Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Stupid! It Burns! (yet another evolutionary edition)

the stupid! it burns! Atheist Saints
It occurs to me that atheists don't have [saints]. That is people who embrace atheism fully. People who take the idea that the material world is all their is and push it as far as it can be pushed. Morality, love, truth, purpose, virtue, miracles, everything is just something our minds made up to give us survival advantages. They may continue to give us survival advantages or not but they are not to be taken seriously as pointing to some greater reality or any reality at all.
As usual, the stupid gets even worse. How can someone even have a conversation with these kind of people?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On the collapse of the Soviet Union

Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong
Every revolution is a surprise. Still, the latest Russian Revolution must be counted among the greatest of surprises. In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it one-party dictatorship, the state-owned economy, and the Kremlin's control over its domestic and Eastern European empires. Neither, with one exception, did Soviet dissidents nor, judging by their memoirs, future revolutionaries themselves. When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party in March 1985, none of his contemporaries anticipated a revolutionary crisis. Although there were disagreements over the size and depth of the Soviet system's problems, no one thought them to be life-threatening, at least not anytime soon.

(via a reader)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A platitude on software

[Via Reddit and Hacker News, a strange little essay published (anonymously) this morning over on Pastebin. The original piece was submitted by one HINTEDCOGWHEEL. Which is the very first of about 18,000 anagrams for CODING THE WHEEL. What are the odds?]

It's true that most software projects fail. It's in the nature of software projects to fail. You might even say that software projects want to fail. Failure is what you get by default. Failure is the status quo. From the minute you begin the development process, failure waits behind blind corners, ambushes you from dark alleys, sidles up to you with a wink and a toothy smile.

"Go ahead," it grins. "Hit me with your best shot."

You can hire the best and brightest people, give them a budget that would beggar Croesus, evolve a methodology that makes Agile look like a clumsy attempt to rub two sticks together, producing fire. You can give your programmers triple-monitor setups, juggernaut CPUs, hard drives measured in terabytes, free all-you-can-eat sodas and snacks everlasting. You can choose the perfect language, the perfect platform, the perfect toolset. You can scrawl Goetic symbols on the dusty floors of the computer lab and dance widdershins around a burning copy of Code Complete, for all anyone knows or cares.
When you put your clothes back on (perhaps wondering how they got off) and snuff the candles, failure will still be there.

Waiting.

Picking its teeth with the dessicated bones of software projects long forgotten.

* * *

The world will tell you that software is a bird that can be caged. It's a mantra.
At this moment the bookshelves of Silicon Valley are groaning under a thousand tons of "best practices" software development verbiage inscribed across the backsides of thin little pieces of reconstituted wood we call "paper", splattered with color and gloss, marketed and hyped and sold at a premium. And if you were to take all the material that appears on the Internet about this subject, and print it out on paper, well... you'd denude the planet of all vegetative life and probably somehow upset our orbit relative to the sun, sending the Earth spiraling towards a fiery stellar death.
It's a business. Money in, words out. Kill more trees, consume more bytes.
And you just know, when aliens stumble across the shattered remains of our haughty civilization, down there in the rubble, preserved in the browser cache of an off-market hard drive of a manager who was, at the precise time the Apocalypse hit, surfing the web trying to hire a web consultant—you just know that the fatuous technobabble Newspeak jargon of technology evangelism will persist.

I can hear its familiar bullshit strains even now...

We provide complete, integrated, start-to-finish vertical solutions delivered by business consultants with industry experience working to a proven implementation methodology, leveraging business process synergies to provide you with a scalable and forward-looking technology roadmap.

Meaningless weasel words, slipping through the corporate digestive track like so many pastel turds. The message is always the same:

Jump on our technology bandwagon and success will follow otherwise you will surely perish in a hailstorm of fiery damnation as everything you love is ripped away from you and your corporate offices are stormed by marauding Orcs. We have learned how to cage the "Blue Bird" of software. We know where the software sidewalk ends. We've been to the end of the software rainbow and we've strangled that goddamned leprechaun who keeps teleporting away with our customer's pots of gold. We're Accenture; check out our snazzy website, read our PDFs, and prepare to be blasted into the realm of software awesomeness.

