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Sunday Atheism Blogging

chicago dyke's picture

I like Anthony, a lot. We often "speak" on the blogs we frequent; his own, others, etc. But this post made me lose my cookies. Here's the part that got my wafers in a bunch:

Observing the past thirty-five years, I have come to the conclusion that is one of the important factors in the failure of the left. Atheists and others who insist on the exclusion or minimization of the religious left, that is a huge problem. Put into purely practical terms, whatever passion vociferous, anti-religious people bring to the movement is dissipated by their insults and demanded exclusion of the far larger number of religious liberals. Religious liberals, in my experience, are over scrupulous in their observance of the feelings of anti-religious bigots, also dissipating the essential passion to move our agenda.

Anthony, my friend: you couldn't be more wrong.

How many people in this country know of Greta Christina? Less than .0000001% of the population, I'm guessing. How many people know that Pat Robertson and the Pope are blaming gays for hurricanes and earthquakes? A pretty large number, I'm betting. To assert that people like Greta (call me, Baby! I'm yours!) somehow influence religious liberals and their political participation is just ludicrous. Ahistorical. Stupid, even. Sorry to have to get harsh on you, Anthony, but the facts back me up.

I'm so sick and tired of religious pansies who can't stand the light of critique and reason and humor I could puke. Don't get me wrong: I love Real Christians. Like my BIL, who truly "prays in secret" and offers charity to loosers like me when we're in need. He's great, we have no problems and we've even had spirited, Civil discussions about faith and science. But I'll just say it right now: the problem is *not* the ~5% of us who are unabashed, vocal atheists. Sorry, that's blame I won't accept.

Where are the "liberal" xtians in Uganda? Where are the "liberal" xitans when it comes to horrorshows like The Family and the funhouse on C Street? Where are "liberal" xtians (and Jews, and Hindus, and Moslems, and Wiccans, etc.) when it comes to Obama putting an "ex" gay gawd talker on the campaign stage? I can go on. And on and on and on and on.

You know who I respect? Liberal Christians like Ntodd. He walks the walk, as well as talk. And he's never told me to shut up! Well, except when I told him to put on some pants and put down the dildo, but never mind that. But whining liberal Christians who think that atheists are driving away "good" xtians from politics? Sorry, that just pisses me off. I can't go into a church or house of worship. I'm not welcome there, and the people there won't listen to me. "Liberal" believers can, but they don't seem to be doing that, so much. And despite my constant mocking of belief, and advocacy of science and atheism over religion, I've only managed to "convert" one person to the "religion" of atheism, in my whole long life. And I know of no one, believer or otherwise, for whom politics has become abominable, simply on the basis of me making jokes about Jeebus.

If Anthony honestly believes people like me are driving away liberal religious folks from politics, he has to show me some proof. He thinks we're a "huge problem" so it shouldn't be hard. I'm waiting.

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HotPeach's picture
Submitted by HotPeach on

When asked my religious views, I like to answer "Foxhole Atheist". Saves time - Two birds etc.

Just thought I'd throw that into the mix in case it can help someone.

mojave_wolf's picture
Submitted by mojave_wolf on

because for some reason it doesn't work on my e-mail feeds and it's not one of the very few blogs I make the time to actually go to the site unless someone links there, but . . .

In this, at least, you are right and he is nuts. The visible political left (elected politicians and leftist pundits who get on TV or are widely syndicated) mostly goes out of their way to pander to religious conservatives, with the result that leftist Christians and people like myself who aren't Christians but do consider ourselves some variety or another of spiritual are basically disappeared (along with actual atheists, who as you said are a tiny # of people in the US).

I'd say by far the bigger problem for the relatively liberal politicians in the US is that the general public very accurately perceives them to be spineless wimps who are too gutless to stand by their actual beliefs, whatever they may be (and due to said gutlessness, we have to do a lot of guesswork here). The last thing they need to do is pander more to the mostly conservative religious organizations. If they wanted to go out and praise the Episcopalians or make lots of speeches about Christian environmentalism or Christians for Choice (some such group must exist, right?) or Christians involved in bi/gay/straight alliances as a counterpoint to the Southern Baptists and such, I'm very certain people who are some degree of agnostic/pantheistic/whatever like me and most likely actual atheists who are even a tiny bit less committed than Richard Dawkins (who I do find off-putting in some of his rhetoric, but shit, where is the politician taking cues from Dawkins? Off-putting or not that would actually be refreshing) would all be cheering this.

