If you have "no place to go," come here!

From the Dept of "I'd Rather Be...," Atheism Rulz Ed.

chicago dyke's picture

Grandpa probably had a million sayings that sum up my feelings about a tossaway line in this post. "I'd rather be dead than a slave," and "shit or get off the pot," and "god hates cowardice" come to mind. I suppose I understand some of the arguments in favor of agnosticism over atheism (or belief), but they've never held my attention for too long, except for one (I just don't care). But if you do care about "the religion question" and you do think it's important to be informed and accurate, this kind of shit has got to stop:

As I've said, I'm not a huge fan of Dawkins' work in this field but the difference between writing mean books and killing people is pretty clear.

Any excuse to kick a proud, public atheist to score those 'moderate' and 'Serious' beltway creds, eh Matt? I don't know what else he's said about Dawkins, or if he's read his work, but one of Matt's readers sums it up perfectly:

Matt, you couldn't be more off-base about Dawkins. He is committed to rationalism and free thought. To say he is "mean" is like saying scientists are "mean" for teaching evolution and not creationism. You may think you are being a big, inclusive liberal by attacking those who are so mean as to point out facts, but you are just letting the fringiest of the nutcases dictate the debate.

I liked this one too,

Yeah, what do you have against Dawkins? Why do you feel compelled to issue the disclaimer? Dawkins doesn't want to ban anything, he just wants to persuade people by means of reason. Religious people get offended when atheists dare to point out the absurdity of religious belief, but they think it's perfectly okay to for them to proselytize.
I don't know if you're religious or not, but show some courage -- you don't have to distance yourself from Richard Dawkins in order to decry the idiocy of the "Reverend" Gomes (who I do not revere).

One of the reasons I'm so militant about my atheism is because I realize how many people will never pass up a chance to shit on me because of it, and rather than be passive about that I'd rather force people to do so admittedly and recognize that I am not in fear of them. I know that even some "progressive" people are deeply afraid of the idea that I have the same right as Hucksterbee to bring my perspective into the public square. That is one of the bigger weaknesses of our side; we've still not unlearned the habit of needing someone to blame, to pick on when things get tough, to distract us from the real solutions to all our problems. So atheists still sit in the back of the progressive bus.

Anyway, I just wanted to express my disgust with yet another important writer failing to be truly progressive on a crucial issue. Go ahead, be intellectually lazy and cowardly if you want, that mushy middle is a warm and soft place. But brave people know, there really is a War on Christmas, and if you're going to take part in it, you've got to choose a side. Otherwise, your contribution isn't really meaningful.

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vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

the atheist is always wrong.

In part I, I quibble with the term "militant atheist," but I understand that some embrace it as a badge of being hardcore, and I don't knock you/them for it.

But when others apply it to the Dawkinses, et al., it's part of the mentality that Yglesias is exhibiting (and you're properly calling him out for), that any sort of outspoken atheism is ultimately rather gauche, and something to be apologized for.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

of sports. but that's not the world i live in. some people in this country want me dead, jailed, or both for my beliefs. that's as close to a declaration of war as i'm going to get. so i proudly embrace the term "militant," because the motherfuckers won't let me be a self-absorbed ntodd pacifist. i'm all for 'live and let live,' but noooooo. i have to work to defeat an insane theocrat from taking control of the fucking formerly free world. one after another.

so yeah, i don't object to the term. for the same reasons, you may name me a "militant" feminist, civil rights advocate, and gay rights activist.

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

If you speak out for reason and science you crush baby Jesus. If you crush baby Jesus the Romans don't get to hammer nails into god's flesh. If you don't hammer nails into god's flesh there can be no rapprochement between the created and the creator. If there is nothing between the created and the creator then we are all one with each other, and that would cut into profits, yes?


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Do I have to be a Hitchens fan, too? I think Dawkins is mean. I haven't read The God Delusion, because I find his genetics popularizations counterproductive. Holding a university chair to write science for lay audiences, he produced The Selfish Gene. As a writer he has to know that most scientific laypeople are going to think that means that there's a gene that makes you selfish. Along with Pinker, his writing suggests that sexual hierarchy and rather violent competition are encoded in our genes, and justifies "Economic Man". I don't find that to be disinterested rationalism.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on


you admit you haven't read his work (or all of it, or that under discussion). so what, specifically, do you object to, in Dawkins' argument?

nothing less will suffice for this thread. all else is name calling, purient and juvenile posturing. lay out logically and clearly, and describe in rational, not-ideological terms, where Dawkins fails for you, and how, in this context. the question is: is religion valid in public discourse about common public policy? yes or no? it's really that easy.

indeed, it's an easy, simple case to do so with Hucksterbee. or Mitt. or any of them. can you say the same, as you attempt to reduce the force of dropping Dawkins' name? i don't think so. prove me wrong. with links, eff U plz. elsewise, i must insist you treat dawkins as "politically irrelevant" as you do huckster or mitt. or any of them.