This—the irresponsible, cheating use of language—is the Ground Zero of software failure so far as I'm concerned. (Around you loom the shattered wrecks of forgotten projects, blocking out the sun. It is dark here. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.) The Venus di Milo, Beethoven's Ninth, Shakespeare's 19th, yes, even Emacs: all will eventually perish. But the my-what-big-teeth-you-have, the-better-to-eat-you-with language of technology sodomizers will persist, along with porn and spam, as humanity's last and final legacy.

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

* * *

I'm as enamored of the programmer-as-magician mythos as the next geek. Not for nothing were programmers assigned the top security clearance in that brilliantly sadistic RPG of yore, Paranoia. But I've started looking forward to the day when we'll be tossed off our high horse by the democratizing power of tech that we pay lip service to. Because my experience in this industry has convinced me of the following:
  • Most programmers are egotists
  • Most corporate projects are red herrings
  • Most budgets are grossly inflated
  • Most production systems are hacked together
  • Most infrastructure security is a joke
  • Most marketing is dishonest
  • Most managers are incompetent
  • Most software patents are concocted
  • Most development tools are politically motivated
Software is an entropic system whose arrow of time flows in the direction of failure, aided and abetted by human bullshit. That is my belief.

So feel free to believe in shiny-happy 200-billion-dollar Facebook valuations and colorfully disruptive startups that accrue heaps of naive funding and then predictably implode. Feel free to ignore the evisceration of digital industry by patent trolls, snake oil consultants, crooked politicians, primadonna bloggers, internet crackdowns, shady PR teams. Turn a blind eye to the wolves gathering around the fountains of innovation, the alligators slipping into the shady-watering holes of small business (surely they won't bite). Feel free to participate in the fiction that what we are doing is sustainable.

But don't kid yourself that the high-hanging fruits of the technology tree—strong AI, for example—will be made manifest by a society more excited by the Facebook social graph than by feeding its children.

Without the willingness to embrace difficulty, the willingness to replace Twitter evangelists with hard scientists and hard mathematicians, without a solid manufacturing basis, without some counterweight to our addiction to "the easy"—and when our very language has become polluted with sophistry of lobbyists and middlemen, wreaking havoc in our nations' capitals—our ability to move mountains diminishes and diminishes, even as the technologies we discover convince us of our superiority.

In a way, it's a story as old as time. Wherever the bright spots of human endeavor appear, wolves will always follow, wearing the dress of sheep, affecting the mannerisms of sheep, and above all, speaking the language of sheep. So it is and has always been.

The only difference is that the wolves never had an internet before.

[via Coding the Wheel]

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Stupid! It Burns! (racquetball edition)

the stupid! it burns! Atheists Are Idiots
Ultimately, my biggest problem is with people who make an effort to proselytize their non-beliefs or non-practices. You don’t eat meat? Ok scoot over, let me eat it. You don’t drink or use drugs? My friend Keith does, i’ll pass this to him. You don’t believe in organized religion? Cool. I don’t believe in playing racquetball, find me a racquetball playing dickhead right fucking now. I’m not sure why, but I gotta set that guy straight.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sophisticated Theology

"God is dead," says Nietzsche. He's right. Every form of theology and religion, from Aquinas and Spinoza to Spong, Craig and Plantinga has been found false, vacuous or trivial. There's no there there. the only sophistication in "sophisticated" theology is in the obfuscation and double-talk hiding the underlying bullshit of the theologian's theory. The philosophical battle is over. That the Gnu Atheists are bringing nothing philosophically new to the table is a fair cop: there's nothing new to bring. We need not bring anything new to debunk flat-Earth theories, philogiston or the luminiferous ether; and we need not bring anything new to debunk religion. Religious apologists are in a Wile E. Coyote situation. They've already stepped off the cliff; they dare not look down lest they fall.

If you're using the terms "religion" or "God" you're either wrong, you're saying nothing at all, or you're saying what you could say more easily and straightforwardly without reference to the error, oppression, and atrocity that has for millennia been the purview of religion. Do you believe the world is 6,000 years old because the Bible tells you so? You are wrong. Do you believe that God is the ground of all being? You are flapping your lips without actually saying anything, and you're wasting everyone's time. Do you believe that God is the natural order of the universe? You are wrapping modern science in the trappings of parasite, pedophiliac priests and pompous popes. All of these activities are — or should be — beneath the dignity of a civilized, educated person.

