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I've been kicking around ideas for a podcast on the topic of religiosity, atheism, and the new breed of in-your-face atheists who bristle at any hint of religious ritual or belief. I don't believe in the existence God, gods, ghosts, souls, angels or demons, nor do I believe in the non-existence of any of these. I remain strongly agnostic.

Having spent a decade and a half making friends on the internet, I know many people who maintain a strictly atheist belief system, some of whom take their ideology seriously enough to make a stink over a prayer before a Thanksgiving dinner.

I've got plenty of people willing to represent the atheist position on the show. I've also got, as do we all, plenty of people in my life who profess theistic faith, and so I have plenty of potential guests to represent the theistic perspective.

Some people have rejected theism and see religious faith as a harmful influence in our culture but don't want to make a horse's ass of themselves by making a stink over a family prayer of Thanksgiving or by castigating their aging grandmother for her daily bible study. The New Atheists, as profiled in the recent Wired magazine cover story and represented by their standard-barer, Richard Dawkins, aim to give these quiet, agreeable atheists a kick in the butt and get them to declare their allegiance to science and reason and reject all supernatural and superstitious claptrap or throw their lot in with the religionists and join the Taliban.

Then we have a very rare breed, someone who does not believe in god or engage in religious practices but who thinks that religious memes generally serve a beneficial purpose and enrich our society and the lives of the individuals who host them. quietlion exemplifies this rare breed. Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I take the position that, on balance, religion does more harm than good, but I don't want to make a horse's ass out of myself or incur the wrath of the faithful. (What's more, I live in the Bible Belt and make my living is sales. Waving Richard Dawkins "Religion Sucks!" banner would have very costly blowback for me.) In any event, I felt some measure of surprise to read quietlion's thoughts on the recent electoral results and the forces behind them:
We got what we asked for: now I hope the Democrats will actually end the war and restore civil liberties. This is a free country and it should be legal to sin.

While Bush's private Vietnam, Iraq, was certainly a lightning rod for the voters' thunderous discontent, talking to my few Republican friends revealed that they too were disturbed by the party's about-face from their traditional stance of fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism. Becoming a party of religionist socialist warmongers finally lost them their critical mass of support. With the Republicans spending our children's inheritance on a severely unpopular war, suddenly there was no reason to fear the Democrats and their penchant for spending. If we're going to spend billions, better on health care than bombs.


Permalink: http://www.brodietech.com/liontales/2006/11/well-we-got-what-we-asked-for.html

Nothing I've quoted here contradicts any of the positive things quietlion has said and written about religious faith in the past. Still, I did not expect to ever see him use the phrase, "religionist socialist warmongers." To see it now tells me that the current crop of champions for the West's particular brand of transformational fantasy ideology have really outdone themselves.

Defenders of the faith might argue that the singularity-focused transhumanists in the rational empiricist camp hold their own transformational fantasy ideology, and the rational empiricists could hardly deny that most instances of ideologically-inspired mass murder in human history occurred during the 20th Century and that atheist True Believers did the killing.

I've written far more here than I intended, so I'll leave off, even though I haven't reached anything resembling a conclusion.

What thoughts occur to you?

Comments

( 71 comments — Leave a comment )
ozarque
Nov. 10th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
What amazes me most is the New Atheists' militant proselytizing -- any minute I expect to have a couple of nice young NAs knocking at my door with tracts in their hands.

subdermal
Nov. 10th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
Have you heard the good news about Jesus?
He's dead.

All joking aside, there is a part of me that would love to see the NA message taken door to door. A higher priority than that however would be removing some of the special rights that religious organizations get over other similar businesses, especially government funding, from the fraudulent 'faith-based initiatives' bill right down to the tax-free status. This will be a long hard struggle of small steps (that don't lead to people's doorbells).
the New Atheists' militant proselytizers - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Ah, words - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: the New Atheists' militant proselytizers - ozarque - Nov. 10th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Confrontational Linguists - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Confrontational Linguists - ozarque - Nov. 10th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Linguists - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Linguists - ozarque - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Confrontational Linguists - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Confrontational Linguists - ozarque - Nov. 11th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Confrontational Linguists - memegarden - Nov. 13th, 2006 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Confrontational Linguists - memegarden - Nov. 13th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: the New Atheists' militant proselytizers - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Atheism as a zealous religion - spanglefeather - Mar. 23rd, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
subdermal
Nov. 10th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
I've been watching the press about the supposedly new 'New Atheist' movement with interest. Since I was a teenager I've been of the mindset that religion does far more harm than good, and that the good it can do can also be suppleid in other ways with none of the harmful baggage. After a few very unsuccessful years of proselytizing this viewpoint, I became more of a moderate in my discussions for purely social-convenience reasons. I did meet other like-minded people, especially in the circles I tended to socialize in, but still found it to be a very rare opinion. I am glad to see this viewpoint now gathering some steam in the mainstream consciousness, and the one helpful side effect of the current administration may have been to act as the catalyst that allowed this exposure to happen.

I'm glad that these opinions have respected voices in the form of Dawkins, Sam Harriss, et al. I'm glad that 'moderates' are now starting to pay attention and perhaps even think about the positions put forth by these authors. My fear is that, even without god in the mix people do have an understandable fondness for their religious traditions, and that the vociferous rejection of these traditions by Dawkins especially will turn people off more than what I consider to be the 'important' issues ever would. A quick prayer before a holiday meal in all likelihood never killed anybody. Unjustified beliefs have, on the other hand, led to countless millions of deaths. Let's focus on the real problem. I despise religion and most of its side effects in nearly all its forms, and have at best a grudging acceptance of any remaining forms. I am not, nor have I ever been a Christian. However, I have no problem saying 'Merry Christmas' to Christian co-workers, or being wished one myself. 2/3 of my family unit were raised Catholic (all atheists now) and we still put up a tree just for the ritual of it. Again, not a problem in my book.

I appreciate the intent and the logic behind the hardline stance. However, I think it's obvious that the world isn't ready for it and I think it's causing an unneccessary baby/bathwater problem that otherwise receptive minds might recoil from.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 07:12 pm (UTC)
Evolving Beliefs
Since I was a teenager I've been of the mindset that religion does far more harm than good...

I too held that belief as a teenager and into my twenties. I now see that as a faith-based position and consider the matter of whether religion has had a net beneficial or detrimental effect on humanity an open question.

and the one helpful side effect of the current administration may have been to act as the catalyst that allowed this exposure to happen.

W and his ilk certainly provide exemplars of maniacal religious power-mongering, but it seems we had plenty of exemplars of that particular archetype already. Back in 2000, I wanted Bush to beat Gore because I wanted an administration that would better demonstrate the evils of our hyper-inflated, corporate-money-driven system of centralized government.

Careful what you wish for.

Let's focus on the real problem.

What do you see as the real problem?

I would define the atheist communists that have killed millions in the Soviet Union, Communist China, and in Cambodia as religious fanatics. They don't believe in God, but they sure do BELIEVE, in the worst kind of way.
Re: Evolving Beliefs - subdermal - Nov. 10th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evolving Beliefs - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evolving Beliefs - subdermal - Nov. 10th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Evolving Beliefs - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
midnightglobe
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC)
Defenders of the faith might argue that the singularity-focused transhumanists in the rational empiricist camp hold their own transformational fantasy ideology, and the rational empiricists could hardly deny that most instances of ideologically-inspired mass murder in human history occurred during the 20th Century and that atheist True Believers did the killing.

the "atheist true believers" that have engineered most of the northern hemisphere genocides of the last century can and ought to be distinguished from rational empiricists. the simple fact is that the ideologies of the nazis, stalinists, maoists and other mass murderers were basically prophetic and visionary, and thus not rational. i dont think that the lack of a specific religious component to these ideologies in any way diminshes their inherent grounding on articles of faith.

