Danger of little knowledge? Really?


One of my friends shared an article with me.

He wanted me to think he was interesting so he told me he was an atheist before he told me his name. This provokes debate and he gets to be cool and counter cultural. He then gets to regurgitate every atheist book he has ever read and come off as an intellectual. He is an atheist because all the great wars were fought on the basis of religion he says, and continue, for the next five or so minutes, to quote from God is not great.

Truth is, I have met some real atheists, but he is not one of them.

When did you decide there was no god, I ask, feigning innocence.

I always knew it; I just did not feel that I was allowed to feel that way, he responds, making a face that is meant to pass for deep intellectualism. I would find this profound. Actually, I did when I first read that sentiment in a Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion. As it is, I find myself wondering how many people find him profound when he passes off other people’s thoughts as his own.

See, he has been doing this for the last half hour. He presents other people’s thought as though they were his own. He has quoted C.S Lewis and Bertrand Russell. He also quotes Goethe, Nietzsche and Kant rather liberally. However, I can tell he has never read any of these writers. He like so many others, has read books in which these philosophers are quoted. I decide not to tell him I was a philosophy major in campus. I can see he also does not know who these philosophers were or else, he would know Lewis, in his later years, was a fervent believer.

The thing is not that he does not believe in God. It is that he is an atheist. Once you get that he becomes even less fascinating. Fifty minutes into the date, I am officially bored. He has come rather late to this phase. At 29, he should have moved on to a more interesting phase. I understand he has recently discovered this new world in which god does not exist, but am disappointed. He will never grow beyond this phase to either a true believer or a true atheist. He will remain stuck in this phase because he is fixated on the philosophy of it through absorbing without thinking it through.

I know what he is doing. This is just another person flirting with atheism because it is the new cool. I want to tell him I have gone through this phase and it holds no fascination for me, but I also want to observe him. I wonder if I was ever this fatuous.

Am disappointed by this lady, very disappointed. For all her philosophy major, she can’t help avoid fallacies here. She treats us to the No True Scotsman, not once, but twice. I would want to meet her philosophy lecturer.

I am curious as to how they met. I know of no one who would start on a date by saying am an atheist and my name is P. I have however been to functions where people introduce themselves as being brother or sister so and so and am saved. But that aside, how did they arrive at this date. It seems to me to be a case of bad judgement on her part and maybe the dude really wasn’t interested. I could be wrong on this and I will be sending her my response in the hope that she will clarify the matter.

The other thing I find disturbing about her piece, and which I find to be prevalent among believers, is to see atheists or recent deconvertees as being a phase, one they will hopefully pass through. The implication here being that the believer’s position is the valid one. I am surprised why believers don’t ask themselves which among the many varying sects/ cults is the true one. It is possible every time they go down on their knees facing Mecca or an altar, they annoy Zeus!

Am greatly disappointed with her philosophy major degree. When she says

The thing is not that he does not believe in God. It is that he is an atheist

I really do not know what she means. I would do with a clarification and am sure many of the readers of this blog would too.

I see no problem with quoting whoever you want to quote. There is nothing wrong with walking on the shoulders of giants. Believers have been known to quote philosophers and scientists to support their views without ever bothering to go beyond those few quotations. Atheists, just like everyone else does this. So to use this as her reason to dismiss the unlucky fellow is I think uncalled for.

I am not the first person to say we are born atheists, I will repeat it without any shame.

I must say here also that am sorry for the lady. It is not a good thing to have your time wasted. And one hour is a long time to waste listening to things that don’t fascinate you. I don’t think I would stay that long. Am impatient, very impatient and I easily get bored. I just wonder why she stayed that long. Was she idle? Was she intrigued? I don’t know and hope to do so.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

55 thoughts on “Danger of little knowledge? Really?

  1. Ignostic Atheist says:

    It sounds like she lost interest the second she heard he was an atheist, and simply nodded at him instead of engaging, letting her disdain ferment out of some kind of misguided politeness. If she really had an interest in his passing out of his “phase”, she’d have interacted with him, challenging him. For having gone through it herself, she is shockingly short on empathy.

    It’s crazy though, that the same traits that make for a fake atheist are what make for a true believer. Spouting off what you are told on authority, identifying yourself by your affiliation and not by your own name, quoting scripture.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Isn’t it funny how things turn out. Believers repeat what their pastors have told them, memorise the verses on their little bible study guides and quote William Craig and Isaac Newton to defend any of their ridiculous positions.

