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The error of atheism

vastleft's picture

Ian finds atheists quite troubling, because he's hung up on the atheist's "certainty."

Je répète:

[Even Richard] Dawkins doesn't claim absolute certainty. A chapter of The God Delusion is titled, "Why There Almost Certainly Is No God." Any atheist will allow that there are things in this universe that we don't understand. But we give no quarter to the idea that religious people — who don't possess a single shred of evidence — have any claim on knowing whether there's a God, or what it's like. Why should we?

Atheists like yours truly choose that term, rather than the comfortably hedged "agnostic," as an unambiguous statement against the utterly fallacious claims about religion that pervade our society.

When I self-identify as an atheist, instead of an agnostic, I'm rejecting politically correct creedence to YHWH, the FSM, and Russell's teapot, not attempting to rule out the possibility of forces beyond any human's knowledge.

Yes, to accept the term in its simplest, clearest sense is to accept a rounding error against the possibility of some unknown and possibly unknowable something. But it's far more accurate than allowing that the fabricated somethings that pass for religious "truth" are in any way credible.

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Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

When I self-identify as an atheist, instead of an agnostic, I'm rejecting politically correct creedence to YHWH, the FSM, and Russell's teapot,

Believers can do that too.

Accoring to the Atheist Wiki, it means

The original meaning of the word, based on its Greek origins, mentions nothing about "disbelief" or "denial." A short and single-word definition would be "godless."

a definition I agree with.

Its just that I know just as many agnostics and believers who "rejecting politically correct creedence to YHWH, the FSM, and Russell's teapot," , so it seems to me that you don't need to be an atheist to do that.

So why is being labelled an atheist so important to that goal?

And apparently, Ian's been arguing with the same atheists I have been. ;p

Certainty isn't a "tenet" of atheism, but defending rich people isn't a tenet of Christianity either, and it certainly has become central to several Christian's ideas about Christianity, so has the certainty and arrogance become central to many atheists ideas about a lack of gods. I imagine part of this arrogance comes from defensiveness, a position I can understand, being the lone person on the totem pole many times when it came to arguing against the war or for gay marriage. It's hard being a heathen in a room full of Christians, and it's hard being an atheist in a world full of believers. And I would pull the arrogant defensive act, so sure that I was right that it didn't matter what they thought. And I never won any arguments being arrogant. And I've seen atheists do that in forum threads about religion in poitics. Even amongst people whose politics they agree with it, they can't help but take a jab at any religious thing that is brought up.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I too just had the full HTML glitch, in replying to VL.

Ha, ha, though, you always get the best headlines.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Belief in God, at least as defined by the Big 3 religions, ain't exactly "understanding," is it? "Under-thinking," perhaps....

Shrill atheist alert! He's as bad as a fundie! Make him stop!!!

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

not treating all believers as people incapable of rational thought.

A small percentage of Christians believe the Genesis story as literal truth. Most Christians get, that the Genesis story is a creation myth, written by group of men with an agenda. But atheists like Bill Maher, will generalize about Christians, referring to them as people who believe in talking snakes.

It's unhelpful.

Now, if a person is trying to claim authority in a debate through religion, of course, smack that argument down. But if a believer is just discussing religion in general, I don't think denigrating anyone religious beliefs in necessary, so long as they aren't using their beliefs to impose on others.

If you're going to argue science, argue science, the validity of someone religious belief is irrelevant, even if they are arguing from religion. If you are arguing with someone who says that God planted dinosaur bones to tempt the faithful, of course you talk about the logical fallacies contained within the religion, but you still can do that, without implying that they are mentally deficient for believing in God, a trait that they share with 99% of the people who have ever existed on this planet.

And many people who call themselves atheists online do exactly that. If you want someone to blame for the bad reputation atheists have amongst people who are otherwise sympathetic, those people would be a start. I of course don't judge all atheists by those others, and just the same I expect all atheists to approach all believers as individuals, despite the worst extremes that are portrayed in the media.

I enjoy engaging in people about belief or lack thereof, as it builds bridges. These are necessary, since empathy for our neighbors is necessary, as our government abandons us. But it is the topic that most often leads to disrespect amongst those who talk about it.

One reason I enjoy my job, is that I talk about religion with my coworkers. One thing that is helpful, is that I openly adhere to no religion. I acknowledge that I have belief, and I talk about my particular beliefs, but I use no religious "authority" when I do.

I don't feel that treating others this way, and expecting that treatment from others is a great amount of slack.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... rational thought? Please name names. I'll gladly call such people "assholes."

Thinking that believers have the capacity for rational thought, which of course they do, and accepting that religious dogma is rational are wholly different things.

You keep coming back to this frame where atheists are mocking all religious people because they're conflating them with fundamentalists. And it's as phony as that talking snake and the rib-woman.

First of all, mocking silly stuff (horoscopes, for example) isn't to condemn those who indulge in it. But the silly stuff, and the belief in same, needn't be respected. Secondly, you either believe in some degree of the magical stuff in religion, or you don't. As a practical matter, very few religious practitioners (Thomas Jefferson was one) make it crystal clear that they deny all magical aspects of religious stories and accept them only as metaphors and advise their children every step of the way not to take any of it literally. It's a reverse straw man to claim otherwise.

Relatively few churchgoers loudly and reliably state that religious dogma is no more true than the moral of a well-written novel. To pretend that that's typical of religious practice is to dodge the special qualities that religion is afforded, even if one cherry-picks or apple-picks one's way through which Bible stories to take as gospel.

Treating fake-fake-fake stories that some people are acultured to believe as truth or possible truth is not empathy. It's being patronizing or being uncommitted to truth.

You keep knocking me for not allowing for those fake-fake-fake stories being true, and sorry, it doesn't make me un-empathetic because I won't play ball with you and others on that point.

Religious believers, like anybody else, ought to be looked at with empathy. Maybe more so, since many have been lied to and/or manipulated by parents or other authority figures, or they're finding badly needed solace it in a religious story or group.

IMHO, condemning those who won't knuckle under to socially demanded respect for untruths is a rather un-empathetic position. YMMV.

dk's picture
Submitted by dk on

I find it hard to believe that you run across that many atheists who think that all believers are incapable of rational thought. I would think it more likely that most of the atheists you run across think that all believers are irrational in connection with the particular issue of belief. Those are two very different positions.

Just because I think your belief is irrational doesn't mean that I don't respect you. I just see it as occasion to think that it is better to agree to disagree on that topic, and focus on areas where we can both agree that we are both rational. I have found that discussing the particular issue of religion is rather pointless, as it typically leads to one or both sides either trying to "covert" the other, or, in Obama fashion, to try to reach some kind of "compromise."

One of the benefits of living in a society that is based upon the principles of the Enlightenment is that it removed the centrality of religion from earthly concerns.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Just because I think your belief is irrational doesn't mean that I don't respect you.

If you haven't been on the other side of that convo, it's hard to explain. It's very similar to being a woman around a group of men, and not getting any of them to understand how they are being sexist. Either you see it, or you don't, and the irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at believers.

I have found that discussing the particular issue of religion is rather pointless

That's probably because you're doing it wrong, IMO.

One of the benefits of living in a society that is based upon the principles of the Enlightenment is that it removed the centrality of religion from earthly concerns.

I do not disagree with this. I do not agree with people who use religion as a basis for their political philosophy, even if it puts them on "my side." I think these people should be challenged. My disagreement with most atheists is method, not argument itself. It's how you challenge people. Some people would challenge those people, to support their philosophy w/out religion, others just insult the religion.