and an important difference between rational empiricist transhumanists ideology and contemporary religious eschatologists is that transhumanism is a hypothesis which can be incrementally worked towards and judged correct or not by the scientific method. there is nothing incremental or judgeable about the belief that rebuilding the temple on the mount will bring jesus back to purge the world with fire.

for myself, i embrace a fourth camp that you havent discussed; i am a practicing taoist and amatuer philosopher who embraces the practices and results of the scientific method in the material world, and sees no contradiction between the positions. there is no scientific justification for the kind of hard skepticism that the new atheists espouse; it is simply an article of faith that is required for the scientific method meme to flourish. and while that meme has proven again and again its effectiveness in the material world, it is still an ideology that requires a (negative) faith in order to propogate.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC)
Almost full agreement
I agree with most everything you have written here. Particularly:

the "atheist true believers" that have engineered most of the northern hemisphere genocides of the last century can and ought to be distinguished from rational empiricists.

and

no contradiction between the positions. there is no scientific justification for the kind of hard skepticism that the new atheists espouse; it is simply an article of faith that is required for the scientific method meme to flourish.

I don't agree that transhumanism consistitutes (at least not exclusively or primarily) a testable hypothesis devoid of any agenda driven by faith or wishful thinking. Some people believe that humanity bears the likeness of God and that our limitations have purpose and meaning and should be respected, particularly our limited lifespan. The Transhumanist viewpoint holds that human limitations amount to nothing more noble or meaningful than an accident of evolutionary biology and that humans should use the means available to them to overcome these arbitrary limits. I don't see this as a falsifiable position, thus I don't see it as a scientific position but rather a statement of faith (or more charitably phaith.)
Re: Almost full agreement - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Almost full agreement - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Almost full agreement - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
subdermal
Nov. 10th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
If you are not familiar with his work, you may well appreciate the approach of Sam Harris on this issue. He agrees that there are 'spiritual' needs in the human psyche and that we should not try to quell or ignore them, but should instead find scientific ways of examining them in order to better know how to meet them. You might find it an interesting middle ground.
Sam Harris - kmo - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sam Harris - subdermal - Nov. 10th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sam Harris - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sam Harris - subdermal - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sam Harris - subdermal - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
greengestalt
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
A new direction
--a sufi tale-

There was once a forest of trees, which lived a magnificent and beatiful life. Due to the natural development of their surroundings, the trees "Climaxed," and then gradually died, giving wa to smaller species that lived below them. Various groups of bees made their nests in the hollow trunks of the trees and became very happy making honey. Gradually, the trees, one by one, began to decay and fall.

The various groups of bees debated amongst themselves why this should be and concluded that it must have something to do with the various merits of their hives. Some felt that when a tree fell, the bees in it were being punished for improper belief. Others felt more charitable and wanted to bring the homeless bees to their hive, saying "It could have been us, after all." Still others felt that the hives of the homeless bees must have been flawed in some way from the beginning and predestined to fail.

The trees gradually continued to fall, one by one, and each time one did the bees in those trees still standing developed more speculations. Finally, all the bees were homeless and had to move on. Each group had been caught by suprise, believing their hive to be the true one destined to survive and bring in a new age. Each had failed to recognize that all trees fall eventually, and so it should finish its work and find another forest before it lost its tree. Each had failed to look further than its own hive aqnd consider the effects of the tree, the soil and the rest of their ecology on its own survival.


--------

What is needed is a transformation, a migration. Once, I was skeptical of god, thinking a 'spinozan' concept at best. Now, I actually do believe in god. However, I'll say he is not a "Conservative", especially not anything like what the NeoCON maniacs claim they worship. The church (meaning general consensus Protestant, Lutheran and especially SOUTHERN BAPTIST) has tied itself to the NeoCon agenda and has sullied itself in the process. "By their FRUITS, ye shall know them" - Quite a double meaning with that (H/F)aggard scandal, no?