The religious left isn't disappeared because of atheists, it's because left wing politicians appear to be singularly incompetent when it comes to strategy & tactics. (I agree w/Greenwald and various people here that some of this is staged, but that's mostly economics and civil liberties; I think their failure on social issues is mostly --not entirely, but mostly -- genuine incompetence. One frequently wonders if they are employing Republican advisors and pollsters without knowing it.)

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

I have to agree with Sara Robinson about this, and frankly, I think Robinson has a much better understanding of the horrendous wrong-wing shit storm that's brewing than you do. What's coming is something in which you cannot afford to alienate people who would otherwise be on your side.

The Futurist Weighs In, Part II: The Things We Leave Behind
. . . the Supreme Court effectively turned every level of government in America over to the corporations, declaring that we are now -- at least by FDR's definition -- a fascist state. Thirty years of planning and plotting on the part of the Federalist Society had finally paid off. We now live in a country where fictitious artificial persons outrank actual flesh-and-blood people in every way that matters. That judicial overreach (let us, please, never be subjected to the phrase "activist liberal judges" again) has unleashed a storm of small-d democratic fury. This time, they went too damned far.

Underneath all this din, you could hear it: that unmistakeable loud click, the rumble, the shuddering of history under our feet -- that sense that the past as we knew it on New Year's Day (let alone a year ago on Inauguration Day) is suddenly impossibly far behind us, and our noses are now smooshed up flat against the cold hardness of a new, unyielding, and far more brutal reality. The future we have feared for so long is finally here. There's no need to imagine the worst any more. What we need to do now is deal with it.

Being progressive in the Second Year of Obama is going to mean something very different than it did even just a few weeks ago. We're in a whole new territory now, and the maps we've been using since the 1960s don't even begin to match the new terrain we're now wandering in. In particular, there are several key assumptions that have been central to progressivism in the past that we should seriously consider leaving by the trailside before we head out into this new wilderness. They have served us well in the past; but now, they're just old baggage that will bog us down. Here are ten cherished progressive beliefs that we need to let go of if we're going to deal with what's ahead.

8. Religion is dead, and not an issue we need to deal with.

Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris and a century of secularization notwithstanding, religion is not going away any time soon. The vast majority of Americans still make their political choices based on their religious ethics. Progressives have ignored this fact for 40 years, effectively ceding the whole subject of American morality and values to the conservatives. And the conservatives seized on that abdication as their main chance to remake the whole epistemological ground that America stands on.

As noted in #1, we've now lost that ground. And we the only way to re-take it is to meet them head-on, and attack their evangelical underpinnings with a new spiritual narrative of our own. Fortunately, as I've argued at length before, there's a stunningly rich 400-year-old tradition of American religious progressivism to drawn on here -- so we are hardly without resources. All we need now is the will and skill to tap that legacy, activate the memes (which are already part of the basic cognitive equipment for most Americans), and expressly put those values and ideas at the core of our movement.

The next decade, in particular, will be full of opportunity for both success and disaster on this front. In eras of big social, economic, and political upheaval, societies tend to become more religious. Transformative change always forces people back to their first principles, because these are the foundation on which a new future can be built. And religion also offers transcendent comfort in times when the world around us is too frightening to bear. So it's entirely likely that religion is about to become even more important to Americans than it's been in the recent past.

People will be looking for that comfort. If we can't offer it, the conservatives will.

As a final note, I find most atheists to be repulsively arrogant as well as intellectually dishonest. I'll let Ian Walsh make the argument for me:

The Arrogance of Atheism
. . . I find radical atheists almost as offensive as fundamentalists. (Almost, since they don’t tell other people how to live, they just sneer at other people for their beliefs). So let me respond to fire with fire, atheism is, ultimately, intellectually disreputable.

You cannot know with certainty that there is no god, in the sense of a creator of the universe, for example. It is impossible. You can assert that it is unnecessary, but that is not the same thing as impossible. Certainly you can say “there’s no reason to believe God created the universe in 7 days, 4,000 odd years ago”, but who cares? If Biblical literacy is your target, it’s just about shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it?

The fact is that we don’t know. Arguably, we can’t know. We can say “God as described literally in the bible cannot exist”, but we cannot say “God does not exist”.

Which is why, at the end of the day, I stick with agnosticism. I don’t know if there’s a god, or an afterlife, or a soul. (I have opinions, but I am aware they are opinions, not facts). As such I know that I don’t know, and I don’t presume to tell people that I do know. I don’t dismiss out of hand, say, children born speaking languages they have no exposure to, or near-death experiences, or mystical experiences. At the same time, I know there may be a simple materialistic explanation for them.

Likewise I remember always that there’s no reason for anything to exist, that the biggest absurdity of existence is existence. Humbled by this fact, I feel no need to spout off and say “I KNOW”.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"I find most atheists to be repulsively arrogant."

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

and i'm sorry, but i don't agree with you, nor sarah. and if religious people "take comfort" in conservative religions, are you telling me that's a good thing? what you want? that you will work with those people? really, over sensitive religious people who are intolerant of atheists is about the world's most tired meme, second to men bitching about how the woman/boy they desire most won't sleep with them. zzzz.

please keep in mind: conservative religious people want to kill me. how in the fuck do you expect me to work with them? to be tolerant of them? they also believe people from other religions are doing to burn in hell/targna/whatever for the rest of eternity. am i arrogant for saying that? if so, well, too bad.

getting back to div school, yes, i can say, "i know." just like you do, for all but the religion of your choice. do you accept that "god" is shiva dancing on the burning ground for all eternity? that god is the great spirit who formed the earth out of the body of a slain giant during the cosmic ice ages? that the goddess gave birth to herself and created all life from her sense of love for herself? i can go on and on. i know those stories, and 000s more, to be colorful expressions of human imagination, just like i know science fiction is, you know, fiction. i'm a pretty good writer, and i could invent a religion right now, and spend the rest of my days writing about it on the internet. who knows, maybe it would catch on in 1000 years. that still wouldn't make it "true."

try to be a little less sensitive. ian is a friend of mine, and i know what he thinks of me. he's never, ever called me "arrogant" for being a militant atheist. i also suggest you study the history of the religion of your choice. learn the original language and political history of its authors. it will open your eyes. and again, reaching out to religious liberals isn't my job, it's yours. so how's that going? how many people who are religious liberals have you convinced on the basis of your common faith, to become more politically active? or have you just convinced them that "that stupid, arrogant atheist bitch is going to DIE!!!! someday?" btw, you will too, and jeebus won't be there to greet you. worms will. but you won't care, because YOU'LL BE DEAD! /silly atheist arrogance/

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

garden? Or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I'm a simple-minded person, but it seems to me that asking hypotheticals about the existence of god(s) can only lead down a path of ever-increasing absurdities. OTOH, I'm not one to run roughshod over how other people think/believe (see, CHOICE is a big concept with me), and to characterize atheists as "offensive","repulsively arrogant" (I can see the faces of many so-called "Christians" there), and "intellectually dishonest/disreputable" (I can't even control myself here, will leave it to others) is just breathtakingly OFFENSIVE TO ME. If one just casually peruses the MCM for ONE day, you can find unbelievable numbers of religious slurs, racism, misogyny, all in the name of religion, whereas look for "the atheists" point of view..not so much.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

from her "atheist meme of the day" facebook project:

"We don't know anything for sure, therefore it's reasonable to believe in religion" is a terrible argument. Even though we can almost never have certain knowledge, we can still evaluate evidence and make reasonable conclusions about what's probably true. And there's no good evidence suggesting that any religion is probable, or even plausible.

simple, clear, and correct. i don't "know" the sun is in the sky, having never been that far out in space, but i can make a reasonable assumption that it is there, based on my experience every morning for the whole of my life waking up to it. jeebus, not so much.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

edited because i found the post again, after it disappeared for a while. man my intertubes are funky today. now i can't make the comments to the his post load. jeebus krist Echo blows goats.

Submitted by lambert on


At the top, somebody says "above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!". At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says "they have discussed it".

Don't know what to do with this hardy perennial, obviously. Neither the idea that we should throw the militant atheists over the side because they might get the rest of is killed, nor the idea of an irreligious test appeal to me.

For me, the only religions or near-religions that make sense are Buddhism (no God at all) and A.A. (higher power). I like both because there's no notion of transcendance. Maybe I should just stick to stuffing envelopes and not making statements about matters that are obviously beyond my competence?