Submitted by hipparchia on

It's very similar to being a woman around a group of men, and not getting any of them to understand how they are being sexist. Either you see it, or you don't, and the irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at believers.

i've spent most of my life as an atheist surrounded by religionists trying to save my mortal soul [and my uterus]. vl sounds just like them.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i can explain this in one comment?

for starters, this bugged me [as i said to lambert].

aeryl's been pretty specific, and detailed, so far. she's just more polite than i am.

seems to me there was another time we butted heads, but i can't figure out what to enter into the search box to bring up a vague memory that may not even be one.

deference to religion. ot1h, there's this. i love stuff like that. otoh, i feel like the best way to guarantee official tolerance for my lack of religion is to enshrine in some document somewhere a total reverence for non-interference into others' beliefs. oh, wait....

Submitted by lambert on

Here's the analogy:

It's very similar to being a woman around a group of men, and not getting any of them to understand how they are being sexist. Either you see it, or you don't, and the irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at believers.*

The analogy is false, for the obvious reason that with men, women, and sexism the three terms clearly exist, where with atheists, the religious, and God, God does not exist (or, to put the case more mildly, does not clearly exist).

There's no way to point that out without conflict. Now, there may be "feelings" around the issue, and perhaps that's true, but (1) I have yet to have had to explained to me why that's the controlling factor, and (2) if I'm to be responsible for other people feeling "disrespected", it's really rather difficult to see where that will end -- especially on a blog that covers politics and economics. In other words, I try not to be sexist becuase that's wrong, not to spare people's feelings.

Typically, in such a situation, the bottom line for the person with the power -- and I claim, in this society, that the religious are such people -- is to issue a demand that the person without the power STFU. That is, indeed, what has happened here. Quelle surprise. To me, of course, that's the ultimate disrespect, but YMMV. And, apparently, does.

NOTE * I have addressed the "casual superiority" and "throw" material already

UPDATE The same power dynamic is at work in the idea that Dawkins -- but not, apparently, now, VL, or his post, leaving one to wonder why any of these issues are being addressed here, as opposed to, say, wherever Dawkins might be -- and those of Dawkin's ilk are not "helpful." As ever in such cases, one must always ask helpful to whom, and why, and who gets to determine what's "helpful."

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

The analogy is false, for the obvious reason that with men, women, and sexism the three terms clearly exist, where with atheists, the religious, and God, God does not exist (or, to put the case more mildly, does not clearly exist).

You're claiming to be able to prove a negative, and while I am as irreligious as can be, I am not going to try to prove a negative and nor am I fool enough to demand that anybody else do so. Whether God, Ceiling Cat, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Pantheon or the Windigo are out there as some amorphous encompmassment isn't relevant to the discussion of sexism. Sexism (and pro-theism) is so deeply inculcated that it's an unconscious aspect of the damned language, Lambert, whether you choose to address that or not.
If you find what I'm saying "unhelpful," well ... that's your impression.

The meat of the matter is the refusal to see, let alone understand, just exactly how casually -- indeed, with what indifference to the notion that innate superiority isn't just a fact of universal existence -- our society expects women (and by "our society" I also mean Islamic and Hindu societies, because so far as I'm aware now, anywhere on earth, there are no large groups of humans who both use a matriarchal socioeconomic model and worldwide communications) to be less than men. To some extent this is extended to put down homosexuals (and lesbians, although for some reason they're not hammered into the ground as transcendentally evil the way transgender and homosexual males are. I wonder if that's some ... subconscious discomfort with the proposition that some men actively seek NOT to be aggressive or "naturally superior" -- so-called "straight" or "normal" men often seem fascinated by lesbian sexuality as a subject for voyeurs, for instance. Now, maybe there's something wrong with me, but voyeurism in and of itself seems to be to me a very minor sort of perversion -- how you gonna learn anything without seeing it? I remember the first time I saw a 'hot kiss' on TV. Looked hella awkward and fake even in the pre-AIDS days, before the networks came out with the 'new' guideline banning 'open-mouth kissing'. Reason? If you've ever tried it you know that getting it right and holding a position for a camera is damn near impossible!).

It's more obvious in the US because women are LITERALLY expected to maintain themselves as physically smaller than men, physically weaker than men, physically inferior to their masters (I think it was Lisa Leslie who said she could play with LeBron James for a game, but not for five or six games a week over a seven month-long NBA season, because her body would break down. Of course it freaking would. She's a mom with two (three?) kids, she's somewhere over 30, and she hasn't spent years bodybuilding, as male athletes are expected to do -- not just 'strength training,' but 'bulking up'. Might've been another WNBA star, I'm not sure; I heard the interview on ESPN and didn't read the crawler 'cause I wasn't in the same room) even when the women are world-class veteran athletes, not actors or fashion models. Don't just look at Kate Moss or Teri Hatcher; look at the vituperation heaped on Kirstie Alley, look at the pity extended so superciliously toward Susan Boyle for not being a body-double to Posh Spice. Look at the way the world assumes that Pamela Denise Anderson Lee must be a talented actress and smart person because of how she looks (ditto Jasmine Bleeth, Valerie Bertinelli) while because of how she looks Sonia Sotomayor cannot be taken seriously as a Supreme Court Judge (despite her lifetime of experience).
Now name two male "heartthrobs" and a male judge similarly venerated or vituperated MERELY for their appearances. (Is there a Hispanic male judge of equivalent experience who's not also 'distinguished-looking' or even 'handsome'?)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about the damn hardwired waist-to-hip ratio preference. I know all about the facial symmetry matrices, too. Bigger and more important fact: looking good in the Baywatch uniform suit doesn't mean you're smart, doesn't mean you're healthy, doesn't mean you can act your way out of a wet paper bag (witness Bleeth on Nash Bridges, not to mention the sunk-without-a-trace acting careers of so many of the beach boys from Baywatch), doesn't mean you're going to maintain a successful marriage (look at Jolene Blalock's marital history, although I lay the blame for that on both partners' shoulders).

Fact: men consider themselves superior to women. They're raised to think so. Preachers preach it, teachers teach it, mentors give them that idea from before the time they're born.

Fact: society is built on that assumption, 'round the world from Indochina to SoCal.

Fact: for some tasks, in some circumstances, men are superior to women. One that comes to mind is the willingness to subject oneself to what amounts to self-inflicted torture in pursuit of a career playing a kid's game -- although, admittedly, if there were a career out there just being in the kind of shape I had to be in to get through BMTS demanded in order to make $20 million over six years, I'd be a lot more incentivized to pursue it than I would be to maintain the same level of fitness in order to earn a game warden's pay or a paramedic's pay.

Athenae at First Draft had a post up on what a butthat Russ Douthat is regarding women's equality (his thesis? They have more freedom than they've ever had, and less happiness) -- and she had a killer answer, posted by a stay-at-home husband (cappuchino chip cookies, couched in a chest-beating comment).

There are individual exceptions to every rule known to humanity, but beating up on believers with the same "simple fact" attitude men use to assume superiority to women is just not right.

Submitted by lambert on

which is why I, personally, assert that God does not exist, while adding the caveat: "does not clearly exist."

If you think that an analogy about women, men, and sexism works on the same plane of abstraction as atheists, believers, and The God(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any, then feel free to continue believing that. Me, I'd say it's a case of petitio elenchi, but maybe that makes me arrogant...

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

implies proof of a negative.

Let's get it away from sexism for a minute, because we don't have to argue about whether sexism exists, do we?