Submitted by lambert on

... where disagreement is considered "personal" or even, horror of horrors, "mean." I suspect it's authoritarian in nature, since if everyone just agreed with the Paster, there would be no disagreement, or meth, or gay hookers, or anything like that, not that there's anything wrong with those things.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

I call you my kinda person.

And if folks don't understand or don't want to understand why a person might get all 'militant' about....oh, other folks saying that they ought to be jailed or whipped or maybe even stoned to death simply because of who they are....

I say, 'Shut the fuck up, pal. Get out of the way and let the forces of justice and light deal with this. If there was a 'god' he/she'd certainly not want to claim you as one of his/her 'creations'.'

The time for appeasement, for accommodation. for negotiation is over.

It's time to fight.

It's time to assert every human's absolute right to be as he/she is.

Free from fear for whatever reason.

No other state of affairs is acceptable.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

But that's what i am. Got nothing against an atheist except for that uncomfortable fact that to claim to know that there is no "God" is as unprovable as the opposite.

I don't believe in Jehovah, that's for sure. Doesn't mean I can prove He doesn't exist. I sure hope He doesn't because by all accounts He is a mean and sadistic fuck of peculiar reproductive habits and a damn sick sense of humor. I don't believe in Allah either (see reasons under "Jehovah") or Odin or Zeus or Brahma or any of the other tribal deities largely, I suppose, because as a cultural outsider I can see their stories more clearly as metaphor and social organizing force than might someone who grew up in a culture where they were taken for granted.

Jesus would be more plausible if he weren't tacked on to Jehovah. It's so hard to deconstruct what he really said from what was tacked on later to make his teachings more acceptable to the social groups of the time--Jewish Messiah? Fulfiller of the Law? Overturner of the Law and establisher of the New Covenant? --beats the fuck out of me what he was really trying to get across.

And Buddha doesn't count although he's the only historical one of the lot. Didn't claim to be divine though, which is a point in his favor.

It would in some ways I guess be nice to think that we will be let in on the secret after we die. Why exactly it has to be set up that way on the other hand seems like a damn dirty trick.

Otherwise my grandmother at age 102 would not on her deathbed have felt the need to ask me "Do you think there's anything to that Jesus stuff or not?" after having been preaching it gently to me for our entire lives together. Anybody who would torment a sweet old lady like that is just a rat bastard who should go to hell and die, dammit.

I was floored by the question though. I wanted desperately to say "You'll know if it's true or not a lot sooner than I will, try and let me know would ya?" but it seemed excessively flippant.

So I flapped my lips for a minute and finally babbled something like "You've lived by it your whole life so you might as well stick by it". What I wanted to say was "if there's a Heaven or a Good Place that good people go to, I know you're going there" and I hope that was what came across. She got a coughing fit about then and I think my sister came in and I basically fled.

Talking to the dying is hard. Mostly because the presence of Death in the room trips every fear circuit in your own (presumably non-dying-at-least-in-the-immediate-future) head, but also fear of making things worse for the dying one. I do blame religion for that, I must admit. Ceasing to be is depressing enough, but the prospect of an eternity of agony, which you might be scheduled for despite all your best efforts and rule-following, is just--how did I put it before? the work of a sadistic fuck with a damn sick sense of humor.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Buddha doesn’t count although he’s the only historical one of the lot

You are aware, of course, that there are Buddhist sects that deny the historical existence of Buddha. Imagine a sect of any Abrahamic religion asserting that!

Excuse me now -- that last sentence has set my untamable mind to singing a particular John Lennon song. Gotta go listen to some Devo so's to get it outta my head. ... Ah! "Shrivel Up" ... that oughta do it.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

a "sect" of denying jews, that is. religions come in all forms, including those that assert the strangest things...

xan, bless you. no, i mean that. as in, "good people name you as brave and full of grace." people can and should claim and apply "divine" traits, i do believe in elevated states of humanity. as in your example.

i just told Death to sit down, take a break for a while, and have a cup of decaf. he's been hanging around here a little too much lately.

and i'm sorry, but of all the religions i don't believe, the hell ones are at the top of the list. i have *NO* fear of going to hell, burning forever, etc. that stuff is just silly. if there is anything for our consciousness after the extinction of the physical form, it's not that. i laugh at people who tell me i'm going there, deep full belly laughs of contempt and arrogance and confidence. your grandmother isn't there, you aren't going there, no one is "there."

as for the suckitude of the end of living, "being" as you say, feh. asimov has it right. "it won't matter when i'm dead because i won't know, feel, be." that includes knowing, fearing or feeling things like death, pain, sorrow, loss. all those are states of being, and if you're not- you can't be in them. i will give them this- those religions that teach, "just let it all go, dood" have it right. the hard part of dying is letting go. because we don't want to let go of the good things, and some of us even don't want to let go of the bad. but when you can, fear is less of a factor.

myself, i fear pain more than death. having stepped outside of the universe of believers, all that stuff doesn't compel me now. and not because i don't think about dying. but i do think about suffering too, and that seems a much worse prospect at the end of life.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Over the past few years I've been emotionally involved in the deaths of one dear man who died at 93, and 3 dear cats. As well, currently my father-in-law's life is drawing rapidly to a close.

Of the humans: my friend was an internationally successful musician whose heyday was the late '50's and who experienced a nostalgic comeback, complete with some handsome royalty checks, during the turn-of-century years. I witnessed his gradual decline and death over a period of the 8 years that i got to know him well. While his body gradually failed, his mind was clear to the end, -- even the day before, he was still making musician- and death-jokes and smiling at his friends. His daughter told me he passed away without showing any anxiety or regret.

My father-in-law has been in a convalescent home for the past few years. During the past few weeks, his cancer spread to the point that his prognosis is that he will pass away very shortly. At this point he's made it rudely and abundantly clear that from now on he doesn't welcome any visitors, not even his own children and wife. He just wants to be left alone to die.

Our first cat died at the age of 18 after a long bout with cancer. He seemingly actually waited a few days until his whole human family was able to gather around him, to show their love for him one last time.

Our second sweet cat's death was more of what the common wisdom says: she went to a dark spot and chose to die quietly.

Our third dear cat suddenly died within a 3-day period, before which she seemed in good health. She fought its pain and inevitability. Finally she seemed to accept it, relaxing as I kept her warm and close to my heart for her last hour on Earth.

In all, it really looks as if each dying soul, at the point of no return, decides how they will die in a highly personal manner. I can't draw any conclusions about the dying process other than this. Oh yes, one more thing: none of the 5 bothered about the joy of entering heaven/the dread of entering hell.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Aw shucks, you nailed me! I read a post that cites approvingly the opinion that Dawkins is "committed to rationalism and free thought", and that seems to equate atheism with admiration for Dawkins. I really don't think I have to admire Dawkins to be an atheist. I'm really slow in my prurient posturing, so slow that I don't see anything in these posts that addresses the theist/atheist argument as an argument, nothing about what in Dawkins' argument is rational and logical. Just that he is. And then my reluctance to accept arguments from authority crawled out from under its rock. I've read several of his books, and my judgment is that he's good and accurate about many things, but he comes from a non-progressive perspective that he does not always fairly present, as the example from his work that I gave tried to explain. If the basic point is about important writers being progressive (which should apply to Dawkins as much as to Matt), then from my juvenile posture I tend to think that being leery of non-progressive perspectives is maybe relevant. You have pointed out my error.

I'd make comments about Hitchens as well, but I haven't read God is Not Great, so I'd just be engaging in more prurient posturing. He's probably committed to rationalism and free thought on all the matters he's written on that I haven't read, so I better not have an opinion based on the books of his that I have read.

Anyway, thanks for your advice.

Submitted by lambert on

Dawkins is "mean." Happy Holidays.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I give you the end of James Thurber's touching "Memorial."

The poodle kept her sight, her hearing, and her figure up to her quiet and dignified end. She knew that the Hand was upon her and she accepted it with a grave and unapprehensive resignation. This, her dark intelligent eyes seemed to be trying to tell me, is simply the closing of full circle, this is the flower that grows out of Beginning; this — not to make it too hard for you, friend — is as natural as eating the raspberries and raising the puppies and riding into the rain.

Submitted by lambert on

Especially the no heaven or hell part. Of course, death is full of surprises!

And how wonderful that now the days are growing lighter and longer. Even for those who are shut in, or even those who can't see, everything is subtly changing: Water dripping where there was snow, birds singing earlier, warmth on the windowpane or the bedspread.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan