Press for 5 seconds to return your baby to the factory settings.

An article that is all kinds of stupid.

As many in the comments pointed out ‘babies have no religion’ does not equal atheist.

I’m just not sure if it’s click-bait or not for atheists.

26 thoughts on “Press for 5 seconds to return your baby to the factory settings.

  1. Atomic Mutant

    Technically, it does. If you could ask any baby, without influencing it first, if it believes in Jesus, Zeus, etc. – would it say “yes”? Probably not, which makes them atheists. (Yes, I know that believers like the pretend that atheists have to believe that there is no god instead of simply lacking belief in any god, but that still doesn’t make it true).

    Yes, that doesn’t mean that babies make that choice willingly or that somehow religiosity isn’t a very basic part of human nature, it just means that nobody is born a Christian, a Muslim, etc.

    Reply
  2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    It is only one kind of stupid, in that it seems to be willfully twisting the quotes into claims that babies are atheist or agnostic. Babies are experimental pragmatists who have not yet encountered the God hypothesis so cannot be considered to have any position on it.

    Reply
  3. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    “But you don’t get Dawkins and Smith complaining because people talk about “Chinese babies”.” is also pretty stupid.

    No, it is *exactly* correct. ‘Religion’ and ‘Nationality’ are social constructs of exactly the same kind and impact on babies the same way. They don’t care which religion or nationality they are: but they are subject to the rules of that religion or nationality whether they like it or not. Nations you disagree with are just harder to get out from under the thumb of when you grow up than religions are.

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  4. natonoel

    I liked Nagel’s distinction (raised in the comments) between implicit and explicit atheism, rather than atheism & anti-theism (a weaselly word way to try and push the less palatable expressions of atheism outside the camp).

    And the almighty Wikipedia also recognises this as a broad and narrow “sense” of atheism – I’m not sure which is implicit or explicit, but both are certainly atheism.

    The writer is himself an atheist, interestingly enough, so he’s prepared to critique his own tribes thinking.

    There’s so much published work in paediatric neuroscience and early childhood development now that would have been helpful to refer to.

    The analogy of religion / belief system and country / culture of origin to me is sound, although a blunt approach – which is why is suspect Winston feels trapped by the argument into potentially acknowledging the possibility that the unsavoury side of explicit atheism as Nagel defines it sits at the same table he does implicitly?

    Not sure, but I do agree the article could’ve done a lot better.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “I liked Nagel’s distinction (raised in the comments) between implicit and explicit atheism, rather than atheism & anti-theism (a weaselly word way to try and push the less palatable expressions of atheism outside the camp).”

      Here’s the thing. When someone like AJ Miller of Divine Truth self-proclaims to be Christian (in fact Christ incarnate) then you’re quick to denounce him as not. And I agree. Miller can claim it all he likes, but he’s obviously not following the teachings of JC. But when atheists do bad things which have nothing to do with disbelief in god, atheism cops the stick. Atheism is the disbelief in god or gods. Anything beyond that could be gravy or gulags, but not atheism.

      I return to the example I gave Dr. Clam some months ago – if a fanatical vegetarian blew up hamburger stores you wouldn’t call it a less palatable expression of vegetarianism.

      “And the almighty Wikipedia also recognises this as a broad and narrow “sense” of atheism – I’m not sure which is implicit or explicit, but both are certainly atheism.”

      I find the term ‘implicit atheism’ not at all useful at the individual level. Either the person asserts their disbelief, in which case they are an atheist, or they don’t, in which case they are not. ‘Implicit’ is difficult for many people to understand, so while I see what the definition is striving for, in a practical sense it just adds to the confusion.

      Reply
  5. winstoninabox Post author

    “No idea what you mean by that. If it’s correct, it can’t be ‘pretty stupid’.”

    While technically correct it is a complaint spurious to Dawkins’ original point. You don’t hear Dawkins complaining because people talk about “boy babies”, “girl babies”, “sexually-neutral babies”, or “dual-sex babies”, either. How about “bisexual babies”? Dawkins is worryingly silent on them, too.

    Bowen, after damning Dawkins for silence on questions that no one was answering, then neatly dovetails this into a critique on atheism in general. It really is very well done, indeed. He gets good mileage out of it too, devoting 3 of his 7 paragraphs to his own complaint about something that never happened.

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  6. winstoninabox Post author

    And if you want further evidence of the all kinds of stupid, then here’s the opener from the second last paragraph.

    “There is another reason why babies can’t be atheists or agnostics. Everything we know from science shows that supernaturalism comes naturally to children.”

