Discussion Forums - Religion & Spirituality

Topic: How to be an ally with atheists (some language - you have been warned)

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
L. G. (L)
Subject: How to be an ally with atheists (some language - you have been warned)
Date Posted: 12/21/2008 5:32 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
Back To Top

 

RIGHT ON AND AMEN!  AT least someone "gets it".

Stolen from here (if you want to click the links within the text, go to the original):

http://www.bilerico.com/2008/12/how_to_be_an_ally_with_atheists.php

1. Familiarize yourself with the common myths and misconceptions about atheists -- and don't perpetuate them.

There's a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance about who atheists are and what we do and don't believe. Needless to say, these myths and misconceptions are wrong. Don't believe them. Don't perpetuate them. Don't let them infect the way you speak and act, and please speak out against them when you hear them. Find out what we actually think and believe and do, instead of what anti- atheist propaganda says about what we think and believe and do.

Sam Harris has written a pretty good list of the most common myths about atheists, with short arguments against them. There's a touch of needless snark in the piece, IMO -- Harris can't quite resist the temptation to get in a few digs against religion when he should probably just be explaining atheism -- but overall, it gives a good, concise view of the most common misconceptions about atheism, and why, exactly, they're mistaken.

I'm just going to add one quick thing to Harris's list before I move on, the myth that atheists are 100% certain that there is no God, with a dogmatic attachment to that belief.

In reality, I've encountered almost no atheists who thought that God's existence had been definitely disproved. Atheism doesn't mean being 100% certain that God doesn't exist. It just means being certain enough. We're about as certain that Jehovah doesn't exist (or Yahweh, or Allah, or Ganesh, or the Goddess, or any of the gods that are commonly worshipped today) as we are that Zeus doesn't exist. If you don't think you're close-minded for not believing in Zeus, then please don't accuse atheists of being close-minded for not believing in your god.


2. Familiarize yourself with what it's like to be an atheist, both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.

Discrimination against atheists, in the United States, and around the world, is very real. It doesn't look exactly like other forms of discrimination -- no form of discrimination looks exactly like any other -- but it is real.

Here are just a few examples:

According to a recent Gallup Poll, asking Americans who they'd be willing to vote for for President, atheists came in at the very bottom of the list: below blacks, below women, below Jews, below gays. Below every other marginalized group on the list. With less than half of Americans saying they'd vote for an atheist. Unless you live in a incredibly progressive district, being an out atheist will effectively kill any chances you have at a political career.

Atheists in the military have been illegally proselytized at, berated, called a disgrace, denied promotion, had meetings broken up, and been threatened with charges... all by superior officers, and all because of their atheism.

In her recent Senate campaign, Elizabeth Dole issued a series of campaign flyers and videos, centering on the fact that her opponent, Kay Hagan, had attended a fundraiser hosted by two atheist lobbyists... a campaign that openly referred to atheists as "vile," that treated the very existence of atheists as an abomination, and that used language about atheists that would have raised a tidal wave of shock and denunciation around the country if it had been aimed at any other religious group.

And especially in small rural towns, anti-atheist bigotry can turn truly ugly. Being an out atheist means risking ostracism and worse. Out atheist teenagers have been kicked out of public school programs, and then kicked out of public school. Out atheists have been the targets of vandalism and death threats. Even believers can be targeted with anti-atheist ostracism, threats, and vandalism, if they're perceived as being atheists because of their stance on separation of church and state (such as the anti- intelligent- design activists in Dover, Pennsylvania).

And I'm just talking about the U.S., where atheists are, at least in theory, guaranteed equal protection and freedom of non-religion under the 1st and 14th amendments. I'm not even talking about overt theocracies, where denying the existence of God will earn you a death sentence.

This stuff is real. And there's a lot more. These examples have barely scratched the surface. We are pissed off for a reason. Please don't trivialize it.


3. Find common ground.

Religious believers might think there's no way for them to be allies with atheists. Aren't atheists trying to do away with religion? How can you be allies with someone who thinks your most cherished beliefs are a myth, and wants to rid the world of them?

Okay. First, not all atheists are trying to do away with religion. Many atheists are fine with religion, as long as it's respectful of people who don't share it. They just don't believe it themselves, and just want to be left alone to give what they have to the world and to practice their lack of faith in peace. If all religions minded their own business, if religions didn't have the depressingly common habit of demonizing people who don't agree with them and shoving themselves down everybody else's throat... most of us wouldn't care about it very much.