People over numberless centuries have blamed God for their aggression against each other. Do you find that a fair statement?

One of the most egregious examples of this that I can cite is the genocide the "white Christians" conducted against the Amerind peoples. Do you find that a fair statement?

Deep breath and -- Godwin Prophylactic: I think the action the "white Christians" mounted against the "red savages" actually killed more people, and demonstrably involved a larger territory and a longer timeline than the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and we have documented that between 1932 and 1945 Hitler's regime slew a minimum of six million Jewish people (the Nazis also mass-murdered Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and the physically handicapped. We tend to forget about those victims ... not because they don't count, but because they don't have a nation in the Middle East now; they continue today in a besieged state so scattered as to be negligible, rather than being a target of the Left's ire -- at least, so far). I don't want to pull *that* monster's horrific reign into this discussion if I can avoid it, so I've laid down this statement as a barricade.

The "white Christians" claimed that their military victories (powered by things like slaughtering the buffalo and stealing and destroying thousands of horses from encamped Indians during the nastiest weather of the year -- Col. Ranald S. McKenzie's famous 'victory' in Palo Duro Canyon is a case in point) were proof that their God existed, while the "Great Spirit" in whom the Indians' faith reposed did not. They conveniently refused to allow for their collective advantages -- not just in technology, with saddles, breech-loading rifles (although early on the bow let Indians' rate of fire and accuracy provide them with an advantage) but with treachery, such as giving the Indians smallpox-infested blankets. The infamous practice of taking a scalp didn't originate with the Amerinds, but with the European "bounty" system.

Much of my current state of mind is probably a result of spending yesterday being subjected to "documentaries" about "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons", though. I just think we need to be sure we don't inadvertently take for granted that the prejudices we're so used to seeing that we accept them as background noise are not prejudices just because we haven't consciously adopted them.

dk's picture
Submitted by dk on

the analogy is still wrong, but not for the reason Lambert gave here. The analogy is wrong because women, in fact, are individually and systematically discriminated against in our society, whereas "believers" (I really hate that term, but I don't have time to think of another right now) are not.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Was that being the sole believer in a room full of atheists, and getting them to comprehend that they can be disrespectful, is about as hard as being a woman in a room full of men, and getting them to understand that the half naked picture on the wall is disrespectful. And part of that reason, is because they aren't the ones experiencing those feelings.

That is the only thing the analogy is supposed to represent. To say that I am comparing the actual discrimination women experience, to the condescension believers feel when engaging with atheists, is ludicrous, and I said nothing of the sort.

Submitted by lambert on

Aeryl wrote:

If you haven't been on the other side of that convo, it's hard to explain. It's very similar to being a woman around a group of men, and not getting any of them to understand how they are being sexist. Either you see it, or you don't, and the irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at believers.

Now, I discover, this nothing to do with "actual discrimination." Hard to tell on the original reading, but I'll go with it.

Now Aeryl writes:

And part of that reason, is because they aren't the ones experiencing those feelings

.

Ah. Feelings. The ones those "unhelpful" atheists are responsible for creating in others? Check.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

we cast another light on this?

Being somebody who's seen something in the sky I could not personally identify (and have since not found a definitive reference explaining) makes me less inclined to dismiss the very idea of "UFOs" than most "rational grownups" I know.

They don't seem to care that their theorems don't explain away my experience, just that they feel sure those theorems SHOULD explain away my experience, and I'm being silly (or perhaps something else even more unappealing) to have the gall to defy their assumption that they know what I saw cannot possibly exist.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

What does your trained ear tell you that the linked Doug Marlette cartoon means?

I've been struggling to find the correct interpretation. That A-rabs are driving WMD around in trucks? Something else?

Submitted by lambert on

Aeryl writes:

[T]he irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at believers.

Well, of course, that doesn't preclude the possibility that they can't see it because it isn't there and they're projecting it.

And to me, the statementL

[T]he irreligious are hard pressed to see the casual superiority they throw at unbelievers.

is exactly as true, and has exactly the same caveats as above.

I think the bottom line is that there's simply no way to "reject politically correct creedence to YHWH" and not offend somebody, perhaps many. The combination of deeply personal choice with public practice and a massive support infrastructure must lead to friction. Fortunately for those whose faith is deep, such friction will not matter very much.

NOTE As for me, I turned from agnostic to atheist after nothing smote the Bush regime for its embrace of evil.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Of course there are believers who are just as bad. Duh!

That's kind of my whole argument lambert. That plenty of atheists are just as bad as fundamentalists. Many believers have gotten a bad rap because of fundamentalists, and many atheists have gotten a bad rap, because of the "certainists". And this thread is about atheists, so I'm not caveat-ing all over the place, with blatant statements of facts about fundamentalists. We already know the problem with fundamentalists.

But apparently, many atheists are reluctant to acknowledge the faults that exist within their communities, as evidenced above, where people get accused of projecting.* And the there are faults that exist in all communities. Self examination shoulf be the foundation of any liberal, IMO.

And yes there will always be believers who get offended at the slightest hint of examination of their beliefs. These are not the people I am concerned with. And if every believer you come across gets offended when you talk about religion, then maybe you should re-examine that whole "projection" thing.

*If you will recall, you and plenty of others were accused of projection, when concerns were raised over the sexism in the primaries. That smarted, and so does this.

Submitted by lambert on

Is not an accusation ("people get accused of projecting").*

I chose my words quite carefully.

And framing my words in that way... Well, that rather proves my point, doesn't it? Especially when I go on to say that I could, myself, be subject to exactly the same process!

NOTE Despite the lack of agency in the phrasing, I assume that I'm the one doing the putative accusing.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

It's in a few responses through the thread. That's why there was no agency, cuz I'm not singling you out.

Part of the problem with that sentence though, is you are using the same pronoun to refer to two groups of people.

they can't see it because it isn't there and they're projecting it.

Now the first "they" is referring to athesists being unable to see their supposed superiority, because they aren't acting superior.

And the second is referring to believers, who are projecting their supposed inferiority on atheists, by saying atheists are acting superior.

I think.

So the sentence is a big jumble of word soup, and I only brought it up because accusations of projection are very useful when you want to discount a person's feelings, which is what this thread has been about. People's feelings, and how they are offended. It's very similar to accusations that feminists don't have a sense of humor, because we object to negative representations of women in the media. Because they are about feelings, the way to go about an argument, is to invalidate their feelings. Which is what an accusation of projection does, IMO.

Throughout the whole thread, which had become, I thought, about examining the flaws of atheists, it has instead de-evolved, in some cases, about how fundamentalists are worse, which is a no brainer, and in no way helpful to atheists who are attempting to advance an agenda.

Atheism's goals may win out by default, over the hyper religiousity of our nation. As a matter of fact, I'm sure of it. One thing that can always be counted upon in our nation, is the backlash. But as evidenced by our current Dems, if you have no way of dealing with your victory, you won't keep your victory.

The Enlightment and the Renaissance enhanced our world, but many of the advances were clawed back by the forces of ignorance. And it will happen again, if we can't engage with others about religion, without leaving them feeling disrespected. Then there will be another backlash, and all of us secularists will have missed an opportunity.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

religious untruth with disrespect for religious people. I ask again, how much do you demand we "respect" things that are patently untrue, lest our decency and empathy be called into question?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

That it really is about disrespecting religious people, and you keep saying I'm conflating something I'm not. When do I claim that the myths deserve respect? When have I told you talking about them was taboo? Um, never, because I'm not talking about that. I do think it is helpful to not challenge these things unless necessary, because it hurts more than it helps. The whole point of the discussion, shouldn't be about whether their religion is right or wrong, but whether it is a valid basis for social and political philosophy. But atheists can't have that discussion with believers, because they are too busy telling them they are wrong, wrong, wrongity, wrong, wrong. It may make them feel better, but it won't further their goals.