      I don’t see how and why she could sit there for one hour and say nothing as a challenge to either correct where he was wrong or where they are in agreement.

      Like

      • Ignostic Atheist says:

        I suspect that her date truly was new to atheism and was eating up information without bothering to run it through a skeptical routine, but that doesn’t excuse her apathy.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Having deconverted as an adult, I was quite excited about what I was learning but I never at any time declared I was an atheist to a stranger. And not on a first date before introductions and not before they started to thank god for the good weather!

          Her apathy, I think, is unjustifiable

          Like

  2. aguywithoutboxers says:

    One of my major complaints against those who argue in favor of their particular belief system is the automatic repetition of all the same, stale defenses. Likewise, the same holds true for those trying to promote atheism. Please, think before you communicate and at least be original!

    I would never immediately reveal myself as a nonbeliever before even offering my name. First, that is simply rude. Second, I am much more than my personal belief. Third, personal beliefs are not necessary in an everyday casual conversation.

    A good selection, my friend. Thanks for getting Monday morning underway with an interesting thought! 🙂

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      One of my major complaints against those who argue in favor of their particular belief system is the automatic repetition of all the same, stale defenses. Likewise, the same holds true for those trying to promote atheism. Please, think before you communicate and at least be original!

      Something I agree with, but still I allow anyone to quote whoever they want as long as the quote helps them say what it is they intend to say better. It is for this reason when I write about how absurd life is, I quote from Ecclesiastes, that fellow had a way with words.

      Am glad I could make your Monday morning

      Like

  3. john zande says:

    Is she a theist, or a grumpy atheist?

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    • makagutu says:

      Her blog doesn’t say it. I can’t tell.
      I responded to Prayson

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    • missgacherindumba says:

      I deliberately avoided leaving any hints of what I thought.

      Like

      • missgacherindumba says:

        my laptop acting up, I meant what I thought of atheism. Mine is a critique of what I call “fashionable atheism” which I compare to “fashionable feminism”. It is important that we distinguish between atheists and fans of atheism. We must acknowledge that there are real atheists out there. One does not need to have all the arguments at hand to not beleive. I do not need to argue for the giant flying teapot to be an atheist. You are not an atheist because you have read “the God Delusion”, you ae an atheist because you do not beleive in the idea of God. This was a fan of atheism.

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        • makagutu says:

          A fan as in the sense of football fans whose knowledge of the game is below average? Is this what you mean or do you mean he is an atheist but not the one you consider real atheists

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          • missgacherindumba says:

            Fan kind of like the way I am a fan of Man United. I really do not care whether they win or loose, I do not watch games but their shirt looks very good on me. I know Beckham and Cristiano and Rooney and other greats including ferguson but only so I can make witty comebacks in arguments that have nothing to do with actual football. Any clearer!

            Like

      • john zande says:

        Ah, OK, so which is it? 🙂

        Like

  4. fojap says:

    I read a few of her other posts and being a judgmental ass seems to be her schtick. I guess she thinks it’s clever.

    Before I started writing my own story down I thought about other people’s autobiographies and what made them fascinating or insufferable. Portraying yourself when necessary as a fool, or ignorant, or selfish or any other negative characteristic is integral to writing something other people find true. I can’t say I’ve always succeeded, because it’s difficult. In normal interactions, you hide embarrassing things about yourself. You clean up your resume, so to speak.

    Shortly after I started writing I came across an article in the New York Times in which a writing teacher typically gives as her first assignment to write about one of the most embarrassing moments in your life. I think I understand why she gives that. It’s to break down that wall of ego and vanity we all have around ourselves normally. I wrote something and it’s still sitting in my drafts folder. I haven’t had the nerve to publish it yet. I probably should.

    How about this lovely post:
    http://gacheristews.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/the-lure-of-the-indecipherable-2/

    “The male species of this race has been redeemed as far as I can tell.”

    Could you imagine if a white woman had written that about a black man?

    So holding people up for ridicule and presenting herself as superior is her style. Why should she be any different when talking about an atheist?

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Now that you mention it, I think I should one day get to write such a story about me, am sure I will be short of subjects to write about, am not sure it will be published though, unless I get inspiration from elsewhere.