It would sure be nice if the religious could accept that athiests can do God's work, and if the atheists could regard prayer as a form of rhetoric, if if both could agree to allow prayer on ceremonial occasions. Render unto Caesar and alll that.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

Buddhism gets a pass from western liberals because it's "different" but when you study it as a tradition, there's plenty not to like there too. esp if you're a woman. and let's not forget that Buddhists like to kill each other for being of different sects just as much as monotheists do. cf southeast asia.

AA annoys the crap out of me, mostly because a lot of its philosophy mirrors Protestant guilt-based theology of the 18th and 19th centuries. it's useless to drunks like me for this reason. i can't go to an AA meeting without thinking of Calvanism or the "protestent work ethic." blech. the only "higher power" i know is real is when i load my bowl with some fabulous green pot.

Submitted by lambert on

Did I say they didn't have problems? Everything on this thread, the atheist position without exception, has problems.

However, my point was that there didn't seem to be a way to include me no matter to which "side" I turned.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

just had to put my two cents in about the Buddha and AA. we're cool.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... that God is a fiction.

I suppose the problem with that is that a numinous teapot in space or a paternal plate of pasta might, in fact, be a deity, but I still like the odds.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

So, I'll spell it out very bluntly, and as directly as I can.

The Supreme Court ruling sets the United States irretrievably down the path to fascism. You don't quite grasp that fact yet, but, well, it'll grasp you soon enough.

I rather doubt that Obama will win a second term. It's possible, but given that he and his team do not understand that the economic fundamentals need to be radically altered in order to save the middle class, there will be no respite from worsening economic crises. In fact, Obama and his team do not even understand that the working class has already been destroyed, let alone how it was destroyed. Sadly, the same can be said for many so-called progressives. This, however, is a point that many on the wrong wing understand; in fact, it is what is motivating many of them. Of course, their understanding of the causes is all fucked up.

Right now, the Democratic Party faces a Faustian bargain. It can continue to ignore the populist revolt caused by the economic collapse in order to ensure the continued inflow from Wall Street of the funds the Democratic Party needs to run political campaigns. In doing so, it loses any chance of controlling, directing, or harnessing the populist revolt. Or, the Democratic Party can try to "go with the flow" of the populist revolt. This choice, however, will cause an alienation of the financial flows from Wall Street. That is, in fact, what is already beginning to happen.

Whether Obama wins a second term or not, without a fundamental restructuring of the economic order, what follows Obama is almost certainly a political movement driven by a very nasty and brutal wrong-wing reaction against him. Already, the wrong-wing is rapidly climbing the learning curve of organized violence. We are the targets.

Yes, you and I will be hunted down and slain like dogs. In those circumstances, what is my life-or-death calculus? I can choose to side with those, like you, who sneer at the beliefs of some four fifths of Americans while abjectly failing to foresee and prepare for the new wrong wing terror regime. The simple fact that you have this diary with the title it does tells me you just don't understand that.

Or I can choose to side with those who sneer at people like you, and misunderstand the causes of the economic collapse, but at least have the correct gut feeling about the economic collapse and might, just might, be persuaded to at least attack and destroy the financial oligarchy of Wall Street. Oh, and the second side outnumbers you about five or six to one.

Helping people like you avoid being killed does not do much one way or another in assuring the survival of humanity. If I take you into my home and hide you, and you start spouting the atheism stuff, that is surely going to impact my decision on harboring the next person. On the other hand, somehow stopping the financial oligarchy is absolutely essential to assuring the survival of humanity.

It's a brutal calculus, but there it is. Maybe somehow we'll all luck out and the shitstorm won't come down the way I see it.

I hope at some point you'll calm down enough to even check out Sara Robinson's other nine points.

Submitted by lambert on

In my book, Sara Robinson is a "progressive" policy entrepreneur who got Obama really, really wrong. Is there any source on this we can trust?

I understand what you're saying. In my neck of the woods, I'm not seeing it.

UPDATE Amending, in two ways: (1) I think the career "progressives" would throw me over the side in a heartbeat. That's the message of 2008. No hope there. (2) I thought of the scenario, just now. Thanks for that. Not. Here it is: Right now, the "tea party" stuff is top down (via FOX) and bottom up (inchoate populism). If and when corrupt local oligarchies channel connect the two -- and, since the economy right now is based on rent seeking behavior, there's no such thing as a local oligarchy that isn't corrupt, or on the way there -- you've it "happening here." Ick.