Second: Even the atheists who would like to see religion disappear, and who are actively working to make that happen, still passionately support religious freedom. We don't want to make religion disappear by law, or coercion, or even social disapproval. We want to make religion disappear by persuasion.

We want to convince people, in an open marketplace of ideas, that religion is mistaken. Even the most strongly and rudely anti-religion atheists I know are passionate in their defense of religious freedom, and of people's right to believe whatever crazy bullshit they want as long as they don't inflict it on other people.

And even though atheists obviously think religion is a mistaken idea about the world, and believers obviously don't... well, we don't have to agree about everything to work together. Atheists and progressive believers have a lot of common ground: a passionate support of religious freedom, a fervent belief in the separation of church and state, an intense respect for diversity. The fact that we don't agree about the existence or non-existence of God doesn't mean we can't work together on issues we share.

4. Speak out against anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of religious intolerance.

If you're white, it's important to speak up about racism. If you're male, it's important to speak up about sexism. If you're straight, it's important to speak up about homophobia. Etc.

And if you're a religious believer, it's important to speak up about anti-atheist bigotry and ignorance. Familiarize yourself with the common myths about atheism and the truth about those myths (see above)... and when you hear someone repeat the myths, speak out.


5. Be inclusive of atheists.

Remember that not everybody is a religious believer. And I don't just mean that not everybody belongs to a traditional religious organization. Many people have no religious or spiritual beliefs at all. So if you're talking to a group, don't ask people to pray. Don't talk about "our Creator." Don't talk about the spirit that moves within all of us. I don't have a creator, and I don't have a spirit, and I don't pray.

If you want to talk about your own religious beliefs, then please, by all means, go ahead and do so. Say that you're going to pray. Tell us about your creator. Talk about the spirit that moves within you. But don't assume that everyone you're talking to shares your beliefs, or indeed has any religious beliefs at all. Don't -- as a commenter in this blog observed at a No on Prop 8 rally -- talk about the wonderful work churches are doing for your movement, and the wonderful work being done by people who don't go to church but still believe in God, and neglect to mention the people who don't believe in God but still passionately support your cause. In the same way that (I hope) you try to remember that there are probably people in your audience who aren't white, or college-educated, or able-bodied, or whatever, please try to remember that there are probably people in your audience who aren't religious or spiritual.

(And don't do fake inclusion, either. Saying, "No matter what your religious beliefs or lack thereof are, let's all pray or meditate," is like saying, "No matter what your religious beliefs are, let's all give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." No matter how good your intentions are, it’s not inclusive. It's a back-handed slap.)


6. Don't divide and conquer, and don't try to take away our anger.

Don't divide us into "good atheists" and "bad atheists" based on how vocal or angry we are. Don't say things like, "Well, you seem reasonable -- but that Richard Dawkins and that Christopher Hitchens, they're just so mean and intolerant!"

I hope I don't have to tell you about the ugly history of dividing activists for social change into "the good ones" who are polite and soft-spoken and easy for the privileged power structure to get along with, and "the bad ones" who are angry, rabble- rousing trouble- makers. I hope I don't have to explain about the not- no- subtle message behind it: "We're fine with you as long as you don't speak up too loudly, and don't make us too uncomfortable, and don't ask for too much."

Like every other movement for social change I can think of, the atheist movement has its more diplomatic members and its more confrontational ones. And like every other movement for social change I can think of, the atheist movement needs both. It's more powerful with both. Both methods together work better than either one would work on its own.

Besides, we all know that Hitchens is an asshole. It's not news to us.

7. If you're going to accuse an atheist or an atheist group of being intolerant -- be careful, and make sure that's really what they're being.

Atheists often get accused of being intolerant for saying things like, "I don't agree with you," or, "You haven't made your case," or, "I think you're mistaken -- and here, exactly, is why." Atheists often get accused of bigotry when, in fact, they've been very careful to criticize specific ideas and actions rather than insult entire classes of people. Atheists often get accused of being close-minded for firmly stating their case and saying that, unless they see some good evidence or arguments to the contrary, they're going to stand by it. Atheists, as Richard Dawkins recently pointed out, often get accused of being insulting or hateful for discussing religion in the kind of language that is commonly accepted in political opinion pieces or restaurant reviews.

It's totally f-up. Please don't do that.

Here's the thing. Atheists see religion as (among other things) a hypothesis about the world: an explanation for how the world works and why it is the way it is. We think that, as such, it should be willing to defend itself in the marketplace of ideas, on an even playing field. And we see the "criticism of religion is inherently intolerant" trope as one of the chief ways religion avoids having to do that. It totally gets up our nose.