    He can’t even keep his story straight. Is it babies or children we’re discussing? The paragraph goes on to say that *children* “show a preference for remembering and transmitting stories that defy scientific rationality”. This is certainly well beyond what any baby could do. Toddlers, even.

    Bowen, a supposed atheist, has had printed an article so poor in a major newspaper that I’m inclined to believe him to be a fifth columnist for theism. Or maybe he has purposefully written a bad article in the hopes of gaining converts to atheism from people who think his critique of Dawkins is so wrong that atheism must be right. Or maybe I should have another drink. (c) sounds good.

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  7. natonoel

    “I return to the example I gave Dr. Clam some months ago – if a fanatical vegetarian blew up hamburger stores you wouldn’t call it a less palatable expression of vegetarianism.”

    If they claimed vegetarianism as their source of inspiration, then I think I would. Dr.Clam?

    Drawing from your previous post on North Korea, their brand of atheism results in active persecution of religion.

    Your problem is that you’re trying to separate non/belief from behaviour.

    I can’t see how that’s possible.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “If they claimed vegetarianism as their source of inspiration, then I think I would.”

      Kim Jong-un could decide that NK is going vegetarian, but vegetarianism doesn’t support that. Vegetarianism means not eating meat. It doesn’t mean forcing others not to eat meat. And the same with atheism. It means not believing in god or gods. It doesn’t mean forcing others to do so. It really is that simple.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Like theism, there are many kinds of vegetarianism. There is a sort of vegetarianism that believes killing animals to eat them is morally wrong. Implicit in this belief is the conclusion that others should be forced to stop eating meat. Similarly, there is a sort of atheism that believes religion is a source of grave moral and intellectual evils. Implicit in this belief is the conclusion that others should be forced to stop educating children in their religious beliefs. While morally-tinged vegetarianism or atheism are minority positions, these sort of actions are impractical and will be disavowed by leaders of the movement, but where they become sufficiently powerful, it is logical that they should impose themselves by force.

        “Thou shalt not’ is an inescapable consequence of any theory of morality sufficiently robust to support a functioning society.

        Reply
  8. winstoninabox Post author

    I’d hesitate to draw too close a connection between vegetarianism and atheism beyond the particular point I’m making, which is that neither ~ism gives endorsement to the kinds of actions I’ve stated. I’ll explain further.

    “Like theism, there are many kinds of vegetarianism. There is a sort of vegetarianism that believes killing animals to eat them is morally wrong. Implicit in this belief is the conclusion that others should be forced to stop eating meat.”

    There is a major difference as to why people choose not to eat meat or not to believe in gods which is pertinent. AFAIK the big three for vegetarianism are ethical followed by a lifestyle choice and health. Hollywood stars who want to appear deeper than they actually are so claim to be vegetarian but eat Caesar salad with bacon and diced chicken are probably a fourth, but I’ll discount them for the purposes of brevity. When vegetarianism is chosen *because* it is more ethical than eating meat then it is implicit that it would be better if everyone were to do so. So to take actions to encourage people to do so may be felt to be the right thing to do, it is a one step removed from the meaning of ‘not eating meat’. And to punish other for eating meat goes way beyond vegetarianism.

    “Similarly, there is a sort of atheism that believes religion is a source of grave moral and intellectual evils. Implicit in this belief is the conclusion that others should be forced to stop educating children in their religious beliefs.”

    Yes, there is this belief… But it’s not *why* atheists believe there are no gods. Atheists don’t believe in all gods – even the very moral ones! And to say one doesn’t believe in gods because of the moral and intellectual evils they espouse is intellectually untenable. At its core theism/atheism is a debate on the nature of what is real and not real, whereas meat eating/vegetarianism’s (simplified) debate is on what is ethical or not ethical.

    “While morally-tinged vegetarianism or atheism are minority positions, these sort of actions are impractical and will be disavowed by leaders of the movement, but where they become sufficiently powerful, it is logical that they should impose themselves by force”

    I disagree with the last part, especially in the case of atheism. As I said above, the core of atheism is a disagreement with theism on what is real and what is not. An atheist’s fundamental reason for choosing atheism is a lack of evidence from theists to support their claim that their deity is real. This is very different to vegetarianism. I’ve never heard a vegetarian claim we can not or don’t eat meat for there is overwhelming evidence that we can and do. The question for vegetarians is should we eat meat. Does god exist and not should god exist is the question atheists consider. While any moral disagreements atheists have we theists flow from this, it does not form the basis for the disagreement itself. If sufficient evidence were to be found then by the very nature of being an atheist, one would have to reverse one’s stance.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      An atheist’s fundamental reason for choosing atheism is a lack of evidence from theists to support their claim that their deity is real.

