’, the propaganda, “God, flag and country”, which implies ‘no atheists welcome’.)

    After reading this post, it’s obvious that the answer is, “Of course religion is simply a propaganda tool in ALL wars, as it is in everything else.”

    I’m thinking that Constantine was a genius for recognizing that religion is such a good political tool.

  2. Pepe Says:

    Vox is one of the most frustrating people I’ve observed an argument with. Throughout his dialog with Luke at Common Sense Atheism, he constantly demonstrated a level of inellectual dishonesty that I found astounding.

  3. Hunt Says:

    Unfortunately, I have to admit that I’m the one who brought this back upon you. I recalled your enjoyable series and reminded him of it.

    Ted Beale is not interested in a reasoned discussion, even though he advertises that “all are welcome” on his site. He’s far more interested in baiting people with insults. It’s not worth trying to discuss anything with him; he’s got the morals of pond scum.

    The ultimate punishment for Vox Day is having to be Vox Day for an entire life. Can you imagine?

  4. Hunt Says:

    And by the way, many of my comments were deleted in that discussion.

  5. Hunt Says:

    I just went back and read the last part of that post, after I had been deleted and perfunctorily dismissed from the presence of “the great man.” Tony Hoffman makes a few runs at the ponderous density of VD’s mind. What’s amazing to me is how anyone can keep up that kind of argumentativeness, day in and “Day” out. Isn’t he in his mid 40’s now?

  6. Deacon Duncan Says:

    That was you? Awesome, dude, thanks! Even the bits that weren’t deleted showed Vox up as a complete clown. I especially liked the part where he banned you for “lying” when all you did was disagree with him about which of us got the better of the discussion he bailed out of so quickly. Truly, Vox Day at his finest. and most quintessential.

  7. harebell Says:

    Gotta love old Vox
    Imagine the mind that doesn’t see the irony of calling himself the voice of god while being dishonest the whole time. I always thought the religious were either mad or just dishonest, because the stories that they claim describe their god depict a mad, dishonest being. But Vox goes over and above (under and below?) in confirming this impression.
    I’m not too sure either that all his commenters are real either. Folk could not be that toadying in real life could they? I know that they are religious and all but really it’s almost obscene some of the prostrating and genuflecting.
    I call sock puppetry on a hugely ego massaging scale.

  8. JRQ Says:

    Pepe mentions Vox’s dialog with Luke…in Luke’s letter 3, he quotes what I think is the best and most telling Vox Day comment of all time:

    “If you genuinely find [my arguments] incoherent, this is a demonstration of your intellectual limitations, not the incoherency of the arguments.”

    In other words, if you’re going to talk to Vox, any incoherency on anybody’s part is your failing, not his. Vox’s arguments, apparently on an a priori basis, cannot be incoherent. After such an admission there can be no hope for productivity in any kind of dialog. As Tony Hoffman points out in the comments of Luke’s 8th letter, “it appears that Vox does not want his epistemology investigated and exposed, he wants his authority recognized.”, which seems to me exactly right.

    And what happened with those letters anyway? the last letter I can find is Luke’s 8th, where he’s trying to establish common ground in criteria for explanation and Vox, for epistemically absurd (but suspiciously convenient) reasons doesn’t think “testability” should count. Did Vox just run away there?

  9. mikespeir Says:

    Why bother? When the likes of W.L. Craig or Gary Habermas begin to cite Vox Day or Holding/Turkel as authority, then maybe I’ll pay them some nodding attention.

  10. Deacon Duncan Says:

    In an ideal world, everyone would say the same. But in an ideal world, would Glenn Beck’s show be one of the top-rated “news” and commentary shows on TV?

    Speaking of which, I’ve heard that there is some talk at Fox of dropping Beck due to advertiser reluctance to be associated with his show. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if Fox were to fail to renew Beck’s contract, who here wouldn’t love to see Vox Day take his place? Hmm? Maybe we should start a write-in campaign. ;)

  11. Hunt Says:


    I especially liked the part where he banned you for “lying” when all you did was disagree with him about which of us got the better of the discussion he bailed out of so quickly. Truly, Vox Day at his finest. and most quintessential.

    Pretty early in discussions with VD it becomes clear that you’re not in a debate so much as a slapstick routine and you might as well get your slaps and eye pokes in as well. The Three Stooges would feel right at home.

    What really provoked ire was when I simply pointed out that abandoning the debate as early as he did implied that he lost it. What else can we conclude? Particularly when he’s so adamant about critics finishing every sentence of anything he wrote before commenting on any of it.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    True, but at least he insists, out of fairness, that all of his fans have to read all of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett, in their entirety, before drawing any conclusions about who has the better arguments. Oh wait, no he doesn’t…