Postmodernism is a separate but similar philosophy to modern atheism. In fact, postmodernism as a philosophy is inherently difficult to nail down. If we take the broadest possible definition of postmodernism, then it can be applied to modern atheism – especially the pop-atheism that is promoted among young adherents.
Modernism was a 20th century movement whose proponents felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated. Postmodernists have gone a step further in the rejection of traditional philosophy begun by the materialists, existentialists and modernists by also rejecting anything that resembles a traditional belief system.
Postmodernism is a philosophy that emerged from the 1960s characterized by experimental thought that is not bound by absolutes. Postmodernism can be seen as a spin-off philosophy from earlier materialism propounded by Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Marx. It can also be seen as a form of existentialism, essentially an attitude of liberation from traditional philosophy. Postmodernism rejects outward reality as meaningless and absurd, preferring the reality of the inward experience.
Most young postmodernists don’t know what the word means and are epistemologically unaware that this is their worldview. It’s seeped into their consciousness through their miseducation in our failing socialist government schools. Their philosophy is further fueled by an insipid reliance on the vapid Internet and cable-television media to provide them with all knowledge, and the banal cult-hero worship of their atheist gurus.
Atheists see themselves as being rationalists. In reality, they are the most irrational people I’ve ever encountered. There are the several related ironies here.
- They claim to love reason and logic, but are unreasonable and overly emotional.
- They claim that Christians cling to blind faith, and yet their propagation of lunatic conspiracy theories is endless.
- They are obsessed with logical fallacies, but don’t know what a logical fallacy is and commit them constantly.
- They claim to respect research and authority, but don’t have a clue on how to do proper research and will abandon a debate when faced with solid scholarship that refutes them.
- They start endless arguments, but quickly change the topic when they have no rebuttal and resort to ad hominems and strawman arguments when they have no other place to run to.
These are all part of a pattern of mock dialogue I’ve noticed when dealing with atheists on the Internet.
“You need to read some books” and “You need to do some research,” are common replies. Despite the fact that I have read some books and not only do research, but teach it as part of a graduation requirement, these young postmodernists haven’t read any books. They’ve watched a video such as Zeitgeist that references amateur sources that borrow ideas from each other and recycle these same silly arguments over and over.
Accusations of “lying” and “dishonesty” are also common. They reject that ultimate truth actually exists, but assume someone is knowingly lying when they simply disagree or hold to opposing presuppositions. There are frequent incidents of “begging the question” or assuming their conclusion within the premise to the argument. In short, it’s difficult to argue with someone who says that you need to “do some critical thinking” who himself hasn’t learned to think critically.
I’ve come to the conclusion several times that it is a bad idea to begin a dialogue with these people. After viewing some of the nasty web wars among atheists themselves, I realized that the goal can never be to prove something to be true with these people. Only Christian compassion can be a motivating factor,
A while back I had an interesting commenter named “Thomas” on one of my YouTube vlogs, who succinctly hit the nail of the postmodernist syndrome on its head. I wrote Thomas and told him I had a difficult time defining postmodernism. I wanted to study it in order to devise a strategy to poke holes through the arguments of these “20-something” postmodernists.
Thanks for your comments on postmodernism. I am looking for a way to be more articulate on this topic. Most of the atheists who respond to my vlogs are thoroughly postmodern. They proclaim themselves as a voice of reason, but are most unreasonable and anti-rational. I try to explain to them that they are motivated by emotion and then use cynicism (not true skepticism) they have heard elsewhere with no real critical thinking on their own. But for some reason postmodernism is hard for me to pin down. Maybe because it is so irrational? Do you know of any good resources on this that would help me to study it.
I copy here Thomas’ first reply, which is obviously written off-the-cuff, but is useful and could become a blueprint for dealing with postmodernism if it were to be developed. What he describes here is not simply just a way of dealing with atheists, but all liberals, some neo-conservatives, and especially liberal theology in the guise of popular Christian movements, including everything from the Jesus Seminar to the Emerging Church movement.
I’ve edited and rearranged the material in a few places. At the end is a reading list of books I’d never heard of. In return, I suggested that he read Van Til and Bahnsen, whom he had never heard of. I always find it interesting when I discover people who come to the exact same conclusions I do on esoteric subjects using a completely different road map.