I am referring to the way atheists talk to and about believers, like Dawkins and his "all believers are child abusers if they take their kids to church" bullshit. That is disrespecting religious people, and not their beliefs. You can say that isn't disrespectful, but you aren't the one being disrespected, and yes feeling disrespected is subjective. Is it on a level with how fundamentalists disrespect atheists? No, but this thread isn't about fundamentalists.

You continue dance around that, because you can't deny there are asshole atheists, who are hurting your cause(which is the only thing I'm concerned about, cuz I want what you want), and you keep trying to make this about things I am not saying. You keep saying "Why should I show untruths respect?" and I'm saying, "Why are the untruths valid in this discussion?" Yes, in some cases, when discussing religion and it's influences, deconstructing the myths that allow someone to cling to their faith, is necessary.

But, if you aren't arguing over whether God exists, why is your belief there is no God relevant to a discussion religion and social policy?

Submitted by lambert on

Aeryl writes:

Yes, in some cases, when discussing religion and it's influences, deconstructing the myths that allow someone to cling to their faith, is necessary.

Seems to me that's exactly what VL is doing in this case. ("rejecting politically correct creedence to YHWH.') So I presume you're OK with the post now?

NOTE Incidentally, I just love "you can't deny there are asshole atheists." Hilariously, the logic is exactly the same "you can't deny that some n*ggers are shiftless." Equally hilariously, holding each individual atheist responsible for something Dawkins wrote is just the same as looking for a spokesman for all Black people! (If there were an atheist movement, like, with dues and a newsletter and a cable show, and Dawkins was its Leader, I could see some legitimacy to this, but really, "Why will you not denounce?" Oldest trick in the book. It's all about the powerful telling the powerless to STFU. In this context, that's the religious and atheists.)

Submitted by lambert on

I am abandoning this thread. The gauzy generalities are simply too much for me.

And there is no God, so why does any of this matter?

Note that "there is no God" is exactly as "disrespectful" as saying "there is no phlogiston" (correct) "there are tomatoes in my garden" (not correct as of today) and "there are no black swans" (not correct). Now, any one of those statements might leave some people "feeling disrespected" -- some phlogiston advocates, some competive gardeners, and some taxonomists/financiers, respectively -- but I'm hardly responsible for their feelings, am I?

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

Lambert fan after seeing this quote "I turned from agnostic to atheist after nothing smote the Bush regime for its embrace of evil."

For anyone who may return to this thread - whenever you're fed up with organized religion, go read Platitude of the Day. Although I've never heard the radio clip on which it's based, you can read the transcripts. I get a laugh every time reading about what the representatives of the Invisible Magic Friend are saying today.

Submitted by hipparchia on

not a bad criterion, though it presumes a benevolent deity/ies [rather than malevolent, or bored to tears, or amoral, or a whole host of them trying to undo each others deeds].

i haven't got a problem with offending people.

i'm mildly opposed to trying to convert them, and very opposed to needing to convert them [either from or to atheism or religion]. and this strikes me as truthiness, or factesque, or something, which is just plain annoying coming from a blog where truthiness is excoriated.

Submitted by lambert on

... if I'll worship a malevolent god. Oh, wait...

* * *

Yeah, that torture post isn't one of the all-time best, is it? There's something there -- doesn't the torture scene in Gibson's Passion go on for like 45 minutes? -- and there's plenty of Catholic iconography that's deeply kitschcy and creepy.... But the figure that leaps out at me in the Pew Survey is 54%. A majority, but not an overwhelming one. Not to say the congregation is equal to the institution.

Nevertheless, the thesis which the post is meant to support seems to me entirely unexceptionable:

I would submit that religiosity, with its often sadistic imagery, notions of life-after death, and penchant for group-thought validations for bizarre retributive and prosletyzing behavior isn't a reliable force against the cruelty of torture.

Definitely not. I just finished reading part III of Richard Evans' magisterial history of the Third Reich, and no, neither religiosity or indeed religion is "a reliable force against the cruelty of torture". And there are plenty of examples (see under Inquisition, Spanish) where religiosity and/or religion not merely practiced torture, but devised the technology for it. Ick.

Submitted by hipparchia on

ick indeed. i was raised in one of the more austere protestant traditions, i find the catholic church deeply creepy. i purposely did not see the passion [gibson is catholic].

my point there was that the churchgoers [catholic] who worship the torture imagery [and gaze lovingly and meditatively upon the crucifix] are not the ones who are pro-torture. it's the evangelicals [who see the catholic worship of the crucifix as idolatry] who were most pro-torture in that survey. apparently religious necrophilia doesn't necessarily make one a torturer after all.

i don't see religion as a particularly reliable bulwark against torture either. but i don't see it as inherently evil and i while i used to buy the argument that ridding the world of religion would rid the world of a major source of tribulation, i no longer believe that. it's just a tool, like hammers, like wysiwyg editors, useful for good or ill.

not to mention that whole thought police thing, when you get into keeping people from believing in [probably] fictitious entities just in case they might one day grow up to become martyrs going out in a blaze of glory and taking as many others with them as they can.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

the "Atheist Is Always Wrong" syndrome.

Why else have you fixated on this strangely reductive interpretation of a snarky title of a blog post of mine, and now taking to calling me a liar over it?

I didn't say, and didn't intend to say, that the more obsessed with the Christian cross you are, the more pro-torture you are. But you keep hammering away at me with that plainly false interpretation, like a Roman on Good Friday.

The over-arching point of all my "Religious People Are the Best People" posts is as follows:

to disabuse people of the commonly accepted and reflexively repeated notion that religiosity is a marker for morality.

I make no claim that religion causes these people to do horrible things, nor that it doesn't.

I just observe how often religion is a factor in some of the most horrific crimes, especially in crimes (and supposed non-crimes) where the victims are children and/or women.

The cross and the crucifixion story are fundamental to Christianity. That Catholics are the biggest cross-idolators of the bunch is a red herring.

You're a great thinker and writer. I'd ask that you consider whether it is you, and not yours truly, who is performing below-standard in this little sub-topic.

dk's picture
Submitted by dk on

I have to say, though on most subjects on this blog it seems by reading your comments that we agree on a lot of issues, on this one you seem closer to Bill O'Reilly's point of view.

Comparing, as you did in the first point of your response, your experiences with sexism is akin to the "war on christmas" argument propounded by O'Reilly and others (as is the blaming-the-victim "Atheists are their own worst enemies" meme that permeates your argument). The problem with that argument is that it ignores the complete, undisputable hegemonic dominance of religion/"belief"* in this society.

A major reason why sexism is so pernicious is precisely because of male hegemony. Women actually are discriminated against in our society, and because of that it is particularly problematic when men or women fail to recognize the constant pervasiveness of this fact.

In your experience with atheists, have you ever actually been discriminated against? Have you lost out on a job or promotion you deserved? Have you been forced to work twice as hard as the atheist next to you? Probably not (but correct me if you have a specific example of being discriminated against).

