Atheists: damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Haha, so to speak. Also, Charlotte Allen is a complete moron.

Remember the previous discussion of the claim that atheists are ignorant of Christianity?

Well, it turns out that it’s also naughty to know too much about Christianity.

My problem with atheists is their tiresome — and way old — insistence that they are being oppressed and their fixation with the fine points of Christianity. What — did their Sunday school teachers flog their behinds with a Bible when they were kids?

* * *

Myers’ blog exemplifies atheists’ frenzied fascination with Christianity and the Bible. Atheist website after atheist website insists that Jesus either didn’t exist or “was a jerk” (in the words of one blogger) because he didn’t eliminate smallpox or world poverty. At the American Atheists website, a writer complains that God “set up” Adam and Eve, knowing in advance that they would eat the forbidden fruit. A blogger on A Is for Atheist has been going through the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse in order to prove its “insanity” (he or she had gotten up to the Book of Joshua when I last looked).

Oh, but wait. It’s still naughty to not argue with Aquinas:

The problem with atheists — and what makes them such excruciating snoozes — is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God’s existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God’s omniscience with free will or God’s goodness with human suffering.

Wait a second. So on this author’s argument, not only do atheists writing popular works need to engage with the arguments of theologians that nobody believes*, but it’s actually forbidden to talk about the things that the religious do believe, like the words in the bible?

Note, incidentally, that Charlotte Allen herself subscribes to what we might call Dumb Christianity, like the literal truth of the virgin birth, rather than what we might call Smart Christianity, the stuff trotted out by theologians. How do we know that? Well, she was kind enough to basically say so.

Like other mainline Protestant groups in America – Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the like – the Episcopal Church decided some 40 years ago that the future of Christianity lay in accommodating its theology and moral teachings to whatever was fashionable or politically correct in the secular culture. Militant feminism and blessings for gay sex were only part of the doctrinal upheaval. Avant-garde clerics and theologians throughout North America and Western Europe scoffed at the traditional Christian teachings that Jesus Christ had been born of a virgin, worked miracles, died for human sin, rose from the dead, and founded a church that was supposed to be the means of salvation.

All those liberal strands of Christianity are paying the price for their devil’s bargain with secularism in vastly diminished numbers, as members figure out that when a religion lets them do whatever they want, one of the things they don’t want to do is go to church on Sunday. The mainline denominations, which once represented 40% of US Protestants, now represent only 12%: 17 million out of 135 million.

To put it bluntly, liberal Christianity is in meltdown. The election of Jefferts Schori, a theological liberal who prayed to a female Jesus at last summer’s bishops’ convention, together with the bishops’ vote not to endorse the bedrock Christian proposition that Jesus is Lord, proved to be the last straw for many Episcopalians who believe that the essence of their Anglican faith isn’t “tension” but fidelity to the Bible and the Christian creeds.

Wait, does that make Allen a hypocrite? Why yes, I believe it does. Now, if she thought that Christianity should be immune to factual nit-picking about the historical veracity of its silly beliefs, surely she’s willing to extend that courtesy to other religions, too, right? Otherwise she’d be a double hypocrite, eh?

Whoops.

Can I say “Charlotte Allen is an idiot?” Or is that against the rules too?

Wait, I don’t need to say that. She’s said so herself. Only, you know, she generalizes to all women. That’s right. Charlotte Allen, in addition to thinking atheism is too boring, also thinks women are stupid. You think I’m just indulging in hyperbole? Read this and weep:

The theory that women are the dumber sex — or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents — is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence. Men’s and women’s brains not only look different, but men’s brains are bigger than women’s (even adjusting for men’s generally bigger body size). The important difference is in the parietal cortex, which is associated with space perception. Visuospatial skills, the capacity to rotate three-dimensional objects in the mind, at which men tend to excel over women, are in turn related to a capacity for abstract thinking and reasoning, the grounding for mathematics, science and philosophy. While the two sexes seem to have the same IQ on average (although even here, at least one recent study gives males a slight edge), there are proportionally more men than women at the extremes of very, very smart and very, very stupid.

I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can’t add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?). I don’t even know how many pairs of shoes I own. I have coasted through life and academia on the basis of an excellent memory and superior verbal skills, two areas where, researchers agree, women consistently outpace men. (An evolutionary just-so story explains this facility of ours: Back in hunter-gatherer days, men were the hunters and needed to calculate spear trajectories, while women were the gatherers and needed to remember where the berries were.) I don’t mind recognizing and accepting that the women in history I admire most — Sappho, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth I, George Eliot, Margaret Thatcher — were brilliant outliers.

The same goes for female fighter pilots, architects, tax accountants, chemical engineers, Supreme Court justices and brain surgeons. Yes, they can do their jobs and do them well, and I don’t think anyone should put obstacles in their paths. I predict that over the long run, however, even with all the special mentoring and role-modeling the 21st century can provide, the number of women in these fields will always lag behind the number of men, for good reason.

So I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home. (Even I, who inherited my interior-decorating skills from my Bronx Irish paternal grandmother, whose idea of upgrading the living-room sofa was to throw a blanket over it, can make a house a home.) Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.

Methinks someone is generalizing a little too much from her own pea brain. And the WaPo thing isn’t even an isolated incident. Here she calls the equality of men and women “feminism’s big lie.”

(See also P.Z.)


* I really don’t understand why the critics of “new atheism” can’t distinguish between popular works and specialist works. Religion’s popular works aren’t “the serious arguments theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God’s omniscience with free will.” Religious popular works are, in fact, the works of people who believe in things like ontotheology and who read the Christian bible to discover truth, and who endorse kooky nonsense like “intelligent design.” And that is the audience to whom Dawkins and the rest of them are directed. There are copious atheists who have made arguments directed at theologians! Start at Hume and move downward!

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3 Responses to “Atheists: damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Haha, so to speak. Also, Charlotte Allen is a complete moron.”

  1. Stephen Bank Says:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/mainstream_media_at_it

    in all seriousness though, how do they let someone like that write in a major publication?

    I was getting a hair cut the other day, and I ventured outside of my media bubble (blogs, the washington independent, the gray lady sometimes) to read time magainze and it was really garbage!

    For more washington post company family fun, you should check this out:
    http://jezebel.com/5251148/who-you-calling-a-bad-feminist

  2. Stephen Bank Says:

    Crap! I was just reading this article
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200101/wicca
    and it’s by Charlotte Allen. Now I have no idea if any of it is reliable or not!

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    Well, here’s Starhawk’s response. (Full disclosure: I know Starhawk personally, though we haven’t spoken in a few years. She’s good people.)

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