CS Lewis himself had a warning to them: That when you mire religion with current political belief you set yourself up to become corrupt with it and become tainted by it. Can't find the exact quotes, but that's the long and short of it. And you've seen it recently, deeply religious people who are well-read and thought out in that regards urging people to vote "Republican" acting as though they fear the slander against "leftists/democrats" coming true enough to tolerate and abed the lies, war and corruption of the Republican/NeoCon reality.

But, though they liked to use CS Lewis and Narnia, it was all selective and self-serving. Like using Leviticus from the bible against gays, ignorant/relatavist that that same chapter bans use of the bathroom on the same page.

What needs to be done is to seperate God and Jesus from the church, from those that currently claim they worship them, but would pick a fight with JC if they met him in real life. A "NeoTheurgic" movement if you will.

There's a church in my town I end up passing by now and again driving. The pastor has a nice big sign and is a creative sort, weekly re-arranging the sign on both sides. I've never been there, and assume they are fundy nutbags in one form or another, but I do like the sign. The most recent is;

"Don't let a hypocrite scare you away from God." - meaning (H)(F)aggard, of course. Amen to that, but why stop there? Why spend 10% of your income to try not to fall asleep on Sunday in a building you are now afraid to leave your children alone in? And why let anyone claim going to such a place has anything to do with your belief/relationship with God? For too long, those holding out in the church have been given some kind of respect, but it's just lingering guilt over no longer following a ritual who's time has come and gone. Now, they are little more than non-appreciated, outcast tribal shamans waving their hoodoo sticks at us, enraged over the loss of the power they once had. The concept of a "Sacred Space" is still good, but will be elsewhere, not a dry decaying tree that will fall sooner or later.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 07:52 pm (UTC)
Shamanism and Priestcraft
A "NeoTheurgic" movement if you will.

It's not that I won't, I just don't fully understand what you mean by a NeoTheurgic movement.

Now, they are little more than non-appreciated, outcast tribal shamans waving their hoodoo sticks at us, enraged over the loss of the power they once had.

I would discourage you from equating shamanism with priestcraft. The shaman has always occupied a socially marginal position, and the shaman's power remains undiminished. The priest occupies a position in a hierachical administration concerned with controlling the meanings of words and propagating particular belief systems. The shaman lives on the margins of society outside of any recognized organizational hierachy, and he orients more toward effecting desired outcomes rather than advocating a prescribed belief system.
We have wandered into a state of prolonged neurosis because of the absence of a direct pipeline to the unconscious and we have then fallen victim to priestcraft of every conceivable sort.

-Terence McKenna
malabar
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
Memes are tools. The God meme has accomplished both good and bad things over the years; so has the atheist meme. Various other religions promulgate other memes. I say, use the right tool for the job at hand - but then, I live with chaos magicians. :) What I object to is any tool user's wanting to keep others from using different tools, as long as use of said tools doesn't lead to loss of life, liberty, or the Purfoot of Happineffs.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
Me too
What I object to is any tool user's wanting to keep others from using different tools, as long as use of said tools doesn't lead to loss of life, liberty, or the Purfoot of Happineffs.

Me too.
Re: Me too - subdermal - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Me too - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
delusions - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: delusions - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: delusions - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: delusions - david_lucifer - Nov. 12th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: delusions - kmo - Nov. 13th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Me too - subdermal - Nov. 11th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
marzipan_melee
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
I would love to hear a podcast about this. I am an athiest myself, and I feel very strongly about it but I also do believe it is wrong for me to force my views on other people, as it is wrong to force their religious beliefs upon me in order to "save me".

I am happy to meet fellow athiests from time to time, but occasionally I will meet one who is in the habit of heckling others for their beliefs and it makes me sick to my stomach, and ashamed to be an athiest. It seems that the ones who make a big deal about it or are forcful about it are the only ones of the group that people notice. Most of the time, at least with people I am around everyday view athiests as extremists, when in fact most of us are very peaceful, non-confrontational people that just happen to hold the power of science and debate over religion.