I think what you are trying is that you have experienced a common small group dynamic sitation in which your particular belief in a higher power is suddenly the minority view. I do have empathy for that feeling. It is difficult, when one has been born and raised as part of the privileged group, to suddently find oneself in the situation in which you are in the minority with people who unapologetically disagree with you. Because you are part of the privileged group, it must be jarring. It may even feel like you are being discriminated against. But that is a fallacy in terms of the broader context of societal hegemony. As you pointed out, 99% of the world's population agrees with you on the higher power thing. Poll after poll shows that atheists are considered pariahs because of their beliefs; in this country polls show consistently that of all the minority groups in this country, people are least likely to vote for atheists for public office, etc. Children in public schools are forced to put their hand on their hearts and swear to god every day, or alternatively suffer the public humiliation of being different (which we all know to a child is a pretty big humiliation) if they refuse.

It seems like, to you, the worst thing in the world is rudeness. Since, obviously, there are both rude atheists and rude fundamentalists, you have created an equivalence in your mind. And on the issue of rudeness, you are probably correct. But is that really what is important? As an atheist, I don't care if there are rude fundamentalists. I do care, however, that religion and "believers"* have a hegemonic dominance in society.

Being around people who think that, on this particular issue, your beliefs are irrational may be something that is hard to handle, but discrimination it ain't.

*The use of the terms believers/non-believers, of course, is an example of the hegemony that perhaps you don't even see. It's rhetoric 101 to use the negative in labelling people whom you are different from to hold on to your privilege.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

We seem to be having, is that this is a continuation of a rather large convo VL and I have every time he posts about atheists. I am having to restate things that I accept as given, because I have stated them all before. You are thinking I am making arguments I'm not.

My responses are basically concern trolling, something I acknowledge. Because I am concerned. I am a secularist, and I abhor the over religiosity of our nation.

I want our side to win, so I engage with atheists to get them to address these problems.

Are the problems from the atheists side, equivalent to the problems from the fundamentalists side? Of course not. But, as I said before, this thread isn't about the fundamentalists. I'm not equating the problems of sexism and religious bickering. I'm drawing parallels. I'm not claiming discrimination on behalf of believers, that is ludicrous. So, to compare me to O'Reilly is rather harsh.

I'm talking about engaging in the war of ideas, a war, it seems from this thread, atheists don't want to engage in because they know their ideas are going to win, they will just wait till the rest of the human race gets smart enough to catch up. So yeah, my concern in this particular case is rudeness. I've been awarded the Square House Award by VL himself, because of my dedication to fairness.

And hey, the backlash against feminism tells you all you need to know, about how being loud obnoxious feminists worked out for us. I don't deny that loud obnoxious advocates serve a purpose, but if the goal is to build a movement, well you will be waiting a very long time, b/c the only way for secularists to win out, is to recruit amongst believers(BTW, I've never referred to atheists as nonbelievers, so no, I'm not enforcing hegemony, I'm using the believers/atheists, in every sentence, so as not to use negative labelling).

That is my only concern, is to get believers to agree with us, that we are and must remain a secular nation. And based on the experiences outlined by atheists above, in attempting to engage with believers, I'm a bit more successful at it. I hope that would tell you something.

And this:

in which your particular belief in a higher power is suddenly the minority view.

Sweetie, my particular belief has always been a minority view, so no that's not it.

Then:

Because you are part of the privileged group, it must be jarring. It may even feel like you are being discriminated against.

I've never claimed discrimination, it's just bothersome. For me as an ally, to be treated as if I'm not, just because I have a belief.

Since, obviously, there are both rude atheists and rude fundamentalists, you have created an equivalence

When have I claimed equivalence? I'll say it again, this thread isn't about fundamentalists. It's about Ian Welsh, and his problems with atheists, which interestingly enough, which are the same as mine.

Are these asshole atheists representative of all atheists? No, but fundamentalist Christians aren't representative of all Christians, but many atheists, like Bill Maher, have no problem generalizing about all Christians, based on the bigoted few.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

as "uppity" has several conotations, none of which I am trying to use here. Referring to people as uppity, usually implies they are saying things that have no worth, and I'm not claiming that. It's also an effective tool for ending debate, because it means they are not worth engaging with, and I sure as hell don't believe that, else I would stop replying on your threads about atheism.

But, since you want debate ended, I'll acquiesce.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... to be a low-status person who doesn't know his/her place. Precisely the way atheists, who "arrogantly" speak truth to fable, are routinely treated.

I don't recall asking to end the debate. I do, however, recall asking you several straightforward questions in this thread (and in our previous threads on related topics), which you have routinely ignored.

I'll make this really simple: you make countless straw-man arguments about "some" uppity atheists somewhere, and you attempt to make them stick to me and others in these threads without ever tying them to any actual sins we've ostensibly committed. Most notably, you weave the false and disparaging implication that atheists are inclined to insult the whole person in religious debates, that we hate the sinner along with the sin.

Also, you never answer the question about how much religious bull we're supposed to eat, and how, in order to prove our basic humaneness.

Obviously, uppity atheists embarrass you, because religion is one mellow you evidently feel shouldn't be harshed with too much inconvenient truth. Your approach on these topics is unbecoming to you. If you disagree with that implication, look back at my unanswered questions and answer them. If I have neglected any clearly delineated questions on your part, I'll be happy to answer them -- I admit I do start glazing at long comments that blatantly talk past our previous points and direct questions, so I may have missed some questions worth answering.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Precisely the way atheists, who "arrogantly" speak truth to fable, are routinely treated.

When by me?

and you attempt to make them stick to me and others in these threads without ever tying them to any actual sins we've ostensibly committed.

I'll say this again. My complaints about atheists aren't about you, have never been about you. When have I said that they were ever about you? Apparently, this is your problem, is you keep thinking I'm talking about you. Hipparchia is the one who said you sounded like a fundamentalist, not me.

about "some" uppity atheists somewhere,

And I responded in the last thread, which you quoted from above, with a detailed list of athiests, and instances of disrespect.

you weave the false and disparaging implication that atheists are inclined to insult the whole person in religious debates,

"Some" athiests are inclined to do this, like the ones on reddit, that Ian talked about. I've never seen you do it, so, as before, the shoe doesn't fit, VL, stop trying to wear it.

Also, you never answer the question about how much religious bull we're supposed to eat, and how, in order to prove our basic humaneness.

I've never said you should eat it, I just don't understand the relevance of proving them wrong in this case. But, mainly because I don't expect people to be purists to be allies, I could careless about the validity or factuality of their religious beliefs. I don't expect religious beliefs to be valid or factual. What I do expect is that they be private, and imposed upon no one. As long as your beliefs fall into those last two categories, what does the rest matter?

uppity atheists embarrass you,

No they concern me. The image of the arrogant atheist fits into the media narrative, and allows atheism to be dismissed, which will only perpetuate the oppression of atheists. Allow me to draw another parallel. When the media narrative about abortion, was only about loose women with no morals, abortion was very restricted. But as the women who had actually had abortions came forward to acknowledge it, the narrative had to change, because you could see it just wasn't about loose women with no morals.

So the media narrative has to change, and that won't happen as long as people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Maher, are the public face of atheism. Because they are arrogant.

because religion is one mellow you evidently feel shouldn't be harshed with too much inconvenient truth.

No, I just don't believe that they have to be harshed, to find an ally in secularism.

dk's picture
Submitted by dk on

When the media narrative about abortion, was only about loose women with no morals, abortion was very restricted. But as the women who had actually had abortions came forward to acknowledge it, the narrative had to change, because you could see it just wasn't about loose women with no morals.

