This is an article I just translated by a Brazilian philosopher criticizing the mainstream militants of atheism, for you appreciation.
Humbugs and Insults
Olavo de Carvalho - 23/12/2010 - 19h40
The crooks' "debate" techniques have been very simplified in the last years. They no longer appeal to the refinements of the old sophists, nor to the trickeries of the false rhetoric which Aristotle called eristics. To save time, or maybe for laziness and incompetence to study these things, they transfer the challenge from the field of logic to that of psychological manipulation, seeking not to persuade or confound, but simply to intimidate and subjugate.
The method to obtain such a result is simple. With an innocent countenance they throw shocking or insulting statements in a deceivingly sophisticated language. Next, they impose to the adversary rules of politeness that exclude every possibility of complaining or any proper reaction. To the poor victim there is no other way but to submit to the chicanery, timidly trying to move in a field defined to humiliate him.
The polemicists who have stood up the most in employing these techniques are the Four Asses of the Apocalypse - Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett - whose goal is to wipe out religion from the face of Earth, imposing the cult of "reason" and of "science".
They do not hate all religions equally. Their bête noire is Christianity and, in particular, Catholics, in whom they behold the greatest enemies of humanity. For reasons we shall soon see, they would rather destroy them by means of a generic attack against "religion", hoping, rather reasonably, that the suppression of the gender brings the annihilation of the species.
The issue is that "religion", in the way they use it, is not a historically identifiable entity; it's not even a concept. It's a fetish word, a verbal straw-man with meanings that include, with no distinction, Christianity, Gnosis, state worship of the Caesars, witchcraft, shamanism, astrology, alchemy and esoterism in general, all indian religions, Mormonism, ufology, spiritualism and who knows how many more, giving them a fictional unity by using a common word.
Next, they give to the amorphous entity the unity of a conscious subject, able to take decisions and act - of having moral responsibility - and then proceed with the judgment of this weird creature. In such conditions, condemnation is inevitable. With so diverse historical incarnations, heterogeneous and mutually incompatible, "religion" can escape almost none of the accusations made on it. Omnipresent and undefined, the imaginary monstrosity takes the blame for all the evils that affect the human race. And because what is general applies to all particular cases, each existing "religion" bears not only its own faults, but those of the group, and by attribution, the faults of the other ones.
The normality, the flamboyance and the frequency with which the four idols of the atheistic militancy appeal to this transfer of guilt would suffice to list them among the greatest intellectual cheaters of all times. Just to give one example: in one of his last polemical charges, Christopher Hitchens concluded that Nazism was a Christian Catholic regime because German soldiers of World War II bore on their belts the phrase "Gott mit uns" (God is with us), and, therefore, the Roman Church was to be blamed for the war, the Holocaust etc.
The missing detail is that although Hitler was not an Atheist, he was not Catholic. He was a gnostic, engaged in reshaping the Gospel and in actualizing an earthly Judgment Day without waiting for the heavenly one. For that, he used to say, it was necessary "to crush the Catholic Church like you step on a toad".
Gnosticism is the oldest and wildest enemy of the Church, which condemns it as the root of all heresies. But, for Christopher Hitchens this makes no difference. Catholicism is "religion", gnosticism is "religion": their faults are, thus, interchangeable. But isn't gnosticism a pseudo-religion? It matters not: pseudo-religion is religion.
The most constant and efficient use of this trick has been to claim that the deeds of the Islamic terrorists are proof of how dangerous... Christianity is! And atheism, isn't it guilt of anything? The most striking fact of modern history is that the atheistic ideology of communism killed more people, in a few decades, than all the religious wars since the beginning of the world.
From a rational point of view, thus, there shouldn't be reason for discussing which is worse, atheism or religions - all of them put together. How do the Four Asses get out of that? They say communism is also "religion", and the problem is solved. "Religions", in particular Catholicism, are now guilty of all the crimes of the governments that killed the largest number of believers and religious people in name of scientific atheism.
Being an atheist, say the Four, consists merely in the refusal of believing in God - any God - and not in advancing any goals or concrete values. Thus conceived, atheism is just an inner attitude, with no identifiable historical incarnation and can't, by definition, be accused of anything.
The fact that in practice this atheism never limits itself to the refusal to believe, but brings with it the apology of "reason" and "science", can't make it responsible for the crimes of the scientific ideologies of Marxism and Nazism, because, according to the Four, they were not based on science, but on pseudoscience.
I will not even ask with which legitimacy the concept of "pseudo", forbidden to the defenders of religion, could suddenly reappear as a valid distinctive criteria. I do not ask either with which right they appeal to the distinction of science and pseudoscience as it were something obvious, primary and automatic, when it seems to have escaped completely from a whole constellation of eminent Marxist scientists.
What seems most beautiful in this jink is appealing to the notion of "purity", denied to the defenders of religion. According to the Four, that Marx or even Darwin himself openly defended the systematic killing of "inferior peoples" does not make their atheism guilty of anything, because, when proposing this murderous idea, they didn't do it for a coherent devotion to scientific and rational atheism, but for a brief religious temptation...
Reduced to a pure idea, or, more exactly, to the personal version this idea assumes in the heads of the Four Asses, atheism is as innocent, as untouchable as a geometric figure in the heavens of platonic forms.
This is the debate that the Four put forward. Just like communists propose the confrontation of the innocence of their ideal society and the evils and sins of the existing society. Just like Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in “Ideals and Realities of Islam”, compares the beauties of his ideal Islam to the ugliness of the Western societies historically known. The demand for a honest confrontation - comparing ideals with ideals, realities with realities - is dodged a priori. For the adversaries of the Four rests only the inglorious task of defending, in vain, reality from ideal.
With the help of their editors and billionaire marketing people, such has been the "invitation to debate" the Four offer to whom may be naïve enough to fall for the cheat. The strictness in the demand for academic politeness is what makes impossible the denunciation of the essential cheat which created and shaped the invitation. Once the cheat is debunked, though, all the fake intellectual respectability of Hitchens and his partners falls into pieces. It is not healthy to discuss politely with cheaters, because denouncing the trick is forbidden, in limine, as an awful insult.
Olavo de Carvalho is an essayist, journalist and teacher of philosophy