D’Souza (v.): To make an argument so patently vulgar, obtuse, and offensive that even people generally disposed to agree with you are collectively revulsed.
Megan notices that the guy who brought us the insight that Britney Spears caused 9/11 is welcoming the opportunity afforded by the VA Tech shooting to attack… atheists. Atheists? Yep:
Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.
I’m not sure what “nowhere to be found” is even supposed to mean, especially given that he then immediately cites Nikki Giovanni, who apparently doesn’t count because she invoked “religious symbolism.” Poets being known to occasionally use, you know, metaphors. I assume atheists are “to be found” where everyone else is: Consoling and supporting their friends and family at the school. Maybe he’s asking why we’re not seeing them appending to their expressions of consolation and support the gloating exclamation: “You see? THERE IS NO GOD!” Well D, I’m guessing it’s because some of us don’t reflexively view public tragedies as stalking horses for our culture war obsessions. Which is to say, some of us aren’t enormous douchebags.
To no one’s surprise, [Richard] Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.
On one reading, the assertion that we think “immaterial things like good and evil…do not exist” (I’ll give him souls) is just plainly false, a paradigm symptom of Dostoyevsky Syndrome, whose sufferers draw elaborate conclusions about what follows from atheist premises without prejudicing their reasoning by any attempt to discern whether actual atheists tend to believe those things. But I suppose it is true that I’m inclined to look for the causes of these evil actions in facts about Cho’s psychology—whatever might have been chemically wrong with his brain; whatever set of experiences gave rise to the sort of twisted, angry person who would do something like this—and not in some kind of hypostatized “evil,” as though calling him evil counted not only as a description of his actions, but an explanation. I guess that means I don’t get to feel like I’m in a big fun movie, but it might be sort of helpful if you think having fewer events like this is as important as having stirring things to say in their aftermath.
Update: Hilzoy has more, including a full transcript of Nikki Giovanni’s remarks to students, which are not at all, as far as I can detect, “drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.”