Newsflash: People still don’t know what atheism is but feel compelled to bang on about it anyway.
I’ll only mention the part of this tedious drivel that caught the eye of PZ Myers in particular, because I don’t think I’ve even mentioned Christopher Hitchens’s ongoing battle with cancer on this blog yet. He’s talked openly about his experiences, and in particular he mentioned the number of people he’s encountered who have been praying for him.
And what he’s focused on has been the sentiment behind such actions, rather than their ultimate ineffectiveness on any cosmic scale. From the perspective of a religious believer, it’s a positive and generous thing to do for someone, a manifestation of kindness and good wishes, and he’s always taken it as such, graciously and gratefully. (That is, in the case of people praying for his recovery. There are others praying that he’ll soon be eternally punished for all his blasphemy, but that’s another matter.)
Suzanne Fields in the Washington Times, though, seems to be wilfully misinterpreting this very simple concept.
But his writing on atheism is short on sophistication. “With all this continual prayer,” he asks with the air of an adolescent, “Why no result?” But since he has been diagnosed with cancer, he seems to appreciate not only his physicians but the “astonishing number of prayer groups” working on his behalf.
There are two different types of “result” in question here. One is that of somebody’s spirits being buoyed by seeing other people actively wishing them well; the other is of the actions of religious people successfully persuading a creator god to intervene in the workings of the Universe for the sake of one of the many thousands of his creations that are dying of cancer.
Yes, Hitchens certainly appreciates the former outcome, but what does this prove? It doesn’t do anything to undermine his main “unsophisticated” point, and neither does anything else she can bring up. Religious people claim that their actions can influence an almighty deity to directly intervene in our worldly affairs. So where is the evidence of this happening?
This woman has absolutely nothing to say, and Russell Blackford has picked it apart in excessive detail, so you can go there for the thorough rebuttal that I’m going to pass on for now. The comments on that thread are also very lengthy, and a predictable mixture of creatively interesting and head-bangingly awful.
Also, bizarrely, the original article is accompanied by a picture of Ariane Sherine standing by a bus with the There’s Probably No God poster, and a caption describing the campaign “that is intended to reach a majority of the British population over the next three weeks”. It’s not an old article; apparently someone could think of no more timely graphical representation of atheism from the last couple of years, and didn’t bother to update the caption either when lifting the stock photo.
I’ve got something else to put up tonight which isn’t just me moaning about other people being annoyingly wrong (though I still maintain that this is not a futile endeavour). Actually, it’s more about me being annoyingly wrong. So, that’ll be nice.