As someone whose name I can't remember recently said: "Religion has been discussed in hushed tones for so long, that when people talk about it in a normal tone of voice, it sounds like we're screaming." But most of us are not screaming. Most of us are talking in a normal tone of voice... for the first time in our lives.


8. Do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- talk about "fundamentalist atheists."

If you think an atheist or an atheist group is being intolerant, or bigoted, or close-minded, then by all means, say that they're being intolerant or bigoted or close-minded. But please, for the sweet love of all that is beautiful in this world, do not call them "fundamentalist atheists." The "fundamentalist" canard makes most atheists want to scream and tear our hair out. It's a problem for three reasons:

  1. It's inaccurate. Atheists do not have a text or a set of basic principles to which they strictly and literally adhere... which is what the word "fundamentalist" means. (See "common myths about atheists" above.)
  2. It perpetuates the myth that atheism is just another form of dogmatic religious faith... which it most emphatically is not. (Again, see "common myths about atheists" above.)
  3. It divides the atheist movement into the "good" ones and the "bad" ones: the good ones who keep their mouths shut, and the bad ones who speak their opinions loudly and firmly. (See "don't divide and conquer" above.)

Think of the phrase "fundamentalist atheist" as an epithet. If you insist on using it, you should expect that no atheist will listen to anything else you say.

Finally -- and I think this may be the hardest for a lot of people, especially in the LGBT community:


9: Be aware of how religious belief gives you a place of mainstream and privilege.

This is a lot less true for believers in minority religions, like Jews and Muslims in the U.S. But even though the specifics of your belief marginalize you, the fact that you have belief at all does give you some privilege that you may not be aware of.

The assumption that everyone believes in some sort of God is so widespread as to be practically invisible. And the assumption that morality must stem from religious faith is incredibly pervasive. Many religious believers -- even the more hard-core ones, maybe especially the more hard-core ones -- are more trusting of other religious believers whose beliefs they don't share than they are of atheists. (Look again at "what it's like to be an atheist" above... and look again the Gallup Poll about how atheists are considered less qualified to be President than any other group that was polled about.)

And if you are a Christian? Forget about it. If you are a Christian in the United States, then -- when it comes to this particular area of the "privilege/marginalization" palette -- your Christianity puts you squarely in the "privileged mainstream" category. Christians are in the clear majority in the United States, and they are in the clear mainstream of politics and culture. You're not being thrown to the lions anymore. You haven't been thrown to the lions for almost 2,000 years. You are in the group that is running the show.

And that's fine. That doesn't make you a bad person. When it comes to the "privilege/marginalization" palette, most people have some of both. I am privileged as a white person, a college-educated person, a middle- to upper-middle class person, a more or less able bodied person, an American. I am marginalized as a woman, a queer, a bisexual, a fat person, an atheist. And my privileges don't confer wickedness onto me, any more than my marginalizations confer virtue.

But my privileges do confer some responsibilities. They confer the responsibility to educate myself about the experiences of marginalized people, and the myths about them. To speak out against bigotry, even and especially when it isn't against me. To not assume that everyone is just like me. To remember that passionate anger is as important to a movement as gentle diplomacy. To learn what kind of language people prefer when talking about them, and what kind of language totally sets their teeth on edge. (Which is just good manners anyway.) To tread carefully when I'm criticizing marginalized people, and to make sure I know what the hell I'm
talking about.

And to not act like a victim when my privilege is questioned, or indeed simply pointed out. I do think progressive movements -- the LGBT community, as well as others -- should be making alliances with the atheist movement. If for no other reason, I think it's a smart choice pragmatically. Like I said yesterday, the atheist movement is just beginning to get off the ground, and it's already come very far in a very short time, both in terms of numbers and in terms of visibility. IMO, in the coming years and decades, it's going to be a force to be reckoned with. You want to get in on the ground floor here, people.

And it's also, you know, the right thing to do.

If you want to do that, I think this is a good place to start.



Last Edited on: 12/21/08 5:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/21/2008 9:06 PM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
Back To Top

Please please please don't proseltyze. 

Do engage us in coversation!

If we are over the age of 30, you can bet your sweet bippy we've heard the conversion speech before so just save it, but a nice discussion about the trouble in the middle east, we're all for it!  LOL



Last Edited on: 12/21/08 9:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2008 11:19 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 1,947
Back To Top

You know, it feels so good to read something positive and educational about my beliefs. Thank you.

Date Posted: 12/21/2008 11:45 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
Posts: 2,087
Back To Top

That was one great post!   I think many Christians are very unaware of the Christian Privilege that is dominant in this country.

 

Date Posted: 1/5/2009 12:51 AM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

The problem I perceive with athiesm as a movement (and with lists like this one) is that they never speak for a preponderance of those who call themselves "athiests".  I'm probably not qualified to say that, being a christian, but that's my perception.  When you try to dispel "myths and misconceptions about athiesm", whose athiesm are you talking about?  Who can be considered a spokesman for athiesm that categorically defines what or what is not true about athiests?  Sam Harris?  Christopher Hitchens?  Richard Dawkins?  Michael Newdow?  If it's a myth that athiests believe that religion is universally bad for humanity, has you asked Dawkins about this?  If it's a myth that athiests believe that life is meaningless, have you asked Nietzche?  (See the "10 myths and truths about athiesm" thread) I don't deny that athiesm is an extreme minority view, at least in the US, but I think athiests have less of a right to be angry with christians (or religious people, in general) than they do to be angry at their own brethren for being such vitriolic, condescending snobs.  Excuse me for saying so--I'm not intending to insult anyone here.

Date Posted: 1/5/2009 2:42 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
Back To Top

Don't divide us into "good atheists" and "bad atheists" based on how vocal or angry we are.

But L., wouldn't you say there are "good Christians" and "bad Christians" based on how vocal, tolerant, or angry they are?  Wouldn't you say that Lester was a good Christian and Jerry  Falwell a bad one based on their tolerance, passion, and understanding of those who disagree with them?  If it's true of Christians, why is it not true of atheists?

Date Posted: 1/5/2009 11:55 PM ET
Member Since: 1/13/2005
Posts: 2,317
Back To Top

Kari -- not to answer for L, who may not agree with me at all --

I think that how vocal, tolerant or angry Christians are is a direct reflection of whether they're following their faith, or whether they're using it as an excuse to treat people badly, that is, whether they're good or bad at behaving in a "Christian" way.  (Assuming that core Christian tenets, no matter the particular "flavor" of Christianity include tolerance, kindness, patience and humility -- AFAIK they do).

The only thing that all atheists have in common is atheism -- a lack of belief in a god.  That doesn't, per se, require people to be tolerant, or kind, or understanding.  Most atheists have a moral code that encourages them to do that, but not because they're atheists.

I have a talent for stating the obvious, so if this isn't what you were getting at, please forgive me.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 1/6/2009 3:29 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
Back To Top

Kari wrote:  But L., wouldn't you say there are "good Christians" and "bad Christians" based on how vocal, tolerant, or angry they are?

No - I wouldn't.  The only Christians I see are hypocritical Christians and non-hypocritical Christians.  They either act in a way that is Christ-like or they don't.  I see nothing "good" nor "bad" in Christianity or Christians - I believe it's all a myth**, so it doesn't really matter to me.  It's sort of like saying there are "good" believers in the Easter Bunny and "bad" believers in the Easter Bunny.

ETA:  **Not that there isn't value to be gleaned from the myth.

 



Last Edited on: 1/6/09 3:31 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/6/2009 9:25 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
Posts: 2,819
Back To Top

But L., wouldn't you say there are "good Christians" and "bad Christians" based on how vocal, tolerant, or angry they are?  Wouldn't you say that Lester was a good Christian and Jerry  Falwell a bad one based on their tolerance, passion, and understanding of those who disagree with them?

I liken this to what the LGBT community often say - "my life is more than just my sexual identity."  That is, you can be a good person, but one's faith probably is a small part of that.  Lester was probably a good person because his parents raised him well.  Lester was probably a good person because he was mentally able to know what was right and wrong, and he continued to learn in this area.  Lester was probably a good person because he hated to see the suffering that comes from the bad things in this world. 

I too can't really boil it down to "bad Christians" and "good Christians."  I think it's more about people who are misunderstood, or are not equipped emotionally or mentally to exemplify "good" in general.

Date Posted: 1/8/2009 4:49 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

Chris let me turn that around. Should all christians be considered to believe the way say a Jerry Fallwell, Strom Thurmand or even Fred Phelps believe? Or should the general dogma of the religion and actions of its majority dictate what the "common misconceptions" are. Based on more visible christians in the media if Im gonna make assumptions about christians it would be that they are all intolerant mean spirited bigotted people. But see I dont make my impressions of christians from the loud obnoxious ones I see on tv. I build my impressions from the whole. There are some really loud and obnoxious christians in the media but there are some extremely mild mannered well meaning and lovely ones as well.