      Like

    • missgacherindumba says:

      Maybe it is racist. One of my “beefs” with the race discussion is that somehow white people have been herded into this space where they have got to be politically correct. It is impossible in my experience to have an honest discussion on race with even otherwise intelligent whites. The fear of being tagged racists pervades every word they say. This was intended to be a portrait of that white man who is not here to save Africa from disease or poverty but rather is shameless about being here to exploit opportunities that we the “locals” aren’t. This is actually the most interesting white person. There is nothing wrong with being here to stop malaria because you care but it does not make you a more legitimate human being that the person who is here as a real estate developer of luxury homes. How many white people actually admit to being here for not so do-goody intentions. For the record this man’s ex-wife admits to having come here because she could not get a job in England and knew she could have a much better life in Kenya or South Africa. So they develop luxury homes and make loads of money!

      Like

      • fojap says:

        Pride and joy and greed and sex
        That’s what makes our town the best

        I live in Baltimore, Maryland, but I spent most of my adult life living in New York City. You should try it there. I’m not joking. I love New York and the day I can afford it I’ll be back there. There you can find plenty of PC white people, but you can also find many people like man you’re talking about. I’ve dated plenty of men who are not trying to save the world. (I’m in my late forties, so I’ve been around the block a bit.)

        I don’t know you, so it’s just something that entered my head reading your stuff. Sign up for a writer’s workshop or something like that. You’ll meet plenty of the tedious pc types there, but, when your classes are over, get away and try a few different milieus. Go where the Wall Street types go. Go where the fashion people go. Lots of people in New York are not trying to save the world. They’re probably not talking about race much but it sounds like you’re bored of that conversation anyway.

        Just don’t be naive.

        Like

        • missgacherindumba says:

          I live in Kenya. What annoys me is that it seems that most expatriates have been conditioned to say they are hear to solve some problem or the other. Given some of the scandals we have heard with how much these AID workers earn for “helping” I find it disingenuous for someone to try and convince me that the money is not a factor. It bores me. It needs to be OK for white people to come to Africa because they think it is ready for some economic idea of theirs. “I want to have a career in fashion so I move to milan or paris or london or new york” is ok to say, so should “I want a career in development and AID so I moved to africa or south east asia”

          Like

          • fojap says:

            I understood that you live in Kenya.

            I’ve only ever known two people who lived there and only one of them was white. She moved there because her husband had a job there. Other people have told me that they came back to the States because she didn’t like it there. We’ve never spoken about it so I don’t know the details.

            My sister is probably most like the sort of people you’re describing than anyone else I know here. She works for a non-profit. I don’t think she set out to do what she does. She had a degree in psychology and needed a job. She probably wouldn’t say that though. Unlike me, she’s socially appropriate. She would probably tell you that she wants to help people. Which is probably why she is successful. If someone applied for a job saying that he or she wanted a “career in development” and saw that job as a good opportunity, he or she would probably not get hired. Honesty will not get anyone hired for anything. People who mouth the right words get the jobs. Perhaps it’s a drag that they continue to say them when they’re not working.

            I never know what the socially appropriate thing to say is and I find that I have lots of trouble getting hired, and if I do get hired I rarely advance.

            Like

  5. fojap says:

    Get a load of this one:
    http://gacheristews.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/the-standard-is-white-female/

    “The thing about Michael is that he is one of those guys who until today insisted on that middle class pretension of being more African by having two African names. I have known him quite a while and until today I had no idea his name was Michael. He signed up for this workshop because I signed up for it. He pretends to an interest in literature as part of his strategy to get me. I find it amusing. However put me up next to a white girl and I become irrelevant. He spends the whole day following her around.”

    I guess that’s a possible interpretation, but maybe he just turned his attention to the white woman because the black woman was ignoring him. As a man once told me that most charming characteristic a woman could possess was an interest in him. Perhaps, if in all that while, she had expressed an interest by asking his name, she would have known it.

    “I want to say I am angry at the racial statement his behavior makes but truth be told I am angry that he is looking around. I like my pool of admirers to have me as their female ideal. I derive no small amount of pleasure from the idea that no matter who they date, she is a poor substitute for me. I am peeved to learn that I can be so easily discarded. If she was smarter or prettier, I could be more gracious, but all she is, is white.”

    Maybe the guy wants a relationship and doesn’t want to be among a “pool of admirers.” Maybe a woman’s appearance is not the only thing this guy cares about. Perhaps the fact that she’s not as pretty is a positive. When I was young, I did that all the time. If I found myself at a party where the best looking guy in the room was surrounded by giggling females, I’d head off and talk to the second or third best looking guy in the room – or maybe one who was just interesting. Whether you’re male or female, getting lost in a pool of admirers is not fun for very long.

    Her race based interpretation could be spot on, but there are so many other possibilities she’s ignoring.

    She must be young. Perhaps I should go a bit easier on her.

    Though, I need to modify my previous comment. She’s showing her flaws in this post.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Maybe she is young or has a big ego and has put herself on a high pedestal above the pack.

      Like

      • missgacherindumba says:

        Or maybe she picks one flaw and zooms in on it. Anyway this is nothing compared to the hate mail I get. Actually this is more intelligent than beng called a “bitter 30 something year old woman who will never get a husband”

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          I don’t get any hate mail, I can’t say I know how it feels like. And I wouldn’t call you bitter unless I have spent time with you.
          But tell me, how would you stand that guy for that long? It sounds like suffering through a Tujuane show

          Like

          • missgacherindumba says:

            Look at it this way! How often do men sit around and trade stories on every horrible pretension that we “women” affect.
            Remember that girl who only drank wine, how about hte other one who would not answer her phone after 11pm, and the one who made sure you waited 90 days to have sex with her because she read it somewhere, the one who only dated men who wore good shoes?
            What if you ignored every other good thing about them and wrote a story zooming in on their particular affectation.

            Like

            • makagutu says:

              That would be hard for me to say. I rarely have such discussions.
              It is possible to write about the horrible stories ignoring all the wonderful parts. Unfortunately, it is hard for the reader not to observe a bias and depending on how you present the story, it may make your story unbelievable.

              Like

              • missgacherindumba says:

                This blog is my own interpretation of the selfie. It is a snapshot of an experience. It is also very self absorbed. the selfie declares to the world, “I am going to take a picture of me being me, only I am not going to be myself”
                Is the selfie a credible source on the day to day experiences of anybody?

                Like

  6. Her condescension aside (“feigning innocence”), her annoyance is not entirely illegitimate. “The thing is not that he does not believe in God. It is that he is an atheist.” This is a great line. There are a class of “atheists” who label themselves thus for very shallow reasons. In her observation, her date places the importance of being part of the atheist club higher than the actual ideas of atheism themselves.

    I share her irritation about quoting important historical figures. A quote here and there is fine, but using too many shows that the person has not thought enough about it to express the ideas in their own words. And perhaps if she really had gone through that phase – it is mildly impressive that she has read works on atheism – she should have had more empathy. However, “should” statements are rather pointless. It does not detract from her observations about this man’s shallow atheism.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Her report doesn’t seem a realistic one to me. Why would you be at a date with a guy who hasn’t told you his name and starts by yapping about atheism. I would feign a phone call and urgent meeting if telling him in his face that he is a prick was hard.

      If the conversation was quote after quote, I would ensure he was busy eating so he would talk less. But to listen to a guy whose conversation is quote after quote for an hour shows a person who does not value their time. Or maybe she was fascinated.

      All the same, if we take her word and that she is telling the whole story, then, am in agreement this guy is a prick and an ass and should do the growing up bit very fast.

      Like

    • missgacherindumba says:

      “There are a class of “atheists” who label themselves thus for very shallow reasons. In her observation, her date places the importance of being part of the atheist club higher than the actual ideas of atheism themselves.”

      Atheism aside let us pretend that this was a piece on feminism. How many times have you met women who will ask, “what was she wearing?” as soon as they hear a report on a woman being stripped somewhere in Nyeri town yet still proudly label themselves feminists. My beef is with people who adopt labels because they think it makes them interesting.

      On a much more (note qualifier) personal note:

      I am not and have never been an atheist. I simply cannot live in world without God. Is it a crutch? Yes but I prefer to have it. I was for very long agnostic but not anymore. I made peace with the fact that I need the idea of God. However, I also take issue with believers who claim to KNOW there is a God. It is a belief and we need to accept it as such. If you KNEW you would not need to BELIEVE! Who knows maybe God is a giant flying teacup.

      Like

  7. fojap says:

    I feel like an idiot for taking so long to ask this, but what do you prefer to be called?

    Like

  8. Real real me says:

    Great choice of subject!
    While reading the text, I thought of few things you’ve written.
    “The thing is not that he does not believe in God. It is that he is an atheist.” I definitely can’t understand this.
    And about the phase the author is talking about… I’d say that he had moved from belonging to a religion to being an atheist… but she didn’t even considered into changing her religion…
    And if you wanna know why she stayed that long… perhaps the lady wanted to know how sinful the guy is, so she can pray for him. Just saying.

    Like

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