Sunday, January 2, 2011

How stupid is S.E. Cupp?

I can't find a single good thing to say about the obnoxious, pseudo-intellectual posturing of S.E. Cupp, who may well be one of the biggest idiots now yapping on Fox News or on a blog. And this includes idiots like Palin, Huckabee, Cheney and O'Reilly. She outdoes them all.

Cupp is an atheist, and she's got nerd-girl good looks which she uses to get herself on TV so that she spread her absolute blather about how she's an atheist, she's a right-wing nutter,  and she respects religion. Listening to her one has to quickly assume that she's lying or stupid, or some combination thereof.

Case in point a recent piece she did for the, entitled "The arrogance of the atheists: They batter believers in religion with smug certainty"which is exactly the position that would be taken by someone who knows nothing when confronted by anyone who knows anything. Let's see what she wrote, and see if she's deserving of my vitriol.

After a quick story about her father's sudden born-again conversion while she was "in college... busy pretending that a blottoed discussion of Nietzsche over $1 beers made me an intellectual giant" she seques into her feelings of respect for "faithful believers and discovering that, no matter how long they'd been in the fold, many were still on a dogged quest for spiritual knowledge."

Right away she's establishing something about atheists that's not in evidence. She sees religiously minded people as on a quest for knowledge, but non-believers are what, not willing to learn things? That's bullshit and she knows it. Atheists as a whole are more knowledgeable about religion than believers, as recent polls have shown. 
And it's why I decided to go back to school as well and study religion in a more meaningful way. It wasn't necessarily an acknowledgment of a higher power, but a realization that I knew little about the beliefs I had railed so arrogantly against.
So when she was an atheist she was arrogant, and ignorant. She took some classes which arguably cured her of ignorance, but her arrogance seems to be pretty well established, as she decides to go at "the problem of modern atheism."
So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today's militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don't seem to want to do too much thinking at all.
This is a pile of shit, and a lie. So what if it seems like atheists are shutting down conversation? Come up with a good argument and we'll listen.  Please.  Say anything that makes the least bit of sense. Instead of looking at the latest breakthroughs in cognitive science, the religiously minded will go back to Lee Strobel and CS Lewis, as if they have anything new or relevant to say. Their's is not a search for truth, it's a search for corroboration of beliefs already held. Let's go back to her father's interst in religion:
Having long eschewed any ties to his Southern Baptist upbringing, he suddenly found himself born again and on a quest to know God better.
Note the timeline, first he was born again, then he started on a quest for spiritual knowledge.  Cupp compares this sudden conversion to a midlife crisis:

While my friends' fathers were buying flashy sports cars and exchanging their wives for models, my own father was turning inward and asking: Is there more to life than this?
So in a mid-life crisis, which is desperation at its most venal, her father has a conversion, or rather reversion to his Southern Baptist leanings, and this is a step forward in knowledge? It's like that book, All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and like that book, it's simple, easy and patently false.
The militant atheist wants nothing more than to spoil the believer's spiritual journey. That's both meanspirited and radically unenlightened.
Again, that's just wrong.  Imagine if your friends became convinced that they'd like to take a vacation to the lovely North Korea, but you suggested a trip to Disneyworld instead. Would it be meanspirited to spoil the believer's journey by pointing out that North Korea will arrest you and put you in jail?

Another point, this term, militant atheist has got to go. Militant atheists write blogs like this one, and they are blunt, forceful and convincing in their arguments. Militant believers, on the other hand, kill abortion doctors, drive planes into buildings, and fuck up the Middle East. Comparing Sam Harris to the Pope insults Harris, and seeks to diminish the very real evils perpetrated by the pontiff.

Cupp is very confused. She seems to conflate people's belief in religion with the truth of religion.

While the neoatheists pay only cursory attention to dismantling arguments for God, they spend most of their time painting his followers as uncultured rubes. The fact that religion has inexplicably persisted, even despite Copernicus, Darwin and the Enlightenment, doesn't seem to have much sociological meaning for them. 
Dismantling arguments for god is easy, any first semester philosophy student with a B+ average can do that. Explaining faith, which specifically denies needing an argument for God, is something even now being tackled all over the world in the emerging Cognitive science field. The fact that religion has persisted is not so great a thing. Lots of false beliefs persist to this day: The morality of slavery, racism and homophobia, to name three easy examples. The argument could be made that religion helps perpetuate all three of these evils.
I wonder what they'd say to someone like Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who says that her faith in Jesus Christ got her through 91 days of hiding in a 3x4 foot bathroom while her family was murdered outside. Would they tell her she was crazy? Delusional? To just deal with it? I would hope not - but I am not sure.
Desperation drives people to religion.  The fact that Immaculee survived through her faith in Jesus is no testament to her faith. Are we to belive her family was less faithful and more deserving of death? Where was Jesus when a million Tutsi's were murdered? Bringing up this example is just obscene. Wikipedia talks about the nature of religion in the Rwandan genocide:
The Roman Catholic Church affirms that genocide took place but argues that those who took part in it did so without the permission of the Church. The Marian apparition, known as Our Lady of Kibeho, was seen in 1982. The Virgin Mary was said to have shown three visionaries a future blood bath and called for prayer and repentance. In 2001 the diocese approved the vision as "worthy of belief", indicating the Catholic Church's attitude regarding the Massacres.

Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated), the Human Rights Watch reported that a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, particularly Roman Catholic, failed to condemn the genocide at the time. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial for their participation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide, but he was cleared of all charges in 2000. The majority of Rwandans, and Tutsis in particular, are Catholic, so shared religion did not prevent genocide.

That's right. A vision of Mary, worthy of belief, according to the Catholic Church, predicted a future bloodbath, and when political ti mes were right, that's just what they got. Who can deny the Virgin Mary, after all? Immaculee was not saved by her faith, she was a victim of it.

I will say it again: SE Cupp is a liar or a moron. I wouldn't rule out, if the argument was made, that she is both. She is presenting something false, the militant, unthinking atheist. While I have no doubt that such exist, the examples she gives, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Dave Silverman just aren't them.

She should give her low wattage brain power a rest before she shorts out.


  1. So when an atheist makes a statement against the belief in god then it is "[s]o often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter." And the atheist is obviously militant. When, foe example, a Christians claims that atheists are going to hell then what? Is that a rational discourse in S.E. Cupp's world view? Is she building her own "straw man?" In effect she seems to be becoming this straw-man because a reasonable atheist has rational things to say about atheism.

  2. Militant Muslims commit suicide bombings, militant Christians assassinate medical doctors, militant atheists put up bill boards, enough said.

    There is nothing arrogant about questioning dogma, but there is something dishonest about gratuitous accusations of arrogance.

  3. "Instead of looking at the latest breakthroughs in cognitive science, the religiously minded will go back to Lee Strobel and CS Lewis, as if they have anything new or relevant to say."

    This statement is kind of a conversation ender, whether or not its true.

    But the "Truth" really is context dependent. I can say, for example, that the earth is flat and in one context I am right. I can get a level out and prove it. And that fact can occur at the same time that you tell me the REAL truth: the earth is round. This is a truth that does not negate the first one because it depends on another context. Once we all agree that the earth is in fact round, we shake hands, leave and continue on with our lives as if it were flat.

    Too often on Atheist blogs, the Atheist is too one dimensional about the real nature of "reality" If you say that only things that can be proven are real, you are negating huge chunks of the human experience. I could never prove to you the subtle nuances of feelings I have, but that does not mean my feelings are not real. So, you can't rest on "if it can't be proven then it didn't happen" but you can rest on "The miracles of Jesus probably didn't happen" because based on everything we know to be possible, those things weren't possible then or now.

    Too often atheists forget how refreshingly unassuming and modest a true scientific mind is.

    As far as cognitive neuroscience is concerned, we know that belief is not cognitive, it is pre-language and is usually inset way before a child can talk let alone read or write.

    Most people don't really know why they believe what they do. But when you shame them for what they believe, you are shaming them for something they have no part in creating, and have no conscious access to for re-modification. To change a person's world view requires brainwashing tactics and a considerable investment of time, energy and intelligence.

    If the Atheist is blessed with the good fortune of being able to see through the religious fog of their upbringing, they should not assume that such a feat of human cognition is even possible for a huge portion of the world's population. A population that keeps growing.

    A person's belief system is like their operating system -- one uses windows XP,another uses windows 2010 and another uses Linux. The defines the limitations of human potential to some extent.

    Everyone has a world view that was formulated before he or she had objective scientific rational logic to form it with.

    I think true intellectual honesty is immensely humble, the opposite of arrogant. I think Sam Harris is a fine example of intellectual honesty and humility.

  4. Susan-

    There is a lot I can take issue with in your comment, but I'll deal with the idea that "truth" is context dependent. To establish the roundness of flatness of the earth one needs the right tool. Using a level to prove the world is flat would be like looking into the wrong end of a telescope to prove the person right next to you is very far away. The fact is that the world is round, and there are limitations on our senses that make us see it (sometimes) as flat.

    The truth does not change, and once you learn the world is round, you never go back to wondering if it's flat because someone pulls the wrong tool out of the toolbox. We don't live out lives as if the world were flat. For instance, I know that my friends in Australia are in darkness when it's daytime here, and arrange my phone calls accordingly. I count on satellites to make these phone calls, and to predict the weather, and I know these satellites work because the world is round.

    I know that I am in some way picking on the metaphor and not the point, but the larger issue is whether or not true things are true or context dependent. An untruth does not become truth because someone believes it.

    Though I can not completely understand the subtle nuances of emotions you feel, I can relate to the idea of them because I, like all human beings, also have subtle (and not so subtle) nuances of emotion. From these emotions, however, I try not to draw any conclusions about the nature of reality, except to think that reality often affects me in such away as to induce different emotional states.

    In other words, ones reaction to the universe does not change the truth of the world. And this is important because in order for us to communicate at all, we have to agree on some things about the nature of reality. For instance, we can only talk about the moon if we both agree that it is a celestial body in orbit around the Earth. If one of us maintains that it is the eye of God, then our conversation isn't likely to go anywhere. In fact, the first one to express serious doubt about the others position will have committed the so-called error of "conversation ending."

    But the truth is that the conversation never really started at all, did it? One of us was talking about astronomy, the other about God. The best we could ever do is understand that our world views were different, and incompatible. But that does not mean that we are both right. The moon is either the eye of God or not.

  5. She's just a typical Fox News bubblehead!

    That being said, I love the field I'm in because a high number of us tend to be atheists. Maybe it's the education and experience, or maybe it's just that we all have that critical thinking faculty that we can count on; a finely tuned bullshit detector. And when applied to religion this bullshit detector pings off the scale!