Submitted by windy on

how do you know that someone who has been known to sneer and spout about the "wrong wing" won't be as dangerous to associate with as an atheist? What makes you such a prize?

Submitted by lambert on

I think windy meant to put scare quotes around "dangerous", and making a "what's sauce for the goose" argument.

Submitted by windy on

sorry if it didn't come across well.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

Umm, I'm not sure what "it" is referring to. If it refers to a rising and / or strengthening wrong-wing populist revolt, then stay where you are. I'm in North Carolina. I have not seen any overt signs of militias, but there have been tea bagger rallies. But what really unnerves me are the snippets of conversation I overhear. On Friday I walked into a back office to pay a bill, and two guys were going on and on about Obama making things worse. And I'm starting to get push back from people I persuaded to vote for Obama. Like, "Well, your boy's not really changing things, now, is he?" The wrong-wing memes are all bullshit, but they're being repeated enough by the dittohead media that they're working.

I remember back when Obama was first elected, there was this euphoria on the progressive blogs, which appalled me. There were a lot of people who thought the wrong-wingers would crawl into a hole to lick their wounds and disappear, and we could all march happily into a bright, new progressive future. I half-heartedly posted a few comments trying to remind people about how completely unhinged the wrong wing became under Clinton. Remember the various charges of Clinton murdered this guy, and Hillary had this guy killed. Remember Vince Foster? Remember Terry Nichols waving his fucking hand gun around in the air when he gave a speech? Well, I don't remember the madness then being as intense and as widely drum-beat propagandized as what's happening now.

Submitted by lambert on

... I can see the response (top controls) more easily.

* * *

"It" being, oh, a Richard Evans-like scenario here. You've read The Coming of the Third Reich?

Thing is, this is right (except for "boy"):

Well, your boy's not really changing things, now, is he?

Obama isn't. These guys are right. Not for me and not for anybody I know. Jobs, health, house. Basic Maslow's heirarchy stuff. Finance. All the way up to self-actualization stuff like rolling back Bush's authoritarian gains.

You might be interested in this and this by Stirling.

And see the UPDATE on my earlier response...

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

of incorrect memes. If these are people you had to convince to vote for Obama, then it sounds as if they had his number all along.

If it were a matter of taking on actually false memes, eg, Obama's a socialist, then your point makes a lot more sense.

Submitted by hipparchia on

probably a lot of people still associate atheism with the soviets and their radical persecution of anybody who practiced religion of any kind.

agree with you about buddhism: there's plenty not to like there too. esp if you're a woman.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

that must be nice.

You don't quite grasp that fact yet, but, well, it'll grasp you soon enough.

what in the hell did i say about the SCOTUS ruling you mention? um, nothing, not in this post. way to assume you know my mind without any reason to do so. btw, i do grok that, and have said so, many times. sorry you missed it. and for the record, i have a much more nuanced understanding of what that ruling means, and will impact, than your oversimplified scenario.

while abjectly failing to foresee and prepare for the new wrong wing terror regime.

i guess i missed the part when i explained to you what i'm doing to prepare for our "terror regime." why don't you tell me what you know about that, and how you know so much? i don't see your email addy or phone number in my rolodex, have you been spying on me?

I hope at some point you'll calm down enough to even check out Sara Robinson's other nine points.

i may not be high (sadly) but trust me when i say: i'm perfectly calm. you're the one spouting doomsday scenarios and making points that have nothing to do with the main thrust of this point, and claiming that i don't understand the problem with polemical, damning prose. get a grip, tony. and more importantly: address the central argument i'm making.

show me some proof that my atheism has driven away a liberal religious person from political activism. hint: you can't. you can insult me and change the subject all you like, but you still won't be able to change that fact.

Submitted by lambert on

Love ya, CD, but Tony's also a very fine poster whose work I respect. Je repete:


I would like this thread not to degenerate such that one or both of you stomps off, mkay? And I'll start by noting that both of you -- in fact, me too -- live in different parts of this humongous country, and so our experiences may be very, very different.

And I'd prefer "possible future" to "Doomsday scenario," thanks very much.

And but so I've got to go to bed.

Submitted by gmanedit on

So I'm chatting with a believer, on a nonreligious topic. No problem. I don't introduce religion.

What if they ask me what my church is? Or want a shared grace before a meal? Or invite me to be saved?

How far do I dissimulate?

