Tom Gilson

Smug Ignorance on Grievous Display in Dawkins Easter/Ishtar Graphic

Facepalm2

You can find the above image in Wikipedia’s entry on “facepalm,” and indeed that’s what it looks like. The sculptor, Henri Vidal, intended nothing of the sort. It’s a representation of Cain’s grief and shame after he had murdered Abel, his brother.

That’s a fitting mix of reactions to the following image, which was shared yesterday on the official Richard Dawkins Facebook page.

Facepalm

How might one respond to this? I can think of perhaps three or four ways.

Some skeptics and atheists will undoubtedly take it gleefully at its word.

A far, far better response would be to give it a good knowledgeable point-by-point answer, a fisking. Anne Thériault has done this admirably at her blog The Belle Jar. Those who are inclined to believe what’s in the graphic should read her post closely and repent of their ignorance.

A third sort of response might be to turn away and cough politely to cover your laughter, as you might do when the man at the party says, “You know, I’ve been studying relativity, and I think I can show that the whole universe revolves around the earth after all.”

Or you could use the more contemporary but less courteous variant on the same response: a facepalm.

Consider for example the idea that “Easter” and “Ishtar” have the same pronunciation, and that this “fact” (more accurately a “false fact”) has something to do with Easter “at its roots.” To believe that would require believing that the roots of Easter can be traced in part to an English-language word. There’s a rather large difficulty there. Need I explain further?

The graphic’s creator also thinks that Constantine “decided to Christianize the empire” (did he issue the Edict of Milan in English, I wonder?), and that this was when an Assyrian/Babylonian fertility celebration was altered to represent Jesus, while in reality it’s all about fertility and sex.

I want to explain why that’s wrong, but I cannot. I really just cannot. I’ve got too much of a problem with taking it that seriously.

I could deliver a facepalm. It would be well deserved. If I did, though, it would be marked by grief for this kind of ignorance, coupled with something like shame for the apparently poor job the Western world has done at combatting it.

It makes me sad. God help us all.

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14 thoughts on “Smug Ignorance on Grievous Display in Dawkins Easter/Ishtar Graphic

  1. When you combine smug ignorance with smug condescension, what do you get? Proof that the Bible is true. (Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1)

    It’s sad that so many internet atheists have made Richard Dawkins there hero. The quality of their so-called reasoning speaks for itself.

  2. “That’s a fitting mix of reactions to the following image, which was shared yesterday on the official Richard Dawkins Facebook page.”

    At first glance, this sentence appears to be not, as the kids these days say, “true”.

    It was indeed shared, not yesterday, but three years ago; and not on the official Richard Dawkins page, but on the official page of the RDF. And it has received substantial public rebuke from atheists.

    It’s almost enough to make you think that the temptation to republish partisan allegations without first checking one’s facts is a ubiquitous feature of the internet.

  3. I’ll accept the correction on the source. Thank you for that, and I apologize.

    I’m not sure that my error on that obviates any of my other comments here. Specifically I’m not sure whether you have another source to offer to suggest that “substantial public rebuke from [plural] atheists” is true. Granted, Ed Brayton’s voice carries weight. Still I don’t know whether there is any sign that anyone outside his blog paid it attention in this case.

  4. Well it is reassuring that at least staircaseghost is not defending Dawkins or the other smug internet atheists who continue to post pseudo-intellectual nonsense on-line. Here is someone else who is not afraid to call out Dawkins:

    “Not only has Dawkins ruined science, he’s ruined atheism too.”

    20 years ago, an atheist was an intellectual with whom one could have a reasonable dialogue…

    Today, most people experience atheists as bellicose angry males who commonly suffer from depression, who post anonymous tirades all over the internet so they can share their misery with everyone else…

    We have the New Atheists to thank for this. And their four horsemen. Dawkins – Dennett – Harris – Hitchens…

    Wanna have an intelligent discussion about atheism? Read Voltaire, Nietzche or Bertrand Russell. Agree or disagree, they will force you to think.

    http://cosmicfingerprints.com/defending-dawkins/

    I don’t know if Marshall is an atheist, an agnostic or just someone who wants to stay above the fray—the proverbial “adult in the room.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

  5. Tom,

    I don’t see the problem.

    Think about it.

    The Skeptic has come with a way where we can all re-invent everything about everybody and all by a taking a leisurely stroll down Etymology Lane:

    [1] The days of the week stem from astrology and also from deities.

    Therefore:

    [2] It is a Fact that both our own cultural mindset and Christianity — and therefore Christianity’s entire cultural journey across the eons is (at its root) not about YHWH/Christ, but about Non-Christian astrology and other Non-Christian deities (at its root).

    Right now, today, when anyone from this century says, “Wednesday” they are proving that their own personal obsessions, personal story, personal journey, personal origin, personal mindset, personal belief-set, and personal experience are not at their root what they actually are but are instead “really, for sure, no– really really” all about their own personal mindset wrapped up in and obsessed with astrology and deities.

    Tom it is simply brilliant and that you can’t see the utility of this awesome idea about how to define reality is very, very disappointing.

    I’m deeply hurt by your lack of vision 🙁

    Well, okay, sure, maybe if we really think about it, it’s not the brightest idea in the Shark Tank. It’s not only poor logic, but it’s also just plain old embarrassing for the Skeptic given that it’s obviously and demonstrably false. (But who cares? Truth is all about the proverbial sound-bite Right? Yes? No?)

