What Is More Imaginary Than God? Salon’s Version of Atheists

Salon.com just posted the latest in a long line of shockingly lazy articles bashing atheists. Even the title is a straw-man: “What Hitchens got wrong: Abolishing religion won’t fix anything.” True, abolishing religion wouldn’t fix anything – which is probably why Hitchens never argued religion should be abolished.

The fail continues in the article’s first sentence, where the author misuses Marx’s “opiate of the people” line, the actual meaning of which Hitchens was quick to correct. Then the article’s author sets up what he thinks is a compelling thesis:

The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion is irrational

3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

The fundamental problem with that logic is, well, logic. Here is a pro-tip for the author, don’t presume to critique logic if you can’t form a valid syllogism. Just from a basic logical standpoint, this would be valid:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion causes all irrationality

3. Therefore, religion is the cause of all human suffering

This would be sound logic too:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion is irrational

3. Therefore, religion causes some portion of human suffering

This last example at least approximates Hitchens’ position on religion. The “logic” in the Salon piece reflects the position of exactly no one. Another logic pro-tip: if you write an article attempting to critique the logic of someone you disagree with, don’t straw-man their argument. Hitchen’s never said we should abolish religion, and had the author been intellectually honest and based his “rebuttal” of Hitchens on the man’s actual opinions, I suspect this hack piece would never have been written.

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5 thoughts on “What Is More Imaginary Than God? Salon’s Version of Atheists

  1. Are you sure with the last one? Just that the cause of all human suffering is irrationality does not mean that all irrationality causes suffering. For example, all suffering could be caused by the irrationality of weather forecasts (or anything else)… In this case, the two premises would be true, but the conclusion would not be true:

    1) The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

    True, because if all human suffering would be caused by the irrationality of weather forecast, all human suffering would be caused by irrationality.

    2) Religion is irrational

    Can also be true.

    3) Therefore, religion causes some portion of human suffering

    False, as ALL suffering is caused by the irrationality of weather forecasts, the irrationality of other things does not cause suffering here.

    If you ask me, 1) is meaningless here and should be replaced by something like…

    1) Everything that is irrational causes human suffering.

    • You are right. My wording was sloppy. Thanks for the correction. I think the biggest thing is just the point that logic is only as useful as it’s parts, and the salon article really just goes to show that garbage goes in and garbage comes out.

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