Athiests are the same. There are some loud and obnoxious ones who I just wanna sock in the nose but there are mild mannered ones who are good at getting their point across without offending people. I also have to base my impressions of athiests on the whole group not just the very visible ones. And on the whole the majority of atheists just wanna live their lives the way they see fit as long as it breaks no laws. Same as christians or muslims or jews or any other group of people.

What your saying is that its not a myth that athiest see meaning in life because of Nietzche or that its not a myth that atheists think religion is bad because of Dawkins. Well then it is equally as logical to say that it is a myth that christians are tolerant of other peoples lifestyles because of Fred Phelps. You cannot judge a whole based on one person from that group or even a small minority of that group.

Date Posted: 1/8/2009 9:20 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,706
Back To Top

One of the differences of atheism and organized religion to me though is, no one taught me atheism, I've just always been that way.  I never believed there was some higher power calling the shots.  People have tried to teach me that there was, through church or the Bible or various other means, but it never stuck.  I think we're all born atheists, or at the very least agnostics, until we're taught otherwise. People don't go to learn about atheism 3 times a week like they do about God.  People don't have to study atheism and figure out how it's relevant to their life.   People don't have to memorize atheist verses and stories.  We aren't born with religion, we're taught religion.

I was an atheist way before I ever heard of Dawkins or Hitchens or any of the "famous" atheists out there.  I've read some of their stuff, with mixed reviews, but I don't feel like they are trying to create a following or impose their brand of morality on me.  If anything, they are saying "I want my legal rights to be preserved".  I don't agree with every point they make, but I do feel strongly that as far as religion and government go, never the twain shall meet.  I won't force you to pretend to be an atheist if you don't force me to pretend to be a _______________ (insert religion here).

This is my favorite atheist "truth":

In reality, I've encountered almost no atheists who thought that God's existence had been definitely disproved. Atheism doesn't mean being 100% certain that God doesn't exist. It just means being certain enough. We're about as certain that Jehovah doesn't exist (or Yahweh, or Allah, or Ganesh, or the Goddess, or any of the gods that are commonly worshipped today) as we are that Zeus doesn't exist. If you don't think you're close-minded for not believing in Zeus, then please don't accuse atheists of being close-minded for not believing in your god.

So true!

Date Posted: 1/8/2009 11:40 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
Back To Top

That's a great quote Amanda.  My favorite "atheism" quote, though I don't know who said it, refers to people who treat atheism as a dogma:

"Saying atheism is a religion is like saying bald is a hair color."

Date Posted: 1/8/2009 12:44 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
Posts: 2,087
Back To Top

That's a good one Vanessa.  I have also heard that saying not believing in God is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby.

 

Date Posted: 1/10/2009 1:32 AM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Manny:  Should all christians be considered to believe the way say a Jerry Fallwell, Strom Thurmand or even Fred Phelps believe?  Or should the general dogma of the religion and actions of its majority dictate what the "common misconceptions" are.

Point taken--the fact is, though, that many christians are bigoted, mean-spirited, etc, just like athiests.  And that's not the only problem christians have--they are selfish, arrogant, apathetic and avaricious just like everybody else.  We christians call them "sinners" and we believe it's a fact of life for everyone dwelling on earth.  What I'm talking about is, who can speak for athiests and sum up what set of ideas makes up a true athiest?  That's a real question.  Can you?  If you can't (and I don't think it's likely that you can and have the consensus of the herd of cats that is athiesm in America), then neither can you reliably put together a bulleted list of "myths and misconceptions" or "ways to be an ally with athiests" if those points are based on your view of the dogma of athiesm.  The fact is, many athiests do believe life is meaningless; Nietzche very effectively showed that is a logical conclusion of the "death of God" (see "The Twilight of the Idols"!).  Many athiests don't support religious freedom because their dogma tells them that religion is not advantageous for a civil, progressive society.  I would say that those who hold these ideas are true athiests who have made those conclusions as logical consequences of the non-existence of God.  These are not "myths" that you can ask that non-athiests put out of their heads when engaging in conversation or debate, even if you, yourself, do not subscribe to those beliefs.