Believe it or not, I have had good conversations about religion with believers, because I'm mild-mannered and charming. They were frustrated by my unbelief, because religion was good for them and they wanted to share its blessings. But as I explained, if I were to pick a religion, how would I know which to pick?

Don't ask me to endorse belief, and don't insult me for not believing.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

please provide proof that "atheists are the problem." what movement, what group, what policy, what politician, have atheists influenced, to the detriment of liberal religious people participating in politics?

still waiting.

Submitted by hipparchia on

my childhood public school education was sort of the opposite though, with religious-fundie teachers [and parents] always trying to slip creationism [and christianity in general] into the classroom and only the principal's repeated interventions with reminders about the separation of church and state kept it more or less under control.

about your comment below, your assertions that neither animals nor beings from other parts of the universe believe in divinity are absurd arguments since we don't really know whether animals or aliens have religious beliefs.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

And then I'm done, I've had this argument too many times.

Point A) Atheists have little to no power in this country, so they aren't the problem.

Point B) The Asshole Athiest is a person that every single religious/spiritual/believer liberal has come up against, especially online.

We have to reconcile this, if we are ever to move beyond lambert's illustration.

I've never quit my advocation or activism b/c of an asshole atheist, but I have left activist communities because of asshole atheists, just as I've left communities for irreconciliable misogyny, homophobia and racism. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The largest contingent of asshole atheists I've found tend to be those who feel superior for their lack of belief, which makes no sense to me, as one of thier biggest complaints tends to be the superiority believers lord over us heathens.

So to me, it becomes a question of opportunity cost. Is it worth alienating potential allies, to feel momentarily superior until you drive them away?(To be clear, I'm not saying that any atheists here are engaging in this behavior. This is one of the most tolerant communities I've ever found.)

There are many atheists who will say the marginalization believers have experienced from atheists, is nothing compared to the marginalization they've experienced from believers. Which is true, but this is also contigent upon many things. I've been told by Christians with a straight face that I'd be better off being an athiest in God's eyes, than a witch, because an atheist could just be misled or confused, but by being a witch I am acting in direct contradiction to God's orders. And I've met Christians who've said that they are glad I'm a witch, instead of an atheist, because at least then I acknowledge that there is a God(I don't, but that's a common misconception), which is better in their eyes.

So individual believers have to stop inferring massed political power from the behavior of individual atheists, especially in contexts where their words are given greater consideration(in open minded left circles) than they are in most contexts(where atheists are treated with sneering indifference, if not scorn.)

And atheists have to acknowledge that some atheists are more than willing to create toxic atmospheres where believers are made unwelcome, where adhering to non-believing orthodoxy is more important than building bridges. And at the same time, believers must acknowledge that atheists are entitled to their spaces, where believers perhaps aren't welcome and debate is not encouraged, just as feminists are entitled to their spaces where they aren't arguing with MRA's all day.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

I'm a Christian. I go to church every Sunday (Episcopalian), I'm doing the whole Lent thing, I even bake the communion bread, but I'm not a religious person. The Religious Right and some on the Left are religious people. They want everyone to know they are religious. They are the real Christians. They read the right bible. And most importantly, you can never disagree with them, or be offended by what they say or do, because everything they say and do, every position they hold, is shaped by their, um,faith. It's a very clever way to escape criticism and avoid self reflection. It's also total bullshit. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are religious people and the hypocrisy and hubris these two display can be astounding.

Anyway, I can't see embracing these types of people because they think very differently than almost everyone on the Left, and they are rigid in their opinions. One on the the Left could claim to be a deeply religious person over and over again, meaning church on Sunday's, involved in their Church, heck, a priest or pastor, but these people will never agree you are religious. So why try to be? Religious Christians treat their belief system like a freaking contest. I don't think the Left needs to embrace these folks or risk alienating them, they are already self-alienated. For my part, I find it alienating(and I imagine atheists do as well) when these people are embraced by the Left.

And, what is this "religious left" anyway?

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

From what I can garner, apparently, they exist in the same numbers as atheists..

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

but what the hell. (Or what the somewhat-hot-place-in-the-real-world.) Isn't some of this discussion based on a blurring between belief and reality? They're fundamentally different and have no overlap in terms of how they need to be approached.

Facts are important. They're what allow us to build bridges and cure AIDS. They're also just plain out there. You're not entitled to your own facts. You don't "believe" in facts any more than you believe in a light bulb. (This is one of my pet peeves about the language of "believing in" evolution or climate change. Those are based on fact. Discredit them if you can, but there's no question of belief either way.)