What is Postmodernism?
1. Anti-Reason – The very nature of Postmodernism is anti-reason. They make lots of claims yet cannot live up to them because it’s a cult of ignorance. I’m not kidding. It’s really that bad.
Postmodernism abandoned reason for “feeling” which is why their first line of argument is ad hominem, strawman fallacies, and non-sequiturs. Unfortunately for their cause, their arrogance makes them believe they are the voice of reason.
2. Anti-Realism – They choose faith over truth. A useful historical example is that the grand failure of Marx is found in his claim that Marxism is a “scientific socialism” whereby he laid bare four predictions. He was wrong in each case. Marx was a buffoon. He said Marxism was scientific yet Hegel denied reason for spirit (feeling) and evidence for faith. Marxism is based on an anti-realist, anti-reason philosophy.
The very nature of Postmodernism, going all the way back to Rousseau, denies the achievements of the Enlightenment. This is why every Leftist revolution has failed. To the Left, they’ve chosen to use feelings and faith to guide their economic and moral principles since the French Revolution. Ancient Christians knew that this wouldn’t work. Jesus said, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight.” There was a strong case in Christian morals for Reason. Of course, as much criticism as the Left heaps upon Christians, I was surprised myself when I found the contrary to be true (I was studying Islam and comparing it to Christianity and Judaism). Christian scholars from the beginning believed in moral judgment through Reason. This is echoed in Cicero (more clearly I’d say) and predated by the Greeks.
Why morals? To the Postmodern collectivist (followers of Rousseau and Kant), morals are only valid when we all reach a consensus (a democratic majority or a collective will). This is a logical fallacy. Morals are often taught as lessons. Why? The purpose of morals are to instill us with the judgment to determine the better behavior.
Therefore, it’s fallacious to suggest that we can change the outcome of a behavior simply by agreeing that it’s good (argumentum ad populus). And this is why all collectivist societies are the worst human rights violators. Because morals are based on whim rather than principles. It suggests that if we get enough people to agree that misogyny is good, slavery is good, homophobia is good (all hypersensitive leftist subjects) then the nature of collectivist morals, or morals by consensus demands it to be true. Typically, I’ll trick them (because they’re arrogant) by pretending to agree that morals are based on consensus. I’ll say it and nod my head (it’s an old trick to gain trust through body language). Then I’ll prove it wrong. The disconnect with morals and principles and the Postmodern Left is found in their unhealthy obsession with collectivism, Nietzsche in particular. Everything was reduced to “values.”
Values are another sticking point for the Postmodernist. To drive something home I’ll remind him, ad nauseum, “Those are your values, not mine. That’s what you do. That’s what you love. Not me.” To the Postmodernist, they believe (again wrongly) that values are a social construct (BTW, if anyone ever says “social construct” you can pretty much call that nonsense). They say this because they’re anti-realist. Divorcing from both reason and reality the Postmodernists are morally bankrupt. Morals require us to discriminate, to choose the better of available options based on principles and evidence. The Postmodernist denies that either are valid. To the Postmodernist then, all behaviors have equal outcomes (I point this out just to get them to scratch their heads). Because without reason or the mind being able to reliably and accurately interpret the world then all behavior is mere chance. I’m just as likely to get hit crossing the street with my eyes closed then looking both ways. Which brings us to relativism.
The most pernicious feature of Postmodernism, and the one that sends real scientists on the warpath, is relativism. The Postmodernist, denying reason and evidence, also categorically denies that any truth can be found. It’s interesting to note that Jews and Christians both believed (Christians more so) that God created the Universe with immutable laws, so perfect that God could not break them. This is why Muhammed said, “the Jews have fettered Allah.” To the Muslims, Allah can do anything, including be wildly inconsistent. To the Christians and Jews this was not so. The Laws of Nature are immutable, therefore, it’s possible to discover and interpret them. Human beings are imperfect but the universe is not. Thus the Western World was ready to embark on a journey of scientific discovery with Jews and Christians leading the way. To the Postmodernist, however, the universe itself is a matter of opinion. This is the most baffling but if you read all of their literature you’ll find evidence time and again they believe that reality is a matter of opinion. This is why you’ll state a fact and they’ll say, “That’s your opinion.” This is the slipperiest and most intellectually detrimental characteristic of Postmodern anti-rationalism. It can destroy a person’s ability to function in modern society. Interestingly enough, their collectivist interpretation (that is, cultural or group awareness suggests that reality is a social construct) is also found in Islam. Another oppressive, totalitarian, murderous ideology that explicitly states (like Rousseau to Marcuse) anyone who does not convert is either killed or subjugated. That’s collectivism for you. The ways I’ve found to deal with relativism is to be irreverent, sarcastic and mocking.