I do see the positives of religion, and of course I see the negatives. If you would like me to elaborate further, let me know.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
elaborate further
I do see the positives of religion, and of course I see the negatives. If you would like me to elaborate further, let me know.

Diligent cyber-athiests have exhuastively cataloged the negatives, so I'm not so interested in that side of it, but I would definitely like to get a view of the beneficial side of religion from the perspective of a moderate (i.e. "civil") atheist.
Re: elaborate further - marzipan_melee - Nov. 10th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: elaborate further - skylion - Nov. 11th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
wildgarden
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
thoughts occurring
Having been a practicing Buddhist for more than 30 years, I long ago came to the conclusion that Buddhism (as it was presented to me through the lens of Zen and of Tibetan Karma Kagyu practice) is not a religion at all, but is rather a sophisticated psychological strategy for clearing the lens of perception.

Once while attending a 10 day retreat with Vipassana teacher Goenka I heard him say that "Hindus consider Buddhists to be Atheists."

Of course the deities encountered in Buddhism are considered to be the personification of various states of mind.

The religionist vs. atheist POV seems to me to be just another expression of dualism and rigid thinking, and personally I have paid little attention to the tempest. I have only the most brief aquaintance with Dawkins stance, and do not know, for instance, his thinking on what constitutes mind itself.

I do appreciate that religion is for some a sort of encouragement to practice helpful behavior toward others, for those who need a parental god-form enforcing the rules.

And Hinduism and Catholicism have inspired some beautiful works of art.
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
Re: thoughts occurring
The religionist vs. atheist POV seems to me to be just another expression of dualism and rigid thinking, and personally I have paid little attention to the tempest. I have only the most brief aquaintance with Dawkins stance, and do not know, for instance, his thinking on what constitutes mind itself.

I'm not sure about that either. Presumably he stands squarely in the materialist camp.

Personally, I agree with Thomas Szasz who advizes that the word "mind" is best used as a verb.

I do appreciate that religion is for some a sort of encouragement to practice helpful behavior toward others, for those who need a parental god-form enforcing the rules.

Here in the bible belt, I see a population which has recently and unconsciously traded Protestant Christianity for the religion of Liberal Consumerism. I think that as belief systems go, Protestant Christianity serves the individual and the community better than does Liberal Consumerism.
Re: thoughts occurring - ankh_f_n_khonsu - Nov. 16th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
interdisciple
Nov. 10th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
I'll keep it minimal and pop-cultural, and do apologize for any unintended flippancy which may resultantly be perceived in the process:

last night's south park was bloody brilliant. it satirized this New Atheist movement, calling out dogmatic attachment to science and reason as being ultimately just as dangerous as dogmatic attachment to faith and theism.

the moral of the story seemed to be humility; the idea is flexibility and openness. science and reason, sure, but at what cost and to what end? is the idea to aggress and "win," or to instead coexist peacefully, even if living in perpetual (if oppressive) disagreement? clearly the latter resonates as being both more intuitively ethical as well as self-preservingly rational. of course, oppression and subjugation of one group to the other highlights the quagmyres of irresolution that abound here; it is my own thought that it's our job to only shed light on and disentangle as much as we can, as patiently and benevolently as possible, and to meanwhile not add to the entanglement insofar as this is possible... if that makes any sense. dealing in and with abstractions are always tricky.

my thesis, if i had one, would be that essentialism and mutual exclusivity seems to be the poison of our era, no matter what form it takes. the alternative is a slippery slope toward granting credibility to any old yokel with some foolishly absurd idea, granted, but in absence of a better solution, it seems more palatable than dogmatic renouncement and oppression of said-fool.

