Also, Alcorn's post features yet another supposed defense of religion by focusing on "everything", as if one could defend Fascism by noting that the trains do indeed run on time. (Which they didn't, but you get my point.)
The whole "atheists have no basis for value or morality" argument just burns my shorts. Atheists generally behave like civilized, neighborly people (and even our "monsters" are no worse and no more prevelant than religious monsters); since we do in fact behave this way, there must be some basis for it; an honest person would discover what it is.
The scientific materialist's view of the value of life is that we are indeed similar to and connected with all life on Earth. Human beings are sentient, we can feel and value, and sapient, we can think. We are indeed not alone in possessing these qualities. Human life — indeed all life — is valuable in itself, because we value it, because we are the sort of beings who care, not because we are the slaves or special pets of a tyrannical and sadistic deity. We don't need to believe human beings "should" care, we need only observe that we do in fact care: that's who we are.
We acknowledge and understand too that most religious people also generally behave in civilized and neighborly ways. And we understand the basis for this behavior: religious people are human beings, and they have the same sort of values and caring nature that all human beings do. We don't say that religion replaces these natural human values, we assert that religion, on the whole, sits "on top" of these values, and is the source of quite a lot of uncivilized, un-neighborly behavior. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when an ordinary, civilized person does something rotten, when he murders a gay person, when he throws acid in a woman's face, when he murders his daughter, you'll find he makes a religious justification for the behavior. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when some citizens of an ordinary Western civilization try to deny basic civil rights to some group or class of people, you'll find a religious justification behind that denial.
Note that I said religious justification, not motivation. I don't think religion is much of a motivator. Everyone is motivated by natural psychological and sociological factors, for good or for ill. You don't need any justification to act for good; the good is in itself an adequate justification. I don't need God to justify being happy, and I don't need God to justify being nice to my neighbor.
But you absolutely cannot do without God to justify doing ill, or to tolerate the ills of the world. Because I have no God to appeal to, I cannot help looking at injustice, oppression, exploitation and slavery as problems to be solved, because I do in fact care about the well-being of other people. I cannot be satisfied with tokenism. I don't know how to solve these problems, but I'm looking, and if and when I find a way, I'll implement it, regardless of the effects on my own privilege.
I have two points for my series on fucktardery. The first is just to show how completely fucking stupid some religious people can be about their religion. But I also want to show the religious simply cannot leave atheists alone. To defend their own religion, they must attack atheism, intellectualism, and scientific materialism. Never mind who started it: Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek. It would be perfectly reasonable to say, "Hey, if you're an atheist or scientific materialist, good for you, but you're simply mistaken about the evils of our religion and here's why." But they can't, and that's part of our critique: Not only is it wrong, just dissent and disagreement, not to mention rational examination and criticism, are anathema to Christianity. Even the moderate Christians have to defend fundamentalism against the atheist, scientific and materialist critiques, because they know our critiques are fundamentally just as damning of their own lies and myths, however more benign those lies might today happen to be.
Indeed the benign lies are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the malevolent lies. It's pretty obvious to see how Fred Phelps goes wrong. But as Diderot notes,
The arbitrary rule of a just and enlightened prince is always bad. His virtues are the most dangerous and the surest form of seduction: they lull a people imperceptibly into the habit of loving, respecting, and serving his successor, whoever that successor may be, no matter how wicked or stupid.
And who's to say that Phelps' theology is actually false and the moderate Christian's is actually true? It must be said that Phelps' theology is certainly more in line with the tone and tenor of the Christian bible (not just the Old Testament; the New Testament has its own wickedness and stupidity). A malevolent and sadistic deity is just as plausible — if not more plausible, given the suffering of the natural world — as a loving and caring deity.
Not all religious people are fucktards, of course. This post from South Africa just popped up, and the guy seems open-minded and intelligent. It'll be interesting to see how he sees himself as different from atheists, and whether this difference is superficial or substantive.