Just as the program of modern physics is not to examine arguments and theories about the luminiferous ether in a scholarly, careful manner, the Gnu Atheist program is not to examine arguments and theories about God. That program is complete; to continue is to paint the lily. The Gnu Atheist program is simply to encourage people to actually look down: their religious beliefs rest not just on sand but on nothing at all. Of course, getting rid of a bad way of thinking, however prevalent and pernicious, is not to absolutely ensure good ways of thinking. Humanity is prone to endless varieties of error, vanity and bullshit, even if God and religion are decisively rejected. But to argue against the Gnu Atheist program on this basis is to commit the Utopian Fallacy; that eradicating smallpox will not eradicate all disease is no argument against eradicating smallpox.

There are several components to the Gnu Atheist program. In their rush to defend an utterly failed intellectual program, the religious all too often attempt to undermine scientific inquiry, intellectual integrity and basic principles of factual accuracy, institutions and social constructions the Gnu Atheists strongly advocate.

I see the Gnu Atheist program as primarily a matter of political principle. The fundamental and ineluctable social role of religion has been to externalize and objectify social and political preferences onto a God and into the privileged control of a priesthood. Usually these social and political preferences are those of the ruling class, sometimes they are those of the population at large*. Sometimes those preferences, both of the ruling class and the hoi polloi, would meet with the approval of most Gnu Atheists (who are predominantly liberal humanists); sometimes they are not. Because religion is fundamentally vacuous, it can be used to support any position, odious or laudatory. From a position of pure expediency, we might want to strongly confront those preferences we disapprove of, and praise (or at least remain silent about) those we approve of. There is a place for expediency (in the long run, as Keynes wryly observes, we are all dead), but in this case we believe expediency must yield to principle.

*In history, the people have on occasion used the form and forum of specifically religious discourse to resist the depredations of the ruling class, sometimes in a revolutionary manner. But even as a component of revolution, religion is a Johnny-come-lately, always following material forces. When revolution is already in the air, some would-be religious authority will inevitably attribute the revolutionary forces to his or her god.

The Gnu Atheist program is about the principle: it is illegitimate, we maintain, to attribute any preference to God. (To attribute no preferences at all to God is to render the concept superfluous.) There's nothing wrong per se with preferences — the negotiation of preferences is central to even the weak-tea pseudo-democracy we have in the West — but the Gnu Atheist goal is to persuade people to own their preferences directly. We want advocates of all sides of important social negotiations — feminism, racism, gay rights, etc. — to take personal ownership of what are, after all, their own preferences and desires. I am not interested that you think God hates fags: I want to know what you personally think about gay rights. But as a matter of principle, I am equally uninterested that you think God loves gay people. You are the citizen, and you have standing to negotiate for your preferences. God (if by no other virtue than His non-existence) is not a citizen; His preferences have no more standing than Hu Jintao's. Similarly, your preferences are only your own preferences; attributing those preferences to a God does not in any sense elevate them in prestige or importance.

To no small extent, I have more contempt for religious liberals than I do for religious "fundamentalists". If you have some disgusting or odious belief — that women's uteri are public property, that homosexuals are filthy perverts, that black people are inherently inferior, that the poor and working class deserve to be exploited, harassed, and oppressed — then I have some sympathy with the fundamental embarrassment you would feel, which would cause you to externalize this belief onto your God. But why externalize a good belief onto God? Do you personally not give a fig on your own account for the well-being of all humanity? Do you care about humanity only because you think God does? Do you believe your own human sympathy for the well-being of your fellow human beings is not a sufficient reason for resisting oppression, eliminating suffering, and helping others to be happy? If we could know that a God actually did exist, and know He actually did hate fags, would you follow God or would you follow your own human sympathy? If God is by definition always on humanity's side, there's not need for God; if not, whose side are you on: God's or humanity's?

Attributing humanistic preferences to God as a method of "engaging" with fundamentalists is nothing more than conceit. As Rieux succinctly notes, "A fundamental problem with "liberal" religion is that its offered rebuttal—"No God Doesn't [Hate Fags]"—concedes the issues on which the [Westboro Baptist Church] is actually vulnerable, and it reduces a matter of serious moral concern to a quibble about the thought processes of an invisible and ineffable deity. That's the sole debate that conservative believers can and do win." This sort of theological discourse not only concedes that God is not always on humanity's side, but is nothing but Argument Clinic futility. And as most scripture was written in cultures that were, by today's standards, brutal and oppressive, the religious liberals must commit more sins than the fundamentalists against common sense and intellectual integrity to find scriptural support for their modern beliefs. Finally, every religious "liberal" I've met has some sort of political and ethical principle that he or she cannot support merely by an appeal to the well-being of humanity. I would be please, of course, if someone were to renounce explicit chattel slavery, but that renunciation would not dissuade me in the least from criticizing the formation of second-class citizenship or its theological justification.

What I want, and what I think a majority of the Gnu Atheists want, is for each person in our democracy to stand up and say, "I don't give a fig what God wants, this is what I want." If you want women's uteri to be public property, stand up and say that's what you want, and God be damned. Equally, if you want a woman's uterus to be her own property, stand up and say that's what you want. To attribute any belief, good or bad, to God is to give away the basic tenet of a democracy: that a society should be — in broad terms — what its citizens want, not what God wants, and especially not what those want who can most persuasively assert private, privileged knowledge of God's wishes. There is no middle ground between democracy and tyrannical theocracy. A benevolent tyranny is still tyranny.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Atheists vs. Apologists and Mystics/Aesthetics

theObserver offers a perspicacious comment which I believe deserves reposting in its entirety.

Broadly speaking, they are two types of theists : 1) the apologists and 2) the mystics/aesthetics.

Apologists borrow from philosophy in an attempt to demonstrate theism is quite rational and that atheism is irrational and unreasonable. In general, the apologists tend to argue for deism, that is God must exist, and jump for that conclusion to their specific faith. I am not aware of any specific argument for Christianity other than 'the bible is true', which is why most faiths and new age woo woo airheads use the same generic set of arguments. Frankly, these sort of debates are tedious because the arguments are centuries old and people just rehash same old nonsense because theists have not proposed anything new.

2) Then you have the aesthetics and the mystics. This group like to state things like 'oh, god cannot be classified as a member of any set, not even as the set of things which cannot be classified' or 'God is beyond human understanding'. The aesthetic likes to point out the limitations of science and toss around statement's like 'poetry, art, music, although not strictly rational, are better guides to the human condition than science'. Another favorite is : 'The attempt to prove the existence of God is a form of atheism which has arisen from the scientific revolution'. Christianity to this group is about beauty, wonder, awe, humility, the image of the broken and tortured Christ nailed upon a cross, a profound image representing the love God for our fallen and sinful species. The aesthetics claim atheists who do not respect these believes is half-educated and unsophisticated, tackling instead a caricature of religious faith while ignoring the true beauty and the 'deep spirituality' of religion.

Atheists and the aesthetic christians are usually completely confused by each other. The aesthetic Christian thinks the atheist is 'aspect blind', that they completely miss the point of Christianity because they are limited and blinded by 19th century rationalism and science. The atheist considers this view point vacuous nonsense and completely irrelevant.

But what atheists do care about is politics. We believe a society built upon religious grounds is intellectually, socially and sexually repressive as it privileges a handful of religious clerics who claim to derive their moral authority from a divine being. An Atheist believes that is unreasonable and inherently dangerous. So in order to drag the religious away from their undeserved lofty privileged position, atheists need to grapple the clerics and the apologists and drag them into the mud and dirt away from abstract beauty and wonder but into actual reality where religious political decisions cause misery and suffering.

Sometimes outright contempt and derision is called for and I don't see why religious people should be allowed to set the tone for a debate. Bullshit is bullshit and if you find the word offensive, why should I give a fuck? What I find offensive is religious people attempting to regulate my entire existence from when I can have sex to when I am allowed to die. There's a lot of freedoms I am now lucky to enjoy and religious institutions have opposed each and every one of them. So call me vulgar and unsophisticated if it makes you feel better but I don't give a flying toss about the influence of Christianity on the arts when Christianity will happily oppress me and everyone I care about.

Atheism Is the True Embrace of Reality

Atheism Is the True Embrace of Reality
Just about all the Christians I came into contact with “knew” there was a god, too. They, too, spent time in meditative prayer with him on a daily basis. And as a result, they, too, “knew” what God was like. So what did that knowledge tell us about him? How reliable were these personal relationships when it came to establishing the truth about God?

Some of us, on the basis of our relationship with God, knew him to be loving, compassionate, generous, always reaching out to us, pitying our mistakes rather than condemning them. Others, on the basis of their relationship with God, knew him to be angry, jealous, punitive. ...

What was striking about these observations was that those of us whose personalities led us to embrace the world and other people in a spirit of openness, generosity, warmth and tolerance “knew” that God did the same. And those who lacked the confidence for that, and consequently saw the world as threatening and evil and bad, “knew” that God saw it that way, too.