    If all the Skeptic needs to make stuff up about reality (John is obsessed with astrology because he said and says “Wednesday”) is a path down Etymology Lane well then are their any other words the Skeptic can use?

    Let’s see……

    Oh…. wait…. Hmmm….. this is interesting: It’s Every Word!!

    Oh Dear. Poor Johnny. He’s in for a real surprise about his own personal obsessions, personal story, personal journey, personal origin, personal mindset, personal belief-set, and personal experience.

    Poor, poor Johnny — if he only knew the, well, let’s call it “truth” about — himself.

    🙂

  6. It was a silly claim that got posted by an authority(-ish) figure and got regurgitated uncritically. To a degree that drives one to despair.

    But Philmonomer in #5 has some other links, several of which also turned up in my very very cursory search involving simply typing “dawkins ishtar easter” on my search bar. So we have 1) a claim that many people swallowed whole without bothering to verify it and 2) even after someone pointed out that the claim had been debunked years ago, skepticism from someone who knows the claim is false about the existence of “any other source to offer” about that debunking.

    The take home lesson should be: the next time someone makes an argument which includes as a premise “people would not make or widely repeat spurious claims which could be easily debunked”, you should dramatically revise your priors downward.

  7. See….. now….. as per the “March 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm” comment, if Johnny really, really, for sure really did *NOT* believe in ancient astrology and deities, well then surely he would have re-invented a system for naming the days of the week. The fact that he didn’t re-invent a system of naming the days of the week is strong evidence that Johnny really, really, for sure really *DOES* believe in ancient astrology and deities. Otherwise, why in the world would Johnny keep assigning Wednesday’s midweek affairs to, well, “Wednesday”? He even goes so far as to write the word down on his day-planner!

    Clearly Johnny is hiding something.

  8. From one of the links provided by Philmonomer.

    Megan McArdle from the Daily Beast makes an excellent point.

    Look, go ahead and debate religion. Go ahead and tell Christians why what they believe is wrong. That’s totally fine and, in fact, I encourage it. A little debate and critical thinking are good for everyone. But do it intelligently. Get to know the Bible, so you actually know what you’re disagreeing with when you form an argument. Brush up on your theology so that you can explain why it’s so wrong. And have some compassion, for Christ’s sake – be polite and respectful when you enter into a debate, even when the person you’re debating with loses their cool. You want to prove that you’re better, more enlightened than Christians? Great, do it by remaining rational and level-headed in the face of someone who’s willing to stoop to personal attacks. To behave otherwise is to be just as bad as the people you’re debating.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/29/happy-easter-which-is-not-named-after-ishtar-okay.html

    I could simplify her advice even further. If you want to have a meaningful discussion or debate with a Christian do the following:

    1. Ask honest questions.
    2. Make logical arguments.
    3. Keep an open mind.
    4. Be polite.

  9. Wanna have a pointless shouting match with a bunch of mannerless name-callers who make up just-so stories about warm ponds and lucky lightning strikes and think they’re doing science? Sit down with guys who read Krauss, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris. Walk into a roomful of Dawkins fans.

    They will force you to emote.
    – Perry Marshall

  10. The apostle Paul correctly diagnosed the mindset of the internet atheist and unbeliever some 1950 years ago.

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

    The key phrase here is “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

    He’s saying, that the skeptic’s rejection of the truth is at its roots really moral and volitional, not intellectual.

    Of course, there was no internet is Paul’s day. However, Paul did literally engage skeptics in the market place and public forums of his day (see Acts 17:16 and following.)

    I do think Christian-theism has some very sound intellectual arguments but there has to be a willingness on the skeptic’s part to honestly engage those arguments. You have to wonder, of what are they afraid?

  11. Apparently, the purpose of these kinds of claims is to denigrate Christianity in some way. I guess it’s supposed to show that Christianity has many pagan (non-Christian) influences, providing even more reason to not believe. Even some Christians condemn the use of these influences as evil and subject to God’s wrath. Actually, the inclusion of previously pagan practices in our celebrations provides evidence of Christ’s redemptive and transforming power. People who believed in Jesus as Savior and Lord saw how their pagan practices could symbolize something about their new King. What had once been non-Christian was transformed into something that honors Christ. So, I don’t think it’s a problem to acknowledge pre-Christian origins of these customs (but, of course, get your history right!). It ultimately points to Christ redeeming and transforming people.

  12. Actually pagan religions are all originally derived from theism. Once again referring to the teaching of the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-20) we see that this is what he is arguing. He writes in verse 20: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    Modern theologians refer to God revealing himself in nature as general revelation. (God revealing himself in a verbal propositional way, such as the Bible, is termed special revelation.)

    Notice that Paul makes this clear in the following verses: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

    Paul’s argument then is that general revelation alone is a “no excuses” sufficient basis for faith in God. Any other religion is a perversion of the truth.

    In other words, the skeptics cited in the OP have it exactly backwards.

  13. What’s even the purpose of things like this? Many, if not most Christians know that cultural practices around these holidays have pagan elements in them. And it’s not like it takes away somehow from the Jewish roots of our beliefs to know it – as if knowing that Easter traditions come partly from pagan Germanic customs (not Assyrian) somehow makes Jesus’ resurrection not real. I’m not sure why they’d think this is so mind-blowing…

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