We agree that it's silly to form a judgment about a group of people based on the belligerent minority.  But in my opinion, the bad PR that athiesm gets is not due to this vocal minority as much as it is due to some characteristically athiestic ideas that are just plain unpopular, and in some cases offensive to most Americans who are, by and large, a nominally religious people.  I'm not saying that athiests are wrong on this basis, but it could account for the acrimony that athiests face when running for public office or debating in the public square.  It's not that they're being discriminated against, it's that most people find the whole athiest worldview distasteful on moral grounds.

Date Posted: 1/10/2009 8:58 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
Back To Top

#1- all it takes to be a "true" atheist is to disbelieve in the existence of god.  there's no dogma.

#2- I've read Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris, and although they can be vitriolic, have they ever specifically demanded banning religion or are they trying to appeal to people's reason?  The statement "Many athiests don't support religious freedom because their dogma tells them that religion is not advantageous for a civil, progressive society." is just incorrect in so many ways.  Granted their are militants in any walk of life, but even the vocal few are not advocating loss of rights and atheists as a group don't want to ban religion anymore than vegetarians as a group want to ban meat-eating or Christians as a group want to prohibit people from professing atheism.  We both think that the other's opinion is wrong and harmful, but except for the militants, we try to let each other figure it out for ourselves.

Date Posted: 1/10/2009 10:17 AM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Vanessa:  #1- all it takes to be a "true" atheist is to disbelieve in the existence of god.  there's no dogma.

This is my point.  That's fine if that's what you believe, but how can you tell me that this is the belief of the larger group called "athiests"?  Who do you cite and how do you determine if your citation will be accepted by even a large minority of athiests?  In my mind, a "militant athiest" is only one who forms his beliefs and politics consistently with his belief in the non-existence of God.  For many, that means speaking out against religion (it's deceptive to say they just appeal to reason--religious people do that, as well.  Athiest's don't have a monopoly on "reason"). 

Date Posted: 1/12/2009 2:15 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
Back To Top

I think athiests have less of a right to be angry with christians (or religious people, in general) than they do to be angry at their own brethren for being such vitriolic, condescending snobs.

Seriously.  Don't go there with this conversation.  I want to keep this polite.  I like you and you bring a lot of great points to this topic, but this is out of whack and out of line.  You have no idea what some of us have had to deal with, and have no idea who we have a right to be angry with and why. 

I'm sorry, but this really struck a chord with me.  I will not defend my atheist "brethren", which is funny because as an aethist I don't see myself as having any.  But I will defend my right to be angry with what I refer to as Xtians.  People who beat others into submission with bibles. 

Date Posted: 1/12/2009 2:37 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
Back To Top

Many athiests don't support religious freedom because their dogma tells them that religion is not advantageous for a civil, progressive society.  I would say that those who hold these ideas are true athiests who have made those conclusions as logical consequences of the non-existence of God.

I truly think for dogma to exist... organization must exist on a larger scale... this just isn't occuring as you yourself are pointing out.  We have no dogma.  Our inability to agree on the points you are mentioning is proof positive of this.  You are making our dogma argument for us.  Atheism is not a religion. 

Now regarding the statement itself.  I don't support religion, I do think that civilization suffers for it, but I would never think to ban it or take the freedom from individuals to practice religion away from society.  My views conflict surely, but I would never force my will upon others.  Religion has a very nasty habit of doing that.  I can't fall into the practice. 

But in my opinion, the bad PR that athiesm gets is not due to this vocal minority as much as it is due to some characteristically athiestic ideas that are just plain unpopular, and in some cases offensive to most Americans who are, by and large, a nominally religious people.  I'm not saying that athiests are wrong on this basis, but it could account for the acrimony that athiests face when running for public office or debating in the public square.  It's not that they're being discriminated against, it's that most people find the whole athiest worldview distasteful on moral grounds.

This statement to me summed up pretty much what most of America thinks about atheists in a nutshell.  Sad but true.  Sometimes I hate having the truth thrown in my face.  I have nothing to argue with you on this.  What could I possibly say to change your mind or America's other than to live my life the best I can and show the world that I'm a good and moral person.  That morals can be gained from a societal basis.  What morals, I wonder, are you referring to if other than the ones you listed?

I always wonder why we are feared / hated so much?  I thought on this a lot during my college years mainly because there was always someone who wanted to get into a deep theological discussion.  The only reason I could come up with was there was no tool for which we could be worked upon.  No guilt trip, no last reward, no kill switch that would force us to do something the giant religious machine wanted us to do. 

I think too it's because of the lies, Hitler was an aethist.  Lie.  Insert mass political killer's name here was an atheist. Lie.  Too much has also been lied about us.

I've never met a bad atheist.  I've met a terrible number of bad Christians.  That's not a fair assessment of anything.  That's not a scientific study and I don't think every new Christian I meet is bad.  That would be silly. 

Why then... when people meet me, get to know me... do they nearly jump out of their skin when I tell them I don't go to church?  That I'm an atheist.  You say that it's not because we're being discriminated against, I say that's a load.  I huge steamy load.  Because that is exactly what is happening. 

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 1/12/09 2:42 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/12/2009 8:40 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,706
Back To Top

I often think we are accused of being snobs because we refuse to buy into that whole "we're all sinners and should be ashamed of ourselves" mentality.  I never said I was perfect, but frankly, I have too much to do than to worship a deity and ask for forgiveness for things I may or may not have done and that are completely human, especially considering that said deity supposedly made me that way, in his/her image.  That makes no sense.  Instead of attempting to wrap my brain around all that and give myself an unnecessary guilt trip, there is plenty of actual useful volunteer work that I can do, so I put my time and energy towards that instead.  I assure you, it's much more gratifying.  If my self-confidence in my choice and my unwillingness to change and "repent" or "be saved" is considered snobbery, then I'll have to live with that.

ETA:  I don't know if I've met any "bad" atheists or not...I don't ask people's religious beliefs before I engage in conversation with them.  I have met quite a few self-professed Christians who have said and done some pretty horrific things, which makes me wonder exactly what they think Christianity is.  It's been my personal observation that, the louder and more frequently a person feels the need to profess their religion, the more they are abusing it.  I find the truly spiritual much more content and less in your face about their beliefs.  Their actions tend to speak where their words do not.



Last Edited on: 1/12/09 8:46 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/12/2009 9:29 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
Posts: 2,819
Back To Top

The only Atheist "leader" I can't stand is Christopher Hitchens, but it's not even for his atheist stuff, moreso he's now some kind of ridiculous political pundit that has his head up his arse.  But in no way do I think that Hitchens represents my atheist friends here, or atheists in general - just as much as Ann Coulter doesn't represent all conservatives, either.

Date Posted: 1/12/2009 12:11 PM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
Back To Top

Suzanne makes a great point.  Saying that extremist atheists with extremist opinions represent the whole is about as useful as saying all Christians wear hats like the Pope.  Just doesn't work and it sounds silly. 

The vibe I'm getting is that most don't want to think of atheists as individuals.  *shrugs*  That must be hard work. 

Date Posted: 1/12/2009 11:47 PM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Kelly:  I truly think for dogma to exist... organization must exist on a larger scale... this just isn't occuring as you yourself are pointing out.  We have no dogma.

Would the Freedom From Religion Foundation count as an organization?  Athiest Alliance International?  American Athiests?  It appears to me that organization does exist, and these organizations agree on a (albeit minimal) set of doctrines, or dogma.  Can we at least agree that "there is no God" is a dogma?  I'd also suggest that "we have no dogma" is itself a dogma, in the same way that "you shall have no other gods before Me" is a Christian/Jewish dogma.  It's not a positive affirmation of belief in any particular thing, but it's an idea that one must assent to before claiming membership in that particular group.  If you can't say there is anything for which you say "you must believe *this* in order to be an athiest," then what "we" are you talking about when you say "we have no dogma"? 

Anthony Flew talked about two categories of athiests:  atheist in the positive sense and in the negative sense.  Atheists in the positive sense affirm things like "there is no god", and athiests in the negative sense simply don't include themselves in any other theistic category; the latter are more properly called "non-theists" (according to Flew).  If you're saying that you're the kind of athiest that subscribes to no dogma (a "non-theist"), then we're talking at cross purposes.  But may I remind you that this conversation started with a post that made a claim that certain things are true and not true about athiests, and made the argument that athiests as *a group* should be treated better in America.  If we're only speaking of non-theists, that's like calling yourself a "non-Republican" or "non-Mason".  You're not really saying anything positive about who you are, you're just making general statements about what you're not.  I know a lot of "non-Republicans", but of course I can't generalize what they believe or how they act, because no unified group of "non-Republicans" actually exists.  Of course non-theism has no dogma, but that's not really saying anything meaningful, is it?

Kelly:  What could I possibly say to change your mind or America's other than to live my life the best I can and show the world that I'm a good and moral person.  That morals can be gained from a societal basis.  What morals, I wonder, are you referring to if other than the ones you listed?