the biggest questions become philosophical questoins of governance: what positions and choices of individuals can and/or should be contained for the greater good, and what can and/or should be left free to affect the world as it will? is there a nonparadoxical balance to be struck between total rigidity and total relativism? what and where is this balance? no answers, only questions... not for us to decide, yet we are the ones left with choice, reason, and seemingly free will to act...

none of what i've said here speaks to the interesting points you raise re: the notion (or the rhetoric) of "religionist socialist warmongering" or to the transformational fantasy ideology, though i feel like i'm in general agreement with you here. but as you said, i've written enough.

so much for brevity. :)
kmo
Nov. 10th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
so much for brevity
my thesis, if i had one, would be that essentialism and mutual exclusivity seems to be the poison of our era, no matter what form it takes. the alternative is a slippery slope toward granting credibility to any old yokel with some foolishly absurd idea, granted, but in absence of a better solution, it seems more palatable than dogmatic renouncement and oppression of said-fool.

Well put. I agree.

the biggest questions become philosophical questoins of governance: what positions and choices of individuals can and/or should be contained for the greater good, and what can and/or should be left free to affect the world as it will? is there a nonparadoxical balance to be struck between total rigidity and total relativism? what and where is this balance? no answers, only questions... not for us to decide, yet we are the ones left with choice, reason, and seemingly free will to act...

What positions and choices of individuals need to be constrained by the larger community? In terms of governance, I don't think this is a hard question at all. I think the framers of the US Constitution did a respectable job answering that question. The community will restrain the actions of individuals when those actions have a demonstrable, material, and quantifiable detrimental impact on the person or property of another individual. I wish the framers had sacrificed a bit of poetic language in the interest of clarity when they tried to formalize that idea.
Re: so much for brevity - david_lucifer - Nov. 11th, 2006 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: so much for brevity - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
uminthecoil
Nov. 10th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
Looking back, years now, I can see how much of my having been so critical of religion was probably set off by a somewhat knee-jerk reaction at having discovered just how extremely curious and refreshing were most all of the arguments to the contrary of what I’d grown up with, in a Baptist church setting...having dropped out of high school and feeling a bit convinced of my own stupidity and remedial-limitations, it was profoundly transformational to suddenly find myself so rarely without some terribly curious book or another, reading and then filling up notebooks with quotations and page after page of my own observations. I can’t say as though I’ve ever felt a deep connection to any particular Gnosis or theism...I never completely identified with atheists either, or especially these ‘new atheists’...although, in the case of Richard Dawkins book, “the God Delusion”, I can identify with a great deal of that...anyone who says ‘crackpot’ so often is bound to be pretty entertaining :)
kmo
Nov. 11th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
Crackpot
I have not read The God Delusion. Given more time I might, but at present I have a stack of gardening books to work through between now and spring, and if I'm going to read a book to use as grist for this sort of discussion I'm more likely to read the book of someone who has agreed to appear on the C-Realm Podcast or of someone who I suspect will make arguments I haven't encountered before. It's quite possible that Dawkins has something more interesting to say with The God Delusion than what I imagine he has to say. I'd be interested to get your detailed review of the book.
Re: Crackpot - uminthecoil - Nov. 11th, 2006 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Crackpot - kmo - Nov. 13th, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Crackpot - uminthecoil - Nov. 14th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
skylion
Nov. 11th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
I consider myself a strong atheist. I am, however, not the type to be in anyone's face over it. I do not find a prayer before Thanksgiving dinner to be a transgression against my non-belief. I would not bow my head in prayer, because I feel that would be insulting. If the person hosting said dinner would insist I pray to his particular supernatural entity before I got my fair share of taters, stuffing, and bird, then I would have to decline the dinner in total. And I would leave the table as dignified as possible; all the while feeling that I should have agreed and said, "Thank you for dying for us dead bird, I feel bad now that I won't be able to devour you."

But then, that is just me.

Defenders of the faith might argue that the singularity-focused transhumanists in the rational empiricist camp hold their own transformational fantasy ideology, and the rational empiricists could hardly deny that most instances of ideologically-inspired mass murder in human history occurred during the 20th Century and that atheist True Believers did the killing.

I tend to look a little deeper than that. I find it unprovable one way or another that it was a core and rock solid lack of belief that motivated the killings by and large. Atheism in this case was simply one satellite in a macbre orbit around a larger body. Further, I think it goes a long way to say that those in power where able to manipulate their people in terrible ways, atheism was a long standing by-product of that manipulation.
david_lucifer
Nov. 11th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure Dennett, Dawkins and Harris (and I) would act in exactly the same way you describe at this hypothetical Thanksgiving dinner. It is disappointing that it has become something like common knowlege that the New Atheists are dogmatic and rabid when the opposite is true.
(no subject) - skylion - Nov. 11th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
lack of belief - kmo - Nov. 11th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: lack of belief - skylion - Nov. 11th, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Nov. 11th, 2006 03:31 am (UTC)
I find radical atheists and theists largely of equal uselessness.

I try not to make it a habit of proselytizing. I'd rather leave them to their own, and grok that when they evolve far enough the timeless individual will see through the BS of the personality (using terms from Theosophy).

I generally find it difficult to have discussions with theists. I generally find it difficult to have discussions with atheists.

I generally find Dawkins pathetic and rarely comical. He seems like another ideologic fascist in the fine tradition of Sagan and the Inquisition.

Anyway, for me, the distinction between a Jehova's Witness and mosbunall atheists gets blurry, like the distinction between coke and pepsi.

Namaste.
stanleylieber
Nov. 11th, 2006 07:40 am (UTC)
'What thoughts occur to you?'

Mainly that no theistic or atheistic Theory excuses bad hehavior.
ataxi
Nov. 13th, 2006 02:57 am (UTC)
There's a fine line in all cases in determining what is appropriate.

What I most object to is disrespectful proselytising by anyone, and particularly by the New Atheists (with whose beliefs I tend to agree) on the grounds that it doesn't efficiently achieve its goal of furthering a naturalistic worldview.

I have always taken it that Dawkins, by his association with the (IMO rather unfortunate) "Brights" movement, sees himself as galvanising secular people rather than persuading the non-secular to his point of view. I do think that non-believers are by and large more passive than the religious when it comes to public expressions of belief.

Objecting to rude atheists heckling others for their beliefs seems slightly straw-mannish, since the objection is to the crassness of their behaviour and not to their system of belief. Rude and overbearing behaviour is unpleasant regardless of the religion of the perpetrator.

In some cases I have felt that religious worldviews get "special" treatment in an educational context. For example the Australian federal government has just approved $25,000 p.a. funding for any public school that wants a Christian chaplain (as opposed to an unaligned guidance counsellor). In such cases I think it's perfectly reasonable for atheists like myself to campaign for proper representation.

A few days ago I had a rather involved argument on a journal linked from yours regarding the right of parents to control their children's education, based partly on your objection to some of the content of a quote from Richard Dawkins. I found Dawkins' view, that parents do not have absolute rights over the ideologies to which their children are exposed, somewhat sympathetic. I feel that if it were absolutely clear which beliefs are true and which are lies (not that it is or ever will be), the truth would take precedence over parental preference in the curriculum.

By the way, I strongly object to the attribution of "northern hemisphere genocides" to atheism in another comment on this post. Seems a very crass summation of the complex motives behind those historical events - almost as crass as to attribute the Crusades to Christianity.
ataxi
Nov. 13th, 2006 11:16 am (UTC)
Just to clarify that last paragraph slightly - on a re-read, I don't object to the comment to any great degree, because it isn't saying what I thought it did. I still have a mild objection to the connection that is drawn between atheism and the events referred to (which I mainly take to be the Holocaust and the purges under Stalin and Mao), because I think the way it's phrased serves to persuade the reader of something false - that the ideology of atheism (of any variety) was a particular cause of those events.
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