Beliefs, and all sorts of associated intangibles, are also important. Would anyone want to live in a world without love, friendship, or beauty? I doubt it. But none of them are facts. None of them can be proven. They're things we feel or believe and they make life worth living. You are entitled to your own beliefs.

And that's what's wrong with arguing about intangibles. It's a logical fallacy: You can never be another person and feel what they feel exactly the same way they do. If I tell you I like strawberries, you can't tell me that I don't. There's no way you could know that. The exact same logic is true about the much larger issue of God.

That's why it comes across wrong when somebody tells others what to believe. That's true of evangelicals spouting off about the one true God. It's also true of Dawkins telling people he knows there is no God so they have to see it too. Mind you, I sympathize some with Dawkins because I think what he's really saying is he's angry at the damage people do in the name of religion. But if that's what he means, that's what he should say. Telling people what they (should) feel is a fallacy no matter which side you're coming from. (The Dawkins thing bothered me when it happened.)

It seems to me that Wikrent is saying we should stop insulting potential allies by telling them what to believe. True. Not because we believe their beliefs are okay. Purely because we shouldn't be telling them anything about that.

It seems to me the Chicago Dyke is saying that people should stop framing her beliefs as some sort of Bad Thing. True. Again, not because they objectively are or aren't. Purely because they shouldn't be part of the discussion at all.

It isn't atheists or evangelicals who are the problem. It's telling people what to believe, and it is equally irritating to the other side regardless of which side it comes from. Rightly so. Since it's impossible to know what somebody else feels, all that's really being said is "My insight is better than your insight."

Now all we need to do is get Pat Robertson to twig to this....

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

afix their religious beliefs to their worldview, not necessarily the other way around. In other words, they are drawn to and conform to religions that adhere to what they already value. So, I get uncomfortable when people argue, ah, religion is the cause of all these wars or whatever, as though without no relgion there would be no war. It's a nice thought, nothing to live or die for, etc., I just don't think it is so, and I don't think history supports the notion. I mean, I sympathize with Dawkins too, I just think if it were not religion, and when it has not been religion, that people were doing damage in the name of, it would be and has been something else.

But evangelicals will never ever twig to this:

"Since it's impossible to know what somebody else feels, all that's really being said is "My insight is better than your insight."

Because they don't see it as insight or theirs. They see it as the one Truth, and as God's truth. See, that's how they insulate themselves from the sort of tolerance you suggest.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

god is a "feeling." i like it!

i don't believe in any divinity because i've studied the history of the concept, extensively. "believe" and "know" are difficult words, i certainly admit that. still, i'll still with "know."

what's so annoying about religions is that they get a special pass. like your argument. if we were talking about bridges or AIDS, everyone would laugh you off this blog, for saying that everyone is entitled to their own feelings about those things, and those feelings are equally valid, even as the reality of those things is indisputable. why is religion considered in the same category? because powerful interests throughout history have made them so, not because cars and horses are driven over them, or because people get sick and die from them. but religion *isn't* like bridges and AIDS. it is a completely unsupportable human construct that exists completely in the imagination of believers. yes, it makes some people "feel" love, or hate, or strongly. feelings are powerful! religious love brought about such things that are totally tangible like the Crusades, and the Civil Rights movement. it's powerful. which is to say, human love in action is powerful, as is human hatred.

still, we're talking about human beings. individuals who exist, both in the world of the believer and the unbeliever. i can dig up an archaeological site of a Crusader, just as i can watch videos which prove MLK was once alive. the gods they fought for? not so much.

i'm always tempted to do the "wolf boy" argument. let's say someone is born and grows up and has no contact with another human being for their first 30 years. would that person believe in divinity? i suppose there have been people like that and i should research them. but i'm betting that if i could get that person in a room, along with a believer, and teach them how to communicate with us, that person would be just as incredulous as i am of the concept of divinity. other than strong social, political and economic pressure from other human beings, there really isn't any reason to believe in something that can't be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, etc. animals don't have religious beliefs. why should we? or as i like to imagine, if aliens arrived here tomorrow, what would they think of our religious beliefs? likely, as i do. that's another argument i like to make about religious belief. examined from an historical and scientific perspective, they seem, well, rather small. there are millions and billions of worlds out there, and imho some of them contain complex life. how ridiculous must any human originated religious belief be to those beings to beings who did not originate here, parochial and local as all of our religions are? i suppose we could try to adapt to some kind of "universal mother" religion like frank herbert supposes, should we encounter other intelligent life out there. but wouldn't it be an interesting fight, if they sought to impose their beliefs upon us at the same time? well meaning beings on "both sides" would likely argue about the 'truth' as much as we do on blog posts like these.