I would expect an atheist (or any non-theist) to say that morals can be understood from society.  Even as a Christian I can agree to this.  Morals are not unchangeable--they are set or changed by a society.  As a Christian, I believe in an immutable ethic that emerges from the nature of God, and a society's morals best reflect that ethic when they understand that God to exist and appreciate His nature, but that's hardly ever true of any society.  What I find ironic is that atheists who live in a society that has declared belief in God to be a virtue then complain when they are seen as immoral.  What ground do you have to stand on to dispute a society's decided moral virtues?  What higher authority do you have to appeal?  The best an atheist can do is to hope that one day America's idea of virtue will change to be more accepting of them, but until then it doesn't make sense to bemoan the cards that society has handed you, if you believe Society to be the proper judge of what is moral.

Kelly:  Why then... when people meet me, get to know me... do they nearly jump out of their skin when I tell them I don't go to church?  That I'm an atheist.

That's the best answer that I can give, and it convinces me, at least.  Don't interpret me to excuse any of my Christian "brethren" from reacting in a bigoted way to the revelation that you are atheist, and forgive me for my remark about atheists being "vitriolic snobs", it's an opinion I hold of the Dawkins/Hitchens crowd and should not have been directed to this forum.

Date Posted: 1/12/2009 11:53 PM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2008
Posts: 79
Back To Top

Kelly:  The vibe I'm getting is that most don't want to think of atheists as individuals.  *shrugs*  That must be hard work. 

To be fair, I don't think I or anybody else has suggested that a person shouldn't be treated as an individual, atheist or not.  My comments took issue to the original post by L. by speaking of the category of people called atheists, which L. does even more amply. 

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 1:27 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
Back To Top

Kelly wrote: Why then... when people meet me, get to know me... do they nearly jump out of their skin when I tell them I don't go to church?  That I'm an atheist.  You say that it's not because we're being discriminated against, I say that's a load.  I huge steamy load.  Because that is exactly what is happening.

Yep.  Nothing more threatening to a "devout" believer than an atheist.  It's only because they are afraid "we" are right and they are wrong.

 (My personal belief is that there is no "right" or "wrong", there just is...)



Last Edited on: 1/13/09 1:40 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 9:03 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
Back To Top

Can we at least agree that "there is no God" is a dogma?

No.  Chris, you are trying very very hard to convince me of something, but of what I am very confused and unsure.  I call myself an atheist because the dictionary definition fits me.  This is true enough, but dogma indicates a specific set of tenents laid down "as if by a church" that I would have to follow.  That is just not true.  To quote a famous commercial.  I am an army of one.  I am willing to bet there are far more people like me who are atheist than there are people who fall into the three groups you listed. 

Do you want to know something extremely funny.  I've been an atheist since I was 14.  16 years of my life and I've never even heard of those organizations.  No desire whatsoever to look into it. 

No ma'am.  No dogma here. 

Of course non-theism has no dogma, but that's not really saying anything meaningful, is it?

Ok, I see maybe were this is going and I see why people have a hard time with me sometimes.  Sorry.  I'm not meaningful and noncategorical.  *shrugs*  :)  heh heh. 

What I find ironic is that atheists who live in a society that has declared belief in God to be a virtue then complain when they are seen as immoral.  What ground do you have to stand on to dispute a society's decided moral virtues?  What higher authority do you have to appeal?

I'm not sure if you are speaking to me directly or rhetorically, but I will take a stab at this.  I am not seen as immoral for my actions.  Quite the opposite actually.  When I tell people I am atheist they are shocked because I do so much good for my community, for others, for other's children and of course for my own.  Not to toot my own horn but I've won several community accolades.  I don't dispute society's moral values in most cases on a base level, do not kill, etc...  The higher authority I appeal is my neighbor and my own conscience. 

I am seen as immoral because I didn't pick a church to go to.  This I find stupid and ridiculous.  To what higher authority do these people appeal I wonder?  I know they pray for me every night after they gossip about me.  After I take all their kids to the children's museum for story time (volunteer mind you) then go to the old folks home for lunch to help feed people while they sit around and talk about how I don't go to church and how I'm going to hell.  LOL.  I love it. 

Don't confuse religious values with societal values.  They are not one in the same.  Do not assume societal values are gleaned from religion.  As much as Christians love to think this country was founded because and solely for them its just not so.  The freedom created when the country was formed guranteed people like me could exist and make changes to the way this place is run.  :) 

Page: