True Atheism and Ideologopathology

A reader named after a burning lexicon of telephone numbers writes this:

It’s this sort of thing that leaves me without a home in the religious debate. I find kindred spirits in neither the religious nor in the Hitchens-Dawkins atheists. Mr. Savage is indeed being arrogant and condescending, particularly in his attempt to pigeon-hole religion as a psychological concept. But, his critics repeat his error when they doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of an atheist’s reasoning. That is to say, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything,” and “As people give up mysticism, they do not give religion,” show concurrent condescension to the atheist mentality. You don’t know Mr. Savage’s thought processes, nor do you know mine. Perhaps Mr. Savage is merely a believer in technocracy. Certainly there are some in the religion of technology or the religion of communism or the religion of environmentalism who wear the skin of an atheist for tactical reasons, but that does not preclude a True Atheist. I claim that mantle, and defy anyone to prove me wrong.

However, if we stipulate that all belief is religion, and the question is only one of mystical or non-mystical, then I don’t see how you can claim the religious instinct as a point in favor of mystical religion while simultaneously decrying it in favor of non-mystical religion. If Mr. Savage’s instinct yields this avian auto-phagic (for lack of a better term) ideal, it is surely no less useful for him to pursue that ideal than it is for a devotee to pursue Christianity or Islam.

The irony is that I used the same, “personal worldview is by definition of value to the person viewing the world,” argument against my nihilistic friend in defending free will. He at least had the weapon of, “But that worldview is an illusion in an uncaring reality.” But those of you who acknowledge personal value still find it difficult to concede that values other than yours can be more appropriate to those other than you. I have never heard a Christian say, “There are those who should be atheists and reject Christ,” nor have I heard an atheist say, “Religion is a benefit to certain believers and they should not reject their faith.” (Nor a Muslim, a Buddhist, or a Hindu) That lack of provincial humility raises a red flag that steers me away from both systems.

I hope I’m being clear here; sometimes things get lost in the transition from brain to paper. But all I’m saying, to everyone, is have faith, or have doubt, but have something, and don’t say I should have it too.

Mr. Flaming Phonebook, even if there is no one else, I  believe that there are True Atheists, because I myself was just such a one. I was a an atheist who allowed not the tiniest particle of supernaturalism to enter his philosophical system. I was not a radical materialist (anyone with a mind can see that we have minds) but believing that we have minds (a self-evident truth, Cogito Ergo Sum) is not the same was believing we have souls, an immaterial matter that endures forever like a song without a harp to play it.

I was a stoic. I did not believe in life after death because I placed no credence in ghost stories, and did not see how, if any supernatural happy hunting grounds existed in the sky, we natural people with our natural powers of reasoning could deduce the existence of such a thing. The Socratic argument that all knowledge is recollection from previous reincarnations was unconvincing to me. Arguments of Christian theologians that the soul existed, and was of an uncomposite nature that could not suffer alteration nor decay was likewise unconvincing. Nothing in my common experience even gave raise to the reasonable supposition that life after death was possible: a man who loses an eye does not gain clairvoyance, and a man who loses a hand does not get powers of telekinesis, so why should a man whose every part of his brain and flesh and bone be destroyed gain any corresponding powers of perception, motion, or existence? Hence my conclusion was that the rational thing to do was to train my desires and passions to conform with this grim and mortal reality: to spend my life as a philosopher should spent it, preparing for death.

(An aside: I am amused at my esteemed colleague Charles Stross, a man of considerable talent as  science fiction writer, who felt it necessary to speculate in public about the psychological causes for my change from being an Ayn Randian (I am not sure I fit the definition of that) to becoming a Fundamentalist (I am not sure I fit the definition of that, either) — his theory was that since Randians do not often think about mortality, being concerned with the pursuit of self-interest, my heart attack so imposed upon me panic and fear that it overthrew what little reason I had left. He also said he had not read my books or newspaper articles: which would have been obvious even had he not admitted it. No one can read my writings of those days without noticing the morbid emphasis on death and dying, which underpinned my entire philosophy. Stoic resignation to the inevitable, the glorification of the death of Socrates and Cato of Utica, is hardly something that would come from the pen of the man who tripped through life never thinking on the end of life. If you wanted to concoct a believable falsehood about my conversion, you would fit the known facts better by claiming the opposite of Mr. Strauss’s theory: that I was a morbid fellow, living his life in preparation for death, whose brain broke beneath the weight of horror, and escaped into pleasing fantasy. That would be no more true than the comical falsehood that I used to trip through life as if through a flowery field, tra-la, not realizing that men are mortal until I tripped across a corpse, like Buddha seeing a dead body for the first time: it would be no more true, but much less comical. Despite this, I take Mr. Stross’s story about me to be as imaginative as any of his others, and regard the matter with jovial good humor. I think him a good fellow. I hold it as one of the misfortunes of my life that my admiration for Mr. Stross is not returned. End of aside)

Stoicism is life lived in preparation for death. This means the organization of the passions and desires to conform with the dictates of reality, including the reality of death, and the development of indifference to such externals as pain, illness, loss, dishonor, or penury. It means self-control. Including self-control in the sexual area.

(Another aside:  My discontent with the culture of endless sexual self-indulgence and endless sexual predation and perversion has its roots in a philosophy centuries older than Christianity — so those of you offended with my assertion that chastity is a virtue, and virginity admirable, cannot call me a ‘Fundie’ unless by this you mean a votary of chaste Artemis or Athena Parthenope. The Aristotelian notions of  a great-souled man is a man who, in addition to possessing fortitude and justice, was possessed by moderation and temperance, were written three hundred years before the Sermon on the Mount denounced the mental act of lust as being tantamount to adultery  — and Aristotle was not the originator of those ideas, merely the organizer.)

That is stoicism in a nutshell: recognizing that man is mortal, we are obligated to recognize that man’s desires and passions must be trained to conform to moderation and temperance. It is vain to yearn for endless life, and therefore illogical to fear death. A man who does not fear death has no reason to compromise his virtues when confronted with anything that threatens death: once the fear of death is absent, all lesser fears are contemptible. Not fearing death, he has no reason to crave life, and, not craving life, he has no reason to demean and enslave himself to the pleasures of life.

(Yet another aside: Those of you who call yourself pagans, if you were real pagans, would recognize this sentiment. It is considerably less hedonistic than Christianity, which at least allows for feast days once the fasting days are passed. Those of you who fear Christians as being strict and puritanical have no idea of the spartan puritanism of the ancients.)

Nor did I have anything anyone could describe as a ‘God’  in my philosophy, unless you define the word ‘God’ to mean everything and anything — in which case it means nothing. Having virtues, or having a ladder of values where some goods have priority over another good, is not a “God” in any meaningful sense of the word. The statement “whatever you value most highly is your god” is either a definition (in which case the speaker is inviting you to define the word “god” so that it has no meaning) or it is a statement of fact (in which case it is a lie.)

It was with considerable dismay that I, as a True Atheist, saw my fellow atheists cease believing in God and start believing in god-substitutes, like Marxism or Environmentalism, and bring to these causes the same unreasoning desires of sacrifice and self-sacrifice that zealots bring to their Churches. There is clearly a class of atheists who are mystics of the materialist type, votaries of that harlot Fortune which the Marxists call Scientific Historical Necessity, or votaries of the ruthless Titan Bia, strength, that Nietzsche calls  ‘The Superman.’ Ayn Rand dismissed such so-called atheists in fiery contempt (she dismisses most things of the many that she dismisses  in fiery contempt) by calling them ‘Mystics of the Muscle.’

But such atheists are the Pharisees of my once-beloved Atheist Doctrine. They neither understand nor follow the principles involved, which is, to disbelieve in God because of a lack of evidence or a lack of a rational proof for the existence thereof. This principle requires the disbelief, or, at the very least, an open-minded skepticism, in anything and everything for which evidence or proof is lacking.

True Atheism also requires that the standards of evidence and proof be reasonable — the nihilist trick of arguing that nothing can be proved is a self-refuting statement (if nothing can be proved, how do you prove nothing can be proved?). The only reason why the nihilist can get away with it is by the simple trick of raising the burden of proof until nothing can meet it.  “So, you have proved your argument beyond a reasonable doubt? Aha! Now you must give me MORE proof, and prove your argument beyond any unreasonable doubt! Well, if you meet that burden, aha, now you must give me MORE proof, so much that it will compel my assent even against hypothetical unreasonable doubts I do not actually have, but which I can imagine a non-existing person in another universe might have!”

To me, my conversion seemed eminently reasonable. I did not believe in God, or anything supernatural, because I had no evidence for it. I received not merely an abundance of evidence, but an embarrassment of evidence, and attempts to explain away the various visions, miracles, healings, prophecies, inspirations, visitations, and to reject the much more coherent and rational world-view by means of ad hoc explanations from within a strictly materialistic naturalistic framework are preposterous, and it would be an offense to the dignity of philosophy for me to prostitute my integrity in that way.

My disappointing experiences after my conversion gave me a touchstone to separate the True Atheists, who are atheists for a rational reason,  from the men who call themselves atheist for emotional reasons.

When I say, “I believe in God because I saw God: I am an eyewitness”—

A True Atheist will say, “If you saw God, and it was not a hallucination, then you have reason to believe God exists; even though I have no reason to share that belief, since I did not see what you saw. What is your evidence that it was not an hallucination?”

A False Atheist, one who disbelieves in God for an emotional reason, will say, “If you saw god, since god does not exist, you must have been hallucinating; and if the hallucination told you something outside of your knowledge that did not happen yet, then your memory must be faulty — you must have suffered a strange mental defect three weeks after the heart attack which granted you the magic power to rewrite your memories, and you must have rewritten your memories to invent this account of knowing things before they happened. And you also have the magic power to make yourself unaware of your own memory-rewriting powers. And you also have the power to rewrite the memory of anyone who remembers the sequence of events as you do.”

The False Atheist is merely reasoning in a circle, begging the question. He reasons that since, axiomatically, the existence of God is false, therefore any evidence tending to prove His existence must be false, and therefore the only mental effort required is to invent ad hoc explanations, within a naturalistic framework, to explain away the events or the memory of them.

A member of the anti-Christian religion that goes by the name of Progressivism will say, “If you saw God, therefore RACIST HOMOPHOBE SEXIST HETEROSEXIST REPUBLICAN !! ME SMARTER THAN YOU!!! ME SMART, YOU DUMBB!!!! RACIST  FUNDIE, RACIST!!!! XTIAN!!!! SCUX THE DIX OF JESUS YOU FUXXOR!!!! —- but please do not use the words ‘Democrat Party’ because this will show you are insufficiently educated for a rational discussion, nor are you allowed to call the members of the Religion of Peace ‘Mohammedans’ or ‘Saracens’. Since I am your moral and mental superior, you FUXXING XTIAN BIGOT HOMORACIST, you would be well advised to follow my guidance along the path of proper mental and moral advancement. And you make me nervous! I fear you! YOU SCARE ME!!! I think you are oppressing me! *You seem so irrational.* No doubt you have plans to impose a Theocracy on me in the near future and please do not offend our kind Muslim neighbors and obey the Sharia law commandment regarding the depiction of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and please be kind and tolerant like me, YOU FUXXHEAD KKKRISTIAN SEXOHOMORACIST SEXBIGOTED RACEHOMO JUSESSUXXOR! ME SMART! ME SMART! ME SMART!”

This reaction is unfortunately rather common, but it has nothing necessarily to do with atheism. Progressivism is a mental disease, or else a case of demonic possession. I cannot understand, absent some sort of dark version of a miracle, call it a miracle of Hell, how a literate person can get himself tied into such knots of unreason as a Progressive, how they can be so frightened of things that pose no threat, and so nonchalant about things that do.

A single example will suffice:  Shane Finn,  an autistic boy in Eighth Grade of age 14 and IQ 75,  drew stick figure drawing. One stick man was labeled with his name, and the other with the teacher’s name, and the first stick figure had a stick figure gun, shooting the teacher, bang. The boy faces felony charges as a Terrorist, and will face a tribunal. I am not making this up. HE IS BEING PROSECUTED AS A TERRORIST.

Meanwhile, appearing in the news on the same day as this story, the Attorney General will not use the terms ‘Islamic Extremism’ to refer to whoever it is we happen to be fighting, assuming we happen to be fighting someone.

I can offer no clearer example of mass schizophrenic psychopathology. It is impossible to refer to this enormity without being accused of exaggeration. A retarded boy is accused by progressives of terrorism because he drew a picture of a shooting; and on the same day, the progressive officer in charge of nationwide law enforcement steadfastly, even when pressed, to admit that the Mohammedan Jihadist who leaves a truckbomb to commit acts of mass murder upon innocent bystanders might somehow be connected with terrorism.

Now, this has nothing to do with atheism. Atheist properly so called is a philosophy, or, at least, a philosophical conclusion about a philosophical question. Progressivism is not a philosophy, it is an anti-philosophy, a series of belief-acts one believes (or pretends to believe) in order to elude the danger and tedium of thought: it is a set of rhetorical strategies or psychological tricks, used only when needed and otherwise set aside.

The Progressives are “atheist” only because they are zealous members of a psychotic, sociopathic, and psychopathic anti-Christian religion. We must coin a new term for this spiritual form of insanity: ideologopathology.

They have no opinion, or, rather, they have a rather favorable opinion, of various forms of spiritualism or theosophy or nonsense. The idea of conforming one’s believe proportionately to matters where the evidence will bear examination is not only alien to their anti-philosophy, it is powerfully contradicted. These people are not atheists, not True Atheists, and not False Atheists, they are merely antichristians, and, because Christianity has preempted the teachings of the previous pagan world, the antichristians perforce are antirationalists, anti-life, anti-happiness, anti-mind.

Any atheist whose philosophy adopts the core values of the previous pagan world will find himself, if he is not to be merely an idle spectator in the Culture Wars, on the side of the Christians, not because he has any particular love for the followers of what he must regard as a superstition, but only because he shares a mutual enemy with the Christians. The antichristians are anti-pagan and anti-reason as well, so any man who cleaves to reason, and seeks to live life as a rational animal, upright on his own feet, and not as a pig at the public trough, cringing slave without a mind, uttering lies he does not believe and pretending to believe them, will find himself in a harmony of interests with the Christians. Being a rational animal, such a man will of course make an alliance of convenience with us.

Because the Men of the Mind, whether Christian, Pagan, or Atheist, have a common enemy in the forces of unreason. We can tolerate and respect each other, because we have beliefs we actually believe. They, the forces of unreason, have no beliefs, merely slogans, no program, merely a will to destroy, and so they cannot tolerate even the slightest dissent over even trivial matters.

They also might not believe in God; but, by God, that does not make them Atheists!

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Reasonings. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to True Atheism and Ideologopathology

  1. sqweetabix says:

    “nor have I heard an atheist say, “Religion is a benefit to certain believers and they should not reject their faith.””

    I have a True Atheist friend who says that.

    My children recently attended a talk that said there was no such thing as a true atheist because their views inherently conflict. I tried to explain to them that that was not correct. I think this post does an admirable job.

    Have you a link to your conversion story?

  2. mrmandias says:

    “A member of the anti-Christian religion that goes by the name of Progressivism will say, “If you saw God, therefore RACIST HOMOPHOBE SEXIST HETEROSEXIST REPUBLICAN !! ME SMARTER THAN YOU!!! ME SMART, YOU DUMBB!!!! RACIST FUNDIE, RACIST!!!! XTIAN!!!! SCUX THE DIX OF JESUS YOU FUXXOR!!!! —- but please do not use the words ‘Democrat Party’ because this will show you are insufficiently educated for a rational discussion, nor are you allowed to call the members of the Religion of Peace ‘Mohammedans’ or ‘Saracens’. Since I am your moral and mental superior, you FUXXING XTIAN BIGOT HOMORACIST, you would be well advised to follow my guidance along the path of proper mental and moral advancement. And you make me nervous! I fear you! YOU SCARE ME!!! I think you are oppressing me! *You seem so irrational.* No doubt you have plans to impose a Theocracy on me in the near future and please do not offend our kind Muslim neighbors and obey the Sharia law commandment regarding the depiction of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and please be kind and tolerant like me, YOU FUXXHEAD KKKRISTIAN SEXOHOMORACIST SEXBIGOTED RACEHOMO JUSESSUXXOR! ME SMART! ME SMART! ME SMART!””

    A nuanced portrayal of great psychological insight, worthy of Tolstoy.

    ;)

  3. Alan says:

    Thank you. Wonderful, as ever.
    I am a recovering Randian, a Catholic revert.
    You, sir, have a great gift and I am in awe.

    • I know I have a great gift. If you look elsewhere on this thread, you see that Flamingphonebook just gave me his sword, his bow, and his axe! Now that he is unarmed, we can get him.

      *JUST KIDDING* Thank you for your kind words. You are right to call it a gift: it is not something for which I can take credit or express pride. My maker made me this way, and then handed the chisel to me to finish the job. Only the flaws and mars I claim as mine.

  4. While I was wondering around the ‘net, I stumbled on a description of a GURPS campaign set in the world of Atlas Shrugged. At one point the objectivist author says:

    I specified that what counted as a rational philosophy was any system of beliefs that included an objective reality independent of the human mind; thus, a Thomist Catholic, a Lockean, or a adherent of the scientific method could be counted as rational, while a fideist Christian or a logical positivist would be irrational. To add nuances, I allowed a basically rational character to have a False Premise, such as belief in God or duty to one’s family.

    It reminded me why I miss Ayn Rand, even though she died before I was born. No New Atheist talks like that.

  5. Jeff Swanson says:

    Yes, an alliance of convenience. But more than that. I respect thoughtful and decent Christians and don’t respect pessimistic and destructive materialists.

    But then of course I don’t respect pessimistic and destructive Christians, and I do respect thoughtful and decent materialists.

    You know, I could read a lot of this kind of writing out of you — surely you could plow it into a book and, you know, modulate it with some fun and games. I could see such a book becoming very well-known and influential. Ever thought about it?

    • “You know, I could read a lot of this kind of writing out of you — surely you could plow it into a book and, you know, modulate it with some fun and games. I could see such a book becoming very well-known and influential. Ever thought about it?”

      I am writing such a book now. It is called LETTERS FROM THE LAST DAYS, where my younger atheist self is writing to my older theist self to try to talk him out of being a theist. I have a publisher who expressed interest, but the manuscript is two years overdue.

      Of course, if I wrote less on my journal, I might get more done. (Insert noise of head thumping on desk here.)

  6. Flaming Phonebook says:

    You compliment me trebly, sir. First in deigning to consider my opinion worthy of your time. Second in failing to show to condescension I accused the False Christians of. Third in accurate clairvoyance of my reaction to the story of your conversion which gives me outside confirmation of my status as a True Atheist. You have my sword, and my bow, and my axe.

  7. Wildrow12 says:

    A fascinating read, Mr. Wright.

    Though I must confess, hearing Mr. Stross behave in such a manner brings me great sorrow.

    I thought so highly of him after reading Singularity Sky…so to find that he would make such a fool of himself simply because of his own prejudices truly saddens me.

    • No, I think I must have given you the wrong impression. Mr. Stross did not say anything cruel or stupid, he was just speculating about my motives, which he no doubt finds incomprehensible or amusingly odd. His attitude toward religion, so far as I can judge these things, is more generous than my own once was, back when I was a zealous crusader for the cause of Brightness and Atheism.

  8. rgrekejin says:

    Pardon me for arriving late to this discussion, but the earlier comment by Sqweetabix reminded me of a comment I read by J. Neil Schulman, a libertarian Sci-Fi writer who converted from atheist to theism following an experience that sounds startlingly similar to the one our esteemed host experienced. It was something about how he thought the last God would want is for someone to believe in him if they thought they shouldn’t. I can’t find the exact quote at the moment, but I did find this similar one from an interview, which can be found at http://www.pulpless.com/jneil/libertarianprophet.html

    “Sure. Nobody should take anything I say on faith. But I think an ungrounded belief in God is a self-correcting problem. If you don’t have some personal experience that has convinced you of the reality of God — if you only accept the existence of God based on other people’s assertions — then you don’t really believe in God anyway. You only believe in whatever propaganda you’ve been fed, and that’s not really making good use of the independent soul God gave you. I think God has use for people who question his existence, so long as they’re willing to be open to however the personal evidence plays out.”

  9. Charles says:

    Taking a word and assigning it to a group does not make it so. It is clear, if you do in fact think arresting a 14 year old autistic boy is a ‘progressive’ move, that you have no idea what-so-ever what progressivism is.

Leave a Reply