1. First of all, making the kind of judgements you’ve made about such a brief and simple quotation is like trying to judge Under the Volcano based on the first chapter. In other words, I recommend at least viewing the video from which this quotation was taken before saying he’s making ad hominem attacks, or that he’s implying that nihilism is the only serious form of atheism.
I watched the video in its entirety. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen the video before. The video has confirmed my original accusation. Atheism is a “fantasy world”; “let us pretend that there’s no god.” These are examples of appeal to ridicule. Again, Barron is a dreadful philosopher. Modern atheists are also “unintelligent” according to him; that’s more ad hominem. Yes, he said that “new atheism” is unintelligent, but in saying that, he’s saying that modern atheists are unintelligent—especially since all modern atheists are called “new atheists” as means to discredit them and distinguish them from the so called true atheists of times passed.
2. The video from which this quotation is taken is a brief, and fairly casual video. Even if you were to watch the video and from that make the judgement that Barron “demonstrates the logic of a dreadful philosopher,” it would be like judging a writer’s literary talent from his casual conversation, or a brief lecture he gave somewhere.
This is a nice attempt at defending him, but it fails. Any writer should be able to demonstrate their “literary talent” in a lecture or brief interview regarding the subject matter they focus on and/or specialize in. It is safe to assume that Barron writes this way—assuming he writes; I’m sorry, but after watching a few of his interviews, I have no interest in reading anything he may have written.
3. Even despite these things, the criticisms that you’ve made don’t make sense. Let’s look at the two claims you’ve made (first that Father Barron is committing the ad hominem fallacy, and second that he’s implying that nihilism is the only serious form of atheism).
a) Father Barron does not in this quotation commit the ad hominem fallacy (nor does he in the video). If he were to argue that the New Atheists were ‘playing at atheism’ because they were frivolous and childish, then he would have committed an ad hominem fallacy, by trying to prove that their position was invalid based upon personal attacks against them. But clearly that isn’t what he’s doing. Rather, he has evaluated the position of the New Atheists, and judged that they are childishly and frivolously ‘playing at atheism’.
My original examples were instances of ad hominem and after watching the video, I’ve been able to provide more. After evaluating the position of Catholics, I judge that they are childishly and frivolously playing at paganism. Am I suddenly correct in my assessment? It isn’t only ad hominem; it also verges on abusive fallacy. If I made such an assessment, it is likely that I attempted to insult Catholics; it is safe to assume that he’s attempting to insult today’s atheists. His pompous attitude gives him away; he’s arrogant and he misrepresents today’s atheists. “Let’s pretend there’s no god”; pretend? I’m not acting here; I’m living without his god and it will be that way until I die. Of this I am certain. If that quote isn’t a misrepresentation, I don’t know what is. As a matter of fact, let’s turn it on it’s head: Christians say, “let’s pretend there’s a god.” I’m pretty sure some atheist has said that before, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s abusive fallacy and it doesn’t change the fact that they have it all wrong. Christians actually believe god exists and they live their life with that in mind; they’re not pretending. I, of course, can say that they’re wrong, but I can’t say that they’re pretending because I wasn’t pretending when I was Christian. Simulacrums have that effect, but that is another discussion.
b) Nor is he implying that nihilism is the only serious form of atheism. In fact, he’s doing almost the opposite. He’s referring explicitly to the existentialists, and in the video he refers directly to people like Sarte and Camus, who were not nihilists.
Sartre and Camus aren’t nihilists; you are correct. However, Camus was an absurdist; absurdism is similar to nihilism in many respects. Sartre was an atheistic existentialist; I would call myself one as well. However, I take it one step further; I’m not willing meaning into my life. I have come to realize that meaning is extrinsic; it isn’t intrinsic or god-given as most, if not all, believers believe. You can disagree and I know you will, but what makes intrinsic meaning better than extrinsic meaning? Also, what led Barron to think that we all desire god? I don’t desire god, and herein lies another example of his odious logic.
The argument from desire is nonsensical. In the video he speaks of hunger. Hunger isn’t a desire; it’s a need! Food doesn’t exist because we need it or because we desire it; our need for food exists because we have evolved to need vitamins, minerals and perhaps most importantly, calories—all of which come from consumption. Therefore, Barron’s logic is completely backward. In like manner, toilets don’t exist because we desire to urinate and digest; toilets exist because we designed them to provide comfort whilst defecating. The argument from desire fails miserably. For starters, it confuses needs and desires; furthermore, it fails to account for at least two types of people: 1) People who have no desire for god (like myself) 2) People whose supposed desire is met by another deity that they think to be real (hence why there have been and are many other deities). You still want to say that I have erred in my judgment? Do I have Barron wrong or have you got me wrong? Before you gnash your teeth at the very thought of being corrected by an atheist, sit back and recall that I am human and that I reason—difference being that I’ve come to a different conclusion; however, that also is a different discussion.
4. I’ll try to sum up the argument he makes in the video (if I can call such off-handed comments an argument). He says that, like Christians, the existentialists were aware that humans have a desire for something beyond this life, or a desire that nothing in life can satisfy. They didn’t shy away from this. But the New Atheists seem to be saying that only without a concept of God, of something beyond this life, can we be free to relax and enjoy life, and they ignore our desire for something beyond this life. And, Father Barron argues, this means they’re only playing at atheism, whereas people like Sarte seriously and philosophically addressed it.
I seriously and philosophically address the question of god; however, I have expanded my scope far beyond the Judeo-Christian god. It is obvious that you haven’t done that. Not all humans desire some transcendental something; I have addressed that above. Sartre, Camus and Nietzsche didn’t know what we know today, and perhaps that is the reason why they felt a void. However, they didn’t feel a void because it was a god-shaped hole; they felt the void of ignorance. I too feel that void; I can conclude that we aren’t alone in the universe, but I still long to know. I long to know the nature of dark matter and dark energy; I long to know if there’s a multiverse. I may be dead and gone before any of that is addressed; yet I am satisfied in what I do know. I am able to look back and appreciate the fact that I have the privilege to know what them before me couldn’t; hopefully my future brothers and sisters can feel the same way regardless of the void of ignorance. I need not fame, honor, money, sex, etc.; I need knowledge and thankfully, there’s so much of it to attain—so much so that I’ll never be able to know all there is to know, even if I lived thousands of lifetimes. Here’s one thing I do know: if anyone desire a god, they shouldn’t desire the Judeo-Christian god; I know that he doesn’t exist and that he is a relic from a time long gone. I know that if he existed, he would be worthy of repulsion and utter contempt or far worse; he would not be worthy of praise and glory. Thankfully, he’s simply an abstraction that lives up to his name: the god of war. That is precisely why he commanded his angel to murder thousands; that is precisely why he murdered infants and children. That is exactly why he threatened to gut pregnant women; I would think twice before calling myself pro-life.