To the Postmodernist, language is not a form of communication, but a weapon to deliver intellectual force (whatever that means). The Postmodernist will attack for no reason, then change subjects just to keep attacking. When they’re losing ground they’ll resort to value-relativism or what Eagleton would call theoretical pluralism. An example would be if you said, “You’re indoctrinated,” they’ll say “We’re all indoctrinated.” Well, not we’re all not indoctrinated. But they say that because in a relativist world, there is no right or wrong and everything meets in between. Of course, it’s only relativist when they’re losing an argument. So I point this out. I make it explicit. I’ll tell them straight up they’re retreating into theoretical pluralism. Invariably, because these elitists are impressed with obscurantism, they’ll ask, “What’s that?” Then I’ll tell them, correct them, and continue with reason, evidence and logic.
If there is a rule #1, I guess it would have to be – never initiate the conversation. The reason is because talking to a Postmodern self-defeatist is a waste of time. If they initiate the conversation it’s because they have a grievance to monger. It means they care because their feelings are being broadcast. Use that. Then challenge their knowledge about it. For some reason, I have yet to know why, but these Postmodernists tend to crumble when you give names and dates to support your arguments. I think it’s because they’re just a bunch of name-droppers. They don’t know Oedipus from Homer. They learned him from Freud. Use specifics and remind them they’re wrong and they don’t know. They need to be broken down shotgun style and stuffed with double-ought. The only thing they have is faith, break it.
Here’s a list of books I’ve read to understand Postmodernism (Read in this order):
1. Higher Superstition – by Levitt and Gross – this is the book that started it all. The Postmodern Left failed to gain ground in the hard sciences during the communist revolutions at various colleges (a strategy developed by Marcuse). They did manage to dominate the humanities (much to my dismay). After years of establishing hegemony (a Postmodern watchword) they sought to expand their sphere of influence. These frauds met began meeting fierce resistance. It started with this book.
2. The Sokal Hoax anthology – this isn’t exactly the best book but there are so many essays to explicate it helps you develop an instinct for their nonsense. Spoiler Alert!! Sokal wrote an essay that was utter nonsense. You might say, “So what?” which would be very Postmodern, but only the thesis was Alan’s. The rest of the essay was quotes from Leftist luminaries. In other words, they can’t even understand each other.
3. Fashionable Nonsense – by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont – the best part for non-scientists (like myself) are the intermezzo chapters which breakdown the nonsense into logic for laymen, explain their faults, exposing their frauds, and illustrating their fallacies.
4. Liberal Fascism – by Jonah Goldberg – not a great piece of scholarly work but it familiarizes you with the various political movements, philosophers, and movers-n-shakers of the Left that were Fascists. What this book lacks is a strong voice to carry its message. What it has is a plethora of quotes from Fascists and the Leftists today whose own politics are indistinguishable.
5. Explaining Postmodernism – by Stephen Hicks – Easily the strongest work to date. Hicks tracts a philosophic line from Rousseau to Rorty, explaining their various assertions, their weaknesses, and why successors were desperately needed. Hicks book is remarkably lucid, candid, and funny. More importantly, it’s brutally honest. Postmodernists are in serious denial and Hicks throws it in their face. He explains why they choose the tactics you’ve described (though, if you’ve read everything up to this you’ll have figured it out for yourself anyway). The most compelling features of this book are the three theses, which are laid bare, then thoroughly supported, and cogently argued. This is a MUST!
Enjoy your readings,
P.S. The best book to explain the descent into ignorance (though not entirely Postmodern but the Western World as a whole) is The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, Hating Whitey by David Horowitz and Illiberal Education by Dinesh Desouza are good companion pieces.
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