Shit Internet Apologists Say: Father Dwight Longenecker (originally broadcast 10/25/2014)

I read this rant on our Environmental Activism episode, one of our many backlogged recordings. Dwight Longenecker has apparently been at it again recently, so I thought I’d share this text for posterity rather than make you wait for the audio. Enjoy!

So I found this knucklehead’s post Atheism: Don’t Even Think About It! on Google News under the ‘atheism’ category. It’s a prime example of everything that’s wrong with religious thinking about atheists, and it makes me wonder if he’s ever met one.

Father Dwight Longenecker has a history of making incredibly stupid and condescending remarks about atheists. Back in 2012, I covered a couple posts from his blog on my own blog – posts which he tried to make disappear from the internet. (Now, if you’ve been using the internet for a while, you know that you can’t actually do that.) What the good Papa posted was an excerpt from a chapter of a book he wrote, in which he talked about how “authentic atheists” were “a sort of human sub-species who have lost their spiritual capacity completely.” He said – and I swear I am not making this up:

If they exist, perhaps they have bred and spread like the alien bodysnatchers, and exist in our midst like spiritual zombies—indistinguishable in the teeming mass of humanity except to those few who see them and tremble.

The only thing he did to distinguish “authentic atheists” from… sham atheists, I guess? … was to say that the “authentic atheists” never bother talking about religion at all, and that thoughts of God never cross their minds. He ended up pulling the post after a lot of negative comments from atheists (shocker, I know), but put up a second one where he was positively gleeful about how awful the comments were and how very clever he was.

But Dizzy Dwight outdid himself this time. He decided to make all sorts of claims about what an atheist must be, and it’s clear from what he wrote that he didn’t allow much time for the synapses in his brain to fire off the question “hey, is any of this shit I’m saying actually true?” prior to clicking the “publish” button on the blog post.

For example – right in the intro to his schpiel, he says that

An atheist not only does not believe in God, he doesn’t believe in angels or demons. He doesn’t believe in heaven or hell. He doesn’t believe in the reality of the spiritual realm at all.

He can’t. An atheist must also be a materialist.

Well, I hate to strain your pretty little brain, Dweezy, but you seem to be confused on the whole “what is an atheist” question. It’s simple – do you believe in a god? Yes – you’re a theist. Anything else at all, including “I don’t even know what that word means” – you’re an atheist. Simple. Clean. Done. Nothing at all in there about angels, demons, or a spiritual realm. Hell, being an atheist doesn’t even mean you have to be a materialist, or that you have to disbelieve in an afterlife.

He quotes G. K. Chesterton on a tangentially related subject:

Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it.

Let’s set aside for a minute the fact that this makes no fucking sense at all, seeing how I don’t believe in Darth Vader or Superman and yet I’ve thought about which one would win in a fight. Daddy Dwimple is so awestruck by this blather that he shares his favorite maxim with us (aren’t we lucky?):

“A man is more often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies.”

Really? This is what you consider profound? By this reasoning, I’ve just got to assert a lot of things and I’ll be right more often than the guy who denies the things I say. I’ll just assert that Jupiter is propelled around the Sun by a cadre of farting midget unicorns, and I’m probably right about at least 50% of those things! And if you say I’m wrong, well, you’re wrong – so there!

But moving on. He decides that because atheists have to be materialists (even though we don’t) we’re limiting the range of things that we’re willing to accept. And this is a bad thing. Quote:

Chesterton’s larger point is that the materialist’s denial is a limitation on the mind. The atheist has, as his starting foundation, ruled out a whole aspect of existence and a whole range of possibilities.

Let that simmer in your noggin for a second. The implication here is that if you’re willing to rule out things you consider patently absurd, you’re limiting your mind and, well, like, that’s a real drag, man!

But it gets weirder and dumber. He continues:

Therefore, because of his prior presupposition the atheist can’t really think about it. Should he honestly and carefully admit the possibility of the existence of God and the supernatural realm his foundation assumption is gone and he therefore has lost the only basis he had for thinking about the subject at all.

Translation: “you can only disbelieve something until you think about it. Even considering it a possibility means you believe in it. Neener neener, no takesy-backsies.”

His foundation assumption must therefore be much much more unchanging and firm than any rock on which the theist builds his house.

To put it a different way, since atheism is based on a closed system it must lead to a closed mind.

Right… atheists never change their minds! We never consider or reconsider things! We never think critically and examine our beliefs to see if they hold up! You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d think Father Lankynoodle was describing the catechism of the Catholic Church, which is literally an official set of by-definition unchangeable beliefs which one must accept to be a proper Catholic! And the good Pater, being a Catholic priest, has no choice but to tell his flock that this book has all the answers they’ll ever need about the faith. He’s a representative of a church that literally tortured people in ages past for daring to step outside the box… and he wants to say that people who don’t believe what he does are unchanging and firm?

He wraps up the post this way:

The atheist’s worldview is too small, therefore his imagination is too small. His mind, as his worldview, has no room for the inexplicable. It is bound by the dull rules of materialism and what he considers to be the unbending laws of nature.

In the end his world can be no bigger than his own observations, and therefore no bigger than himself.

Lemme translate this shit for you too: “Atheists limit their imagination to the things that actually happen in reality. They don’t allow for magic. I like magic. Can I have a clown at my birthday party daddy?”

Yeah, we’re bound by the laws of nature – but then again, so is nature. So far as history has ever shown, nothing has ever gone outside of them, save in the fever dream of a celibate geezer who vents his sour grapes about what stinky doo-doo heads those darned atheists are.

Here’s the thing, Dwight: my world is constantly being revealed to be bigger than my own observations. Every single day I find new opportunities to learn things that blow my fucking mind. Meanwhile – I had a peek around his blog. He’s a pretty singularly focused guy. He talks about nothing but church-related matters, which I guess isn’t that surprising for a priest. But dude, come on. Broaden your horizons a little.

Now there’s actually a second part to the blog post, but I wouldn’t even bother reading it. Just more of the same, and some equivocation on two different meanings of “materialist” that makes him look even duller. The only thing I want to quote from there is his final paragraph, which is laugh-out-loud funny in how melodramatic and self-congratulatory it is:

The true believer, on the other hand, is a human soul who stand, like a mountaineer on the summit gazing out over a limitless horizon. The true believer is a poet and a pioneer and a pilgrim. The believer stands on the brink of unknown worlds and his human heart opens to eternity while his feet remain firmly on the ground. His life is an open ended experiment, a launch into the unknown, he is a water walker, a miracle monger, a chevalier of the spirit and a valiant warrior in the cosmic battle. He is a romantic on a quest and a lover in search for his heart’s true love.

This from a guy who belongs to a church that says the entire universe exists for one little upright hominid species on a tiny little rock in a nowhere galaxy. Those materialists you’re deriding? We’re sending shit out of the solar system. We’re exploring. We’re boldly engaging with reality on its own terms, rather than confusing dreams for facts. We’re not willing to fool ourselves just to keep ourselves happy – but hey, that’s apparently a bad thing.

By the way, he’s disabled comments – which is a shame, since he’s pretty much just plugging his ears and closing his eyes. Wouldn’t want to face accusations of limiting your worldview and your imagination, would we now, Dwight? That’d be just terrible.

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