Wrong. Regardless of the media narrative, before abortion was legalized all sorts of women ("loose" women, "tight" women, "rich" women, "poor" women) had abortions and everyone knew about it. Abortion became legal, at least in part, because of the efforts of women, and male allies, whom you would probably classify as rude. Those women, and their male allies, organized politically, brought legal challenges, and generally stirred shit up.

Dawkins, Hitchens, and Maher (and the "people like them" as you call other anonymous souls), may or may not be assholes. But to blame them for the idea that many, including our current Democratic president, don't want to keep religion out of the affairs of state just doesn't make sense.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

VL, seemed to be upset that Ian, and others, are against asshole atheists.

So, there you go.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... to negatively spin legitimate grievances, didn't we? -- about the pile-up on fainting couches coast-to-coast, even those of some secularists, over the uppitiness of atheists.

Atheists should be unseen and unheard, we keep learning again and again.

Submitted by lambert on

Let's start with Ian's headline:

The Arrogance of Atheism

Not much distinction between the good athiests and the assholes there, eh?

And VL "seemed to be upset" how, exactly? At a charge Ian didn't make, or one he did?

As I said: Gauzy generalities. There's no debate here -- just a continued insistence that some unnamed atheists stop performing some unnamed and unevidenced action that will stop unnamed persons from "feeling" "disrespected" for some unnamed and unevidenced reason. If there were some organized attempt by an oppressed minority of athiests [I kid] to offend the religious, or if anybody on this thread were going out of their way to insult or demean the religious, I could see some utility to this discussion. Or if hoards of Vast Left Fans had descended on the boards to flame all self-identified Christians. As it is, there's nothing here, so far as I can tell, except vague feelings that I have no responsibility for.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

About which atheists Ian was referring to, the ones on reddit.

My only insistence is that specific atheists, like VL, stop trying to convince people like me, that the sky is green, when I say it's blue.

Every time I've brought up the fact that a several atheists on the internet are assholes to believers, the rebuttals of "Uh-Uh!" or "Prove it" come, and each and every thread turns into this.

Or if hoards of Vast Left Fans had descended on the boards to flame all self-identified Christians.

This actually did happen, though they weren't VL fans, they were Dawkins fans, and they took over several boards I read, flaming Christians, about the time The God Delusion came out. Which has left a sour taste in my mouth, and I'm probably not the only one.

I am only trying to help create constructive dialogue when dealing with believers, since I am a believer and a secularist. But it's easier to ascribe hateful motives* to me, so wev.

*That's how I'm reading his use of uppity here, because he seems to believe I'm intolerant to atheists, and believe they are getting out of their "place". Which is ridiculous, especially since I think VL should know me better than that.

Submitted by lambert on

You write:

My only insistence is that specific atheists, like VL, stop trying to convince people like me, that the sky is green, when I say it's blue.

Translation: STFU.

May I make an alternative suggestion?

Don't read VL's posts on atheism. See, that way he won't be trying to convince "people like" you (whatever that means) that "the sky is green" when you "say it's blue" (whatever that means).

Not only will that avoid any hurt feelings or sense of disrespect, it won't be attempting to impose an editorial policy of your own on VL's writing.

Nadai's picture
Submitted by Nadai on

I'm having several problems with your arguments.

First, the "good atheists" (and I use that term very loosely) have no way to bring the "bad atheists" into line even if they wanted to. Every group has its assholes. Eliminating them is a pipe dream, and basing your strategy on that pipe dream leads only to sorrow.

Second, the backlash against feminism (and other justice movements) isn't due to obnoxiousness on the part of feminists, it's due to the success, such as it is, of feminism. We didn't used to make amazing feminist advancements because we were all ladylike, and are only going backwards now because we've turned into bitches. We were bitches then.

Third, the reason I'm not engaging in your war of ideas isn't because I think we atheists are bound to win eventually when humankind smartens up. Barring some massive genetic engineering, humankind isn't going to smarten up, and judging from history, there's no reason to think that either side is going to win in some permanent sense. I'm not interested in joining some great proselytizing campaign for secularism because it's a waste of my time. Believers aren't going to care what I think no matter how nicely I put it, because my basic thesis is that they're wrong. You wrote that you've had more success getting believers to agree with you, to which I can only say, "Well, duh." You're one of them; of course they're more likely to listen to you. Even when you and they don't agree on religious particulars, you're not telling them by your very existence that you think they're devoting considerable energy to a mirage. All I have to do is say the word 'atheist' and I've done that.

Atheists aren't in a position to secularize society. We're still mostly at the stage of coming out, if I may borrow that phrase - finding other atheists, dealing with religious family members and co-workers, setting up some sort of atheist community, developing a sense of identity as atheists. We aren't yet a coherent movement. We might be in a few years.

It's the secular religionists who are in the best position to convince the non-secular believers that it's in their interest, too, to send God and the government into neutral corners. There are more of you, you already meet regularly in large groups (at least those who go to church), you have a ready-made ideology, and you speak, if not exactly the same language as the non-secular, a dialect of that language. You might get through. Atheists won't.

Nadai's picture
Submitted by Nadai on

Atheists could start by not treating all believers as people incapable of rational thought.

I do think (most) believers are capable of rational thought. I just don't think they're usually exercising that capability when it comes to their religious beliefs.

I feel the same way about phobics, lottery ticket buyers, Tarot card aficionados, and libertarians - and I say this as a person with a terror of heights who buys lottery tickets, owns a dozen Tarot decks, and has some regrettable libertarian tendencies. No one is always rational.

I have no problem with people simply holding what I consider irrational beliefs, religious or otherwise. I do have a problem with people insisting I respect those beliefs, or at least pretend to for politeness' sake. I don't respect some of my own beliefs; I see no reason to give everyone else's a pass.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Most Christians do believe in a relatively literal view of creation considering that as late as last year a Gallup poll found a good 44% of Americans as a whole sided with a literal view of Biblical creation. And, this is not the only study to show this.

BTW, on this particular issue, I find those whose choose atheism as a term to own for little other reason than the spite of the prevailing opinion childish overcompensation. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't claim to be something to "stick it to the man/society". I think that's really kind of immature and reactionary.

All that said, Ian getting caught up on the subject of total certainty is even sillier parsing.

Oh, and lastly, I don't believe that being agnostic is half-assing, anything. More importantly, it's also a termed often overused and believed to be mutually exclusive theism and atheism when you can be an agnostic theist or agnostic atheist. It seems to me that the biggest problem surrounding this issue is that everyone so concerned about what the other side thinks and believes that their beliefs end up being based less on what they actually believe, in fact.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

I was once asked by a classmate how I could possibly be a palliative care nurse and an atheist at the same time.

I witnessed a priest praying at the bedside of an unconscious dying man who he knew was a staunch atheist. I felt like whacking him on the head for showing such disrespect.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and if i ever get to london, i'm going to look for platform 9 3/4. i don't expect to find it though.

i'm curious about the source of your rancor.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

http://bs4a.blogspot.com/2006/12/welcome-to-bible-study-for-atheists.html


In recent years, America has become increasingly religiose.

Perhaps you've noticed.

More and more, we're being told to eat scripture and die (followed by a presumably kick-ass afterlife).

Millions from our Treasury now pour into faith-based initiatives. Mega-churches led by holy men like Ted Haggard are springing up all over. Anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-science laws are being proposed, and sometimes passed, to energize and appease the sanctimonious base. And Jesus personally told our President to preemptively attack a country that lacked the means and, it appears, even a plan to do us harm — killing hundreds of thousands of people, including nearly as many Americans as True Believers from abroad killed here on 9/11.

The Bible must be a helluva great book to be worth so much suffering.