      This is true, no doubt, in some cases. I think it is much more common for people to be atheists for two other reasons: (1) they are carried along by the prevailing opinions of their peer group, much like those Buddhist etc. babies this post is about, or (2) they don’t like the consequences of theism: they are repulsed by an evil that they see in theism, or don’t want to live by the exacting standards proscribed by theism.

      When atheism has the upper hand, it acts to suppress theism Not perhaps a logical deduction from first principles, just a consistent historical trend.

      Reply
      1. winstoninabox Post author

        “When atheism has the upper hand, it acts to suppress theism Not perhaps a logical deduction from first principles, just a consistent historical trend.” From the article:

        “In May, a national “blue book” report listed religion as one of four “severe challenges” to national security in China (along with the import of democratic ideals, the influence of Western culture and uncensored Web access).”

        The Chinese crackdown on religion quite obviously has little to do with a disbelief in god and everything to do with a severing of unauthorized avenues of power. To call it atheism simply because it is anti-religion would be like calling it the policy of censoring the Web Luddite. I have little doubt that if atheists in China became as organized as religions and in the numbers that religions have in non-government sanctioned groups, then they too would be beaten down.

        Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Thinking about it more, I don’t believe atheists as you describe them exist, mine host. The evidence of the senses can only compel agnosticism, since it is fairly evident (1) that the potentially observable universe is not self-existent and (2) that we have no direct information about what is self-existent. Thus, anyone who is dogmatic enough to call themselves an ‘atheist’ must either be influenced by peer pressure or motivated, even if subconsciously, by disaffection with the consequences of theism.

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      3. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Happened across this quote from Hazlitt: The absence of proof, instead of suspending our judgment, only gives us an opportunity of making things out according to our wishes and fancies; mere ignorance is a blank canvas, on which we lay what colours we please, and paint objects black or white, as angels or devils, magnify or diminish them at our option; and in the vacuum either of facts or arguments, the weight of prejudice and passion falls with double force, and bears down everything before it.

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  9. Marco

    Yes. Just because prominent atheists, namely Richard Dawkins spout on and on only just falling short of calling religion the root of all evil does not make it *atheist* policy because some country or another crack down on religion in all it’s forms. All one can say is that it is certainly *not* demanded from any scripture attributed to God. If it can be classed as evil ( taken to extremes with violence for instance) it can be categorically not be an evil attributed to religion making Dawkins’ comments to that effect foolish and exaggerated. Perhaps it is the religion’s fault however, trying to take away the power of the chosen communists over the thoughts and actions of part of the populace.

    Reply
  10. winstoninabox Post author

    “That is a good point. Why would Winstoninabox identify himself Atheist rather than agnostic?”

    Agnostics are in the middle. God may be out there, but the evidence is not yet compelling.

    I don’t identify myself as agnostic because the claimant has to supply evidence for the claim. We are free to imagine anything is out there, and if that’s the case then god is just as believable as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I haven’t seen any evidence for god that wasn’t either wrong, circumstantial, relied too much on personal interpretation, didn’t make an equally good case for a naturalistic explanation, was logically inconsistent, etc…

    That’s not to say that I’m smarter or more logical or have a clearer understanding than theists. Plenty of people much smarter than I am are theists. But what I do find is that when discussing theism it’s pretty apparent that most people haven’t even heard of the arguments against god let alone found an answer for them which sits comfortably with their faith or makes any kind of sense to me.

    Reply
    1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this ground before, but agnosticism to me means a patient acceptance that we can paint nothing on the blank canvas outside the universe. By calling yourself an atheist, you are asserting dogmatically that whatever occupies that space does not have any of the attributes of a God, even the austere impersonal God of Spinoza, for instance. This seems to be an unwarranted extrapolation from your observations of the universe. I’ll cite myself again, at the risk of becoming tiresome…

      Reply
  11. Marco

    As a card carrying agnostic I don’t consider myself in the middle. I even find tedious that people would put themselves somewhere on a line based on a level of belief in something, and expect others to do the same. The view of agnosticism being in the “middle” makes it sound like we are undecided rather than having the convictions of a question being unanswerable. It doesn’t matter whether the question is about God or a Flying Spaghetti Monster. I prefer the idea that theism and atheism and agnosticism are different volumes in idea space, and there can be overlap between them.

    Reply

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