This is why subjective experience cannot tell us anything about God. Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all.

And this brings us to something very important about atheism. Atheism is not in itself a belief. Few atheists would be so bold as to declare the existence of any god at all utterly impossible. Atheism is, quite simply, the position that it is absurd to believe in, much less worship, a deity for which no valid evidence has been presented. Atheism is not a faith: on the contrary, it is the refusal to accept claims on faith.

(via Jerry Coyne)

The Islamic Inquisition

The Islamic Inquisition
In this day and age, Islam matters because of Islamism. Islam per se is fundamentally no worse than any other religion ... [yet] there is a distinction to be made between religions in general and Islam in particular, but for no other reasons than that it is the ideology behind a far-Right regressive political movement that has state power in many places with Sharia law being the most implemented legal code in the world. ... Islam matters to us today because we are living through an Islamic inquisition.

Read the rest. Follow Maryam Namazie, add her to RSS feed, and link to her early and often.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Stupid, It Burns! (collegiate edition)

the stupid! it burns! New Atheism gurus found a College dedicated to "logic and critical thinking" - but apply elsewhere if you use logic to critique atheistic humanism!
It seems that the atheist Professor AC Grayling is in the process of founding a new centre for higher education, called the New College of the Humanities. ...

[M]any will question the motives behind such an institution. Obviously, one of the reasons for establishing the New College of the Humanities is to educate young minds - especially to form them in the rudiments of a truncated world-view in which only atheists are deemed to posses the use of logic or are able to think critically! I can envisage, then, that this College will soon become a seminary for clerics of the New Atheism - men and women convinced that their lack of belief in the transcendent confers upon them some Nietzschean superiority to lower humans. Maybe its motto could be "atheist shall speak unto atheist" or "Ich lehre euch den √úbermenschen" (I teach you the Superman)?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Vulgarity

An anonymous commenter asks,

Larry, let me ask you something. Take the His Dark Materials books by Philip Pullman. I don't know if you read children's books, but never mind. The point is that Pullman as an artist can be quite a profound fellow, but Pullman as an atheist often says things that strike me as vulgar and shallow. This in spite of the fact that his little masterpiece takes a pretty dim view of belief. Pullman says, for example, that he can separate Blake's poetry from Blake's religion, and revile -- revile! sneer at, laugh at, etc. -- the latter, and do no disservice to Blake. That feels like bullshit to me though I could be wrong. This idea that faith, any example of faith, is automatically contemptible, a piece of sheer silliness, an incomprehensible lapse (no exceptions!) on the part of fellows who are geniuses in every other sense--this seems so, so damn vulgar. It seems (seems) nowadays that your mainstream atheist is as closed and self-congratulatory as your fringe fundamentalist--but also hip, unlike the latter. So you have this unbearably smug, narrow culture -- one more of those in a crowded world. It's awful.

First, about Pullman (and yes, I've read His Dark Materials books, and I do read books for children and young adults). He says things that strike you as vulgar and shallow. What of it? Even if I were to agree with your opinion, Pullman is just a person; everyone says stupid shit from time to time. Regarding Pullman's opinion on Blake, I can't form an opinion without the actual quotation in context.

That atheists find "any example of faith ... automatically contemptible" is an egregious overstatement. You have to be careful with "any"; all English words have a wide variety of denotative and connotative meanings. Just as Dawkins goes to some lengths in The God Delusion to exempt certain uses of "religion" and "God", such as Einstein's, from his criticism shows that our condemnation is not so blanket. Likewise too "automatically" suggests that the contempt occurs without reflection or substantive analysis, which is simply not the case, as even a cursory reading of atheist literature at every level will show. A general condemnation of a pervasive concept implies neither that the condemnation is universal nor that it is unthinking.

The use of "vulgar" is also curious. It's a very middle-class concept, denoting an offense against propriety. Atheists are often not interested in propriety, especially as it is a central theme in New Atheist criticism that the religious avoid critical scrutiny behind a shield of propriety. I'm not particularly interested in vulgarity and propriety, especially as an intellectual: if the truth is vulgar, I will choose the truth over vulgarity any time. I'm interested only if someone wants to argue that I'm wrong (and does so with at least minimal competence).

Of course, the idea that it is in any sense wrong or vulgar to criticize an idea held by "geniuses" is completely nonsensical. An idea held by otherwise intelligent people does deserves to be taken seriously and examined closely. But atheists have done so: we have held up scores of concepts of god, religion and faith to critical scrutiny, and found them sadly lacking.

Finally, I object to your characterization of the atheist community as "closed and self-congratulatory." This position is one that needs considerable support. Without support, I cannot exclude simple sour grapes.

Just because you yourself have not yet read much of the underlying literature does not mean it's lacking. One good place to start is the Secular Web Library. Please don't mistake a well-supported position that is more-or-less taken for granted for an unsupported position which is taken "automatically". I don't want to suggest the Courtier's Reply. If you have questions about the support underlying any specific atheist, naturalist, or scientific concept, position or argument, I'd be happy to address them.

But at the end of the day, just that you yourself are offended or displeased is not particularly interesting. You can't please everyone, and taking a definite position on a controversial topic will inevitably offend many who take the opposite position, especially when the latter has broad social sanction. We can live with charges of vulgarity, impropriety, "smugness" and the like. We're interested in the truth.

Our commenter continues:
Thanks Larry, here's one more example, and thanks for hearing me out. I read another little atheistic article recently, just a little response to that Deepak Chopra piece -- & what a piece! -- on Christopher Hitchens. I can't link to it now, I don't remember where it is. But it's a decent response to Chopra -- it creams him -- but then the author says a similar thing to the Pullman thing, but references Cardinal Newman; says, "Oh, I can admire Newman's scientific work and deride his religiousness for the childish garbage that it is." Now I'm not a churchgoer & I don't pray. I was raised in a very conservative environment but got out. I had some bad experiences, I tend to deride orthodoxy in knee-jerk fashion. But still, Larry, the lives of Newman, Blake, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard -- Wittgenstein -- I find them profoundly moving and instructive, and profoundly important for an understanding of the novels, poetry, philosophical works, etc., and I know -- speaking for myself -- that to sneer at the beating heart of the personalities of these men, no matter what my own views, would severely limit me, would shrink me, and would certainly shrink & gut my relationship to them. I can understand knee-jerk reactions as I say, and probably most of these reactions (I hope) have to do with taking so much shit from so many fundamentalists for so long, well, fuck them. But it seems one has to get past it eventually or become a fundamentalist, a dirty fundamentalist oneself. Thanks again.

First of all, neither of the comments you've referred to (and remember, without citations, we have no idea about the context of the comments) "sneer at the beating hearts" of any of these people. They (assuming you are paraphrasing and quoting accurately) "sneer" at a particular component of their ideology. And only your paraphrase of Pullman's comments on Blake sneer at anyone who might be considered a genius; Cardinal Newman does not appear in that class; to mention Newman in a list with Blake, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein is ludicrous.

Furthermore, You are committing the fallacy of similarity: because Newman has some general component of his personality in common with actual geniuses (and you have presented no argument that the substantive content of Newman's faith is even similar, much less identical, to those of Blake et al.) they are identical: anything said about one is said about all the rest. If the uncited author believe's that Newman's "religiousness is childish garbage", the only relevant inquiry is whether Newman', and only Newman's, religiousness really is childish garbage.

Again, you are not making a substantive objection, you're making an objection of impropriety. I will say again: I have not found any of the New Atheists particularly interested in propriety.

I infer from the general tenor of your remarks that you believe atheism to be shallow and unconsidered, and that atheists have not, on the whole, deeply considered the underlying philosophical issues with the attention that they do indeed deserve. Doubtless there are some atheists who are so shallow, just as there are billions of people who will blithely assert that things fall when you drop them without having deeply considered issues of physics, General Relativity and the problems reconciling General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. I dispute this opinion: having personally investigated the philosophical issues deeply, I have concluded that the case for God and religion — as traditionally understood by billions of people, including at least Cardinal Newman (I have not investigated the faith of William Blake specifically) — to be intellectually bankrupt. I have no more objection to "shallow" atheism than I do to "shallow" physics.

If you have something substantive to contribute, if you think atheism is actually mistaken, then I'm interested in hearing about it. But I'm not really interested if you're merely offended that your cherished heroes are subjected to scrutiny and found lacking in one or another respect, and you are unwilling to investigate and explore the basis of that scrutiny.

That's life in the big city, kiddo: do your research and contribute to the substantive discussion, or pout in the corner: it's all the same to me.