Submitted by hipparchia on

More and more, we're being told to eat scripture and die (followed by a presumably kick-ass afterlife).

that's a kick-ass line. i'm sooooo stealing it some day when you're not looking.

i approve of why you fight, with all my heart and soul. :-)

much of the rise of the public religiosity you decry came about because the republicans have used it as an ooooooooh, shiny! look over there! sarah palin! to give a lot of voters something they wanted [a security blanket] while they set about destroying what the voters truly needed [a social safety net]. the democratic party [and the atheists] could have staved off a lot of this if they'd focused on fixing govt [medicare for all! welfare reform wtf?] and left people's private beliefs alone.

HotPeach's picture
Submitted by HotPeach on

Fuckin' A's Bubba.

That is all.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

the Televangelists.
Before Rush, they were poisoning the airwaves in the name of Father Son and Holy Ghost (not to mention stealing the mites from the widows and defrauding the elders and hoodwinking the children in the name of Mammon) to make us all fall into two categories: The saved, and the Unsaved.

Letting *that* go unanswered on the airwaves and over satellite broadcasts since the days of Radio helped lead us into the current newsless enterfotainer spin machine, IMNVHO.

Of course, the Prosperity Gospel (Jim and Tammye Faye, 'member?) didn't hurt. All you had to do was get yourself a radio gospel show or a television gospel hour and you too could be rich and famous in the blessed name of ... some deity or other.

Sigh. Lambert, or maybe it was Atrios, used to use this stock phrase, "Ready to be ruled!" to explain the (lack of) thought processes of the masses (pro-PATRIOT ACT masses, IIRC). I know it bothers lots of folks here to use the pejorative "sheeple," but I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people are ready to be fleeced.

Invoke some Gospel (or Prophet) and get money thrown at you for standin' up there foamin' at the mouth.

Yeesh.

At least George Strait stands up there and sings, and it's fun to listen to him. :)

James Morrow's picture
Submitted by James Morrow on

Anyone who insists that atheist arguments are guilty of "certainty" or "arrogance" is making a fundamental philosophical error. A reasoned and fearless decision to disbelieve somebody else's revelation is not itself a revelation. How could it be? If everything is a revelation, than nothing is a revelation.

Most Christians are roundly skeptical of leprechauns. This wholesale rejection of the Little People is rarely, if ever, predicated on angelic visitations, numinous encounters with Holy Writ, or personal experiences of the supernatural. Rather, atheism vis-à-vis leprechauns is a humble and mentally healthy reaction to an arbitrary metaphysical claim about how the world works.

The person of faith can, of course, argue that leprechauns do not enjoy the same ontological status as Allah, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, or the Virgin Mary, but the burden of proof is on the believer. In my experience, most believers prefer to assume the burden of bullying instead. C.S. Lewis taught them well.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Precisely the way atheists, who "arrogantly" speak truth to fable, are routinely treated.

When by me?

and you attempt to make them stick to me and others in these threads without ever tying them to any actual sins we've ostensibly committed.

I'll say this again. My complaints about atheists aren't about you, have never been about you. When have I said that they were ever about you? Apparently, this is your problem, is you keep thinking I'm talking about you.

Of late, virtually every time I write an atheism-themed post, you pounce in with deep concern about some mean atheists somewhere harshing the mellow. I guess it's just the sheerest coincidence (or a miracle, perhaps?), and none of your fretting about those random bad atheists is possibly intended to get me to STFU. Whatever was I thinking?

and you attempt to make them stick to me and others in these threads without ever tying them to any actual sins we've ostensibly committed.

I'll say this again. My complaints about atheists aren't about you, have never been about you. When have I said that they were ever about you? Apparently, this is your problem, is you keep thinking I'm talking about you. Hipparchia is the one who said you sounded like a fundamentalist, not me.

Same answer as above. Also, whether or not you explicitly played the "atheists are fundies, too" card in this exchange, the song remains the same -- and it's so familiar, and so unjustified. "Just as bad..." etc., etc..

about "some" uppity atheists somewhere,

And I responded in the last thread, which you quoted from above, with a detailed list of athiests, and instances of disrespect.

A link to that list might be handy when you bring up the troubling "some," and in any case Ian's post called all atheists arrogant, not just those on your list. Were you troubled by that? Did his title reflect a, y'know, lack of empathy?

you weave the false and disparaging implication that atheists are inclined to insult the whole person in religious debates,

"Some" athiests are inclined to do this, like the ones on reddit, that Ian talked about. I've never seen you do it, so, as before, the shoe doesn't fit, VL, stop trying to wear it.

I would stop trying to wear it, if you'd stop opening the shoe box and laying it at my feet. Feel free to make your own posts about how one of life's significant problems is that the maligned and marginalized atheist minority is disturbingly strident.

Also, you never answer the question about how much religious bull we're supposed to eat, and how, in order to prove our basic humaneness.

I've never said you should eat it, I just don't understand the relevance of proving them wrong in this case. But, mainly because I don't expect people to be purists to be allies, I could careless about the validity or factuality of their religious beliefs. I don't expect religious beliefs to be valid or factual. What I do expect is that they be private, and imposed upon no one. As long as your beliefs fall into those last two categories, what does the rest matter?

In which case? The case when someone writes that atheists are arrogant? In the case where the country is in the sway of politicos who incessantly grandstand on and about religion at every turn? Please do tell me the case in which pushing back on the primacy that religious "moral values" are given in this country, and on the disrepute in which atheists are held for oh-so-distressingly admitting that religion is poppycock.

uppity atheists embarrass you,

No they concern me. The image of the arrogant atheist fits into the media narrative, and allows atheism to be dismissed, which will only perpetuate the oppression of atheists. Allow me to draw another parallel. When the media narrative about abortion, was only about loose women with no morals, abortion was very restricted. But as the women who had actually had abortions came forward to acknowledge it, the narrative had to change, because you could see it just wasn't about loose women with no morals.

So the media narrative has to change, and that won't happen as long as people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Maher, are the public face of atheism. Because they are arrogant.

So, outspoken atheists -- what with their slutlike qualities and all -- are poor role models? Is it OK for me to be "upset" yet?

because religion is one mellow you evidently feel shouldn't be harshed with too much inconvenient truth.

No, I just don't believe that they have to be harshed, to find an ally in secularism.

If you're trying to be a salesperson for secularism, you might be in the wrong line of work.

Me, I'm not looking for allies, converts, etc. I blog in order to speak what I see as the truth. It's nice if some agree, and sure, kinda cool if some come to agree. But I'm not a salesman. Not my job.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

First of all, I did leave a link, but I really didn't think it was necessary, b/c I'd answered that question before, which is why I ignored the request, because you already knew my answer.

and none of your fretting about those random bad atheists is possibly intended to get me to STFU

No, actually, it was to talk with you about atheism, and to talk to you about the problems I see, and how it could be more effective in advocating for things we both want. But apparently, I've been barking up the wrong tree with that, and will do as lambert suggested, and give the subject a wide berth.

So, outspoken atheists -- what with their slutlike qualities and all -- are poor role models?

Firstly, the two comments highlighted above that, are from two seperate responses, and the way you typed, it looks like I said it that way, which is a misrepresentation of what I said, especially when you add in that snarky response, as I am attempting some type of slut shaming, and is a low tactic, IMO.

Now, to actually address what you said, are you actually arguing that advocates don't matter? Because I talked about them being bad advocates, not role models. And there is a difference.

And the sky is green comment, was made precisely because you proceeded to deny an argument that we'd already hashed out, I thought. I argued that some atheists, especially the public "representatives" the media allows, are arrogant assholes, and you said "Nuh-Uh!". So, hence the sky blue/green reference. It had nothing to do with atheism, just you telling me to stop believing my lying eyes.

Anyways, its obvious to me that neither of us is engaging in the conversation the other wishes to have so I will just drop it here.

Submitted by lambert on

Aeryl writes:

My only insistence is that specific atheists, like VL, stop trying to convince people like me, that the sky is green, when I say it's blue.

Aeryl writes:

I argued that some atheists, especially the public "representatives" the media allows, are arrogant assholes, and you said "Nuh-Uh!". So, hence the sky blue/green reference. It had nothing to do with atheism, just you telling me to stop believing my lying eyes.

Uh huh. The metaphor has nothing to do with the main subject of the thread whatever. Check. Wev.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

One can dress it up and rope-a-dope it all day long, but all this pearl-clutching is a manifestation of being appalled at atheists having an uncomfortably overwhelming case against society's "spiritual" Shibboleths. It's just not proper to make nice people feel so wrong. Just like it wasn't proper for the DFHs to show up the Serious Patriots about the Iraq War, and just like it wasn't proper to challenge the Hope Officers about the truthiness and low-blows that defined the 2008 Primaries.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

And this really isn't an attempt to get the last word, just a quick response.

but all this pearl-clutching is a manifestation of being appalled at atheists having an uncomfortably overwhelming case against society's "spiritual" Shibboleths

No, it isn't, but you are going to believe what you want to believe, no matter how many times I try and explain my motives. I support the case against society's "spiritual" Shibboleths, I just think most atheists go about making their case in the wrong way. Me, I think you catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar, and people are more likely to listen to your case respect and sympathy, instead of disrespect and condescension. It seems apparent to me though, that you don't agree with my opinion that advocates like Dawkins, Hitchens, or Maher, do more harm than good. You are of course entitled to that opinion, so we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

But, as you said, obviously we have different goals in mind, so trying to come to some kind of meeting of the minds is obviously futile.

Submitted by lambert on

From the very start of the thread:

... I imagine part of this arrogance comes from defensiveness...

So, the "catch more flies with honey" doesn't apply to atheists then? Check.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I said that very line, and then related an instance where I myself have fallen victim to the very arrogance and defensiveness I was referring, I though it was pretty fucking clear that I wasn't denigrating or disrespecting anyone when I said that, but instead attempting to be sympathetic, and demonstrating that it was a totally rational and understandable human reaction to a situation.

But apparently not.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Speaking truth to supernatural power is still "vinegar" and "disrespect."

After millennia of silence (enforced by intimidation delivered with white-glove gentility or via bare-knuckled fist), the advent of outspoken atheists is still troubling.

And, dollars to donuts, future posts about atheism will be met with well-meaning brushback pitches not at all aimed at me. Because the atheist is always wrong.

Oh, and thanks for the suggestion that I needn't reply.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

You'd hoped it would be your closing. I just wanted you to understand that I wasn't trying to drag this out, and keep you responding. But you seem to be reading all kinds of alterior motives for whatever it is I do, so have at.

Like I said, we have different goals. You are more concerned about speaking truth to some supernatural power, I am more concerned with gaining allies, so believers of those supernatural power will lose power in this country. YMMV.

I've also expressed support for atheists before, so I don't know where you get your idea that I'm afraid of the big bad atheist, but wev.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

the pervasive tendency to wring one's hands (I'm sure Sarah will let me know what's offensive about that trope) over the worrisome rudeness of atheists, people who have been told for eons to STFU for being right -- as one might put it, for saying that the sky is blue and not green.

The incessant carping one hears about how over-the-top Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. are, when they're finally establishing a beachhead of visibility about the farce that is religion, seems oppressively genteel (now I'm really in trouble with Sarah) to me.

If prominent atheists were shouting "burn, baby, burn," I wouldn't think a plea for minimal civility was so out of line.

But the threshold at which atheist outspoken-ness is held to be a significant problem — and routinely conflated with "militancy" — falls far short of that, and it all reminds me of the pleas for Dr. King not to be so disruptively strident.

Note: I don't mean to compare Mssrs. Dawkins or Hitchens to MLK. I'm merely noting that people who are on the right side of an issue are often treated as over-reacting troublemakers.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

right on.

Here's the deal, as I see it:

Genteel is like politesse. Extraordinary, instead of commonplace.

Oppressed is NOT in the eye (or angst) of the beholder, all too often. To use a sexist metaphor, we're too used to having to keep a stiff upper lip lest we be perceived as hysterical.

There was a great scene in Barney Miller where the captain asks the (famously atheist) detective, "What'll you say on Judgment day if you're wrong," and the detective replied, "Wups?"

I have a theory. People reinvent God to suit themselves, at varying times and in varying circumstances. I don't so much take issue with the existence of God as I do with the ... "fan" status of God, if you get my drift. I mean, seriously, the hole in the roof at Texas Stadium is so God can watch teh Cowboys play? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. And I'm Chuck Norris's stunt double. (I do have the same model truck they used to use for stunts on Walker, btw). It follows logically that if the outcome of a sporting event isn't a matter for cosmic intervention (unless of course that's the most unimaginably capricious cosmic intervenor ) it's pretty useless to set God up as the reason for / arbiter of the outcome of war, no?

Yet we not only use God that way, we use God as the justification for all sorts of horror (I firmly believe that Christian Scientists have deliberately refused to see the possibility that the development of medicine is God's way of answering prayers for the ill and injured).

It's this "God's Will" or "divine justice" or "Scriptural demand" I find at the back of horror after injustice on top of criminality I can't fathom. Leading me to think "wups?" is going to be a pretty damn unsatisfactory response, if it comes to that. Whether or not it'll come to that, quien sabe?

In a somewhat related matter, the Texas Senate has blocked Rick Perry's nominee for the SBOE chair -- which may actually mean the eventual head of the State Board of Education is worse, since Perry now has to appoint somebody and it'll be 2011 before the Lege meets again (unless there's a special session, and if Perry calls one over an SBOE nominee he Kay Bailey's guarandamnteed to be the next governor).

Meanwhile ... just as I don't hold your outdoor plumbing against you as a reason to doubt your fairness -- please don't hold my faith or lack thereof against me.

Is that fair?

Submitted by lambert on

It's a well known trope in the blogosphere -- generally, after one clutches ones pearls, one heads for the fainting couch. But perhaps it should be abandoned.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

or so it seems to me, since if we're to be better than PB 1.0, we should be better.

Not lazy.

Not lazy means not taking for granted that the derogatory terms we do use are free of unintentional insult, right?

Submitted by lambert on

Just because a point made in an argument has tactical significance, and isn't equal to other valid points that might be made, does not render it invalid.

It's really exactly like "Broderella," which is meant to demean by feminizing (I think).

So, I'm going to abandon that, as well as the ones that Sarah points out, even though they're entirely orthogonal to the discussion.

Submitted by lambert on

Then again, from right in the beginning of the thread:

... it's hard being an atheist in a world full of believers. And I would pull the arrogant defensive act, so sure that I was right that it didn't matter what they thought.

Though perhaps that's attributing motive, but the process of discernment through... let's say telepathy seems identical to me.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Reacting in a rational manor, isn't a bad motive last time I checked.

And also talking about atheists as a group, and their possible motives, is different than attributing a motive to an individual, especially one you've "known"(as well as one can know someone over the internet) for awhile.