me, i'd still die knowing that when i'm dead, i'm dead. and nothing or no one would have anything to do, say or change that, nor could any being reanimate my "soul" in some imagined afterlife. to me, that's another place in which the evidence is very strong support of my understanding of religion. if religious beliefs are 'true,' why is it that there are so many different and wide ranging answers about "what happens to us when we die?" and why are all of them so completely unsupportable with fact? that is to say, why hasn't god(dess)(e)(s) ever once, in the whole history of us being intelligent, testing beings, ever brought back someone from the dead to tell us about the great 'after?' any being worth worshipping would've given us strong proof that such exists.

really, i think that's what it comes down to for me. let's say i'm totally wrong. i'm still not going to be a worshipper. i'd be too angry with a/the/some divinity/ies. children suffer and die, dick cheney walks the earth alive and free, billions struggle for no good reason, just to live, every day. any being with that much more power and understanding than i, who chooses not to do anything about those facts, is no one or thing worthy of my belief or worship. like i said, animals don't have religion. "i never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself." similarly, i try to face up to the reality of the world without the need for "merciful love" or self pity.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

to prove you are right and everyone who doesn't think like you is dead wrong, and apparently, from the tone of your writing, a flipping idiot? Believing in God is not all people believe in that they can't see, some believe in Karma, some luck, some fate, some extraterrestrial beings, but actually most humans beings express some beliefs at some point in time which can not be proven. It's completely human. Further, Jesus is an historical figure about whom much was written. Some Christians are more concerned with following his example as a philosopher than whether or not he really was divine. Some people practice religions primarily for fellowship. Some people don't believe in God, but are still spiritual. It's not all so simplistic. It's not all idiots who believe in fairies and leprechauns on the one hand, and really smart people who know better on the other.

Submitted by brucedixon on

in all my long life, and I'll be sixty this year, is my only son.

But middle daughter is expecting a little boy baby this spring, my first grandson. Maybe I can double my numbers, whaddya think?

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

outside of religious texts written by believers, there is no proof he existed. is vishnu an "historical" figure? the Great Spirit of the Native American peoples? no, most Christans would say. i say the same thing about Jesus. other than the words of religiously motivated evangelists, there is no proof, archaeological or written, that he was a real figure. it's worth noting that the Romans were pretty big into record keeping, and for the most part, only the religion of Christianity is noted by them, not the "man" himself.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

However, does that really matter to believers? No. Nor should it. Faith and logic are completely opposite and antithetical to each other, and I don't think we should condemn believers in either one of these. Being a believer doesn't make one stupid, and being logical doesn't make one immoral.

I don't think that believing in God means the believer is superior. I don't think not believing in God means the non-believer is superior. I just think people are different in how they approach life.

And frankly, I don't think those approaches can really be changed. As Bruce Dixon says, conversion to atheism is extremely difficult. It is a rare person who believes who can be convinced not to believe, and vice-versa.

Why waste our time looking down on fellow lefties who happen to be religious? As long as they aren't bothering me, I, the non-believer, won't bother them. And religious lefties, that goes for you as well. Stop with all the judging. We have real things to worry about, and whether we all agree to the nth degree, is not one of them.


vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

atheists for being atheists than I do of believers for being believers.

There is no degree of honesty from atheists that is considered acceptable, and AFAIK only one individual elected to national office even admits to being a non-believer.

Atheists are meant to be seen and not heard and, by most people's standards, preferably not seen either.

Remember what a big deal it (supposedly) was when Obama mentioned the existence of non-believers in his inaugural? Noting the mere existence of us is, apparently, a dicey proposition.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

we get judged a lot more than believers. I agree 100%.

In the lefty bloggy world, we non-believer types are the ones who tend to look down on the believers, I've found.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Is incessantly construed as looking down on the believers.

This puts atheists to the unfair test of "respecting" that which they have good reason to reject as untrue and unsupported.

As I always say, I hate the "sin" of religion but not the "sinner."