August 06, 2009

Atheism and Alienation

How polite do atheists need to be? There's always a current of this particular conversation going on in the atheist blogosphere, but Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's attack on PZ Myers' actions in Crackergate seems to have thrown it into high relief. A bunch of people are popping up in various places to suggest that PZ's actions "just didn't help."

Even this blog isn't immune. Philip H. from DC Dispatches started it by praising Jeff Wagg's tactics.

I would also add that the dialogue you posted was, at least in print, civil, even cordial. I detected no hint of explative throwing, no threats to dessicrate a Denny's Apply Strudel, and thus no reason that Denny's shouldn't tkae the threat seriously. I know many atheists will disagree, but tactics matter. And in this case, the tactics, as reported, were probably very effective.

He got a response from me that I don't think he was expecting.

Phil, define desecrate. Do you mean like two guys kissing on the front steps? There are good reasons to be very leery of that word, not the least of which is the fact that my continued existence and happiness is desecration by some people's definition.

With some later elaboration.

The thing is, Jeff's is a very reasonable response to a meal costing a dollar more for a non-churchgoer. Complaining to the manager is not a reasonable response to death threats.

In fact, what PZ did in Crackergate was pretty merciful. It had no real-world repercussions. He could have turned over all the threats of violence to the FBI. They have jurisdiction for terroristic threats made electronically. Instead he hurt their feelings. Badly, maybe. Still feelings.

I know you appreciate that I'm fairly polite and reasonable about these things. You may not notice it, but I never forget that it's the people who take a stronger, more "outrageous" stand who give me the space to do this. Without them, it wouldn't matter how nice I am on the subject. I'd be in the same position as the Jews PZ talked about in his cracker-piercing post: different, therefore suspect, therefore game, therefore dead.

I may reach out more than they do, but I can only do that as long as I'm alive and free to speak.

There are a few things that Phil and I don't agree on, but one of the things I like about him is that he argues fairly. He tries to understand what's going on on "the other side." In fact, the first time I really became aware of him was in the middle of an argument, and he ended up by reading my blog. (He's not the only one that happened with. Is that weird? Anyway.) So, when Phil asks for more information, I'm more than happy to give it, and he's asked for more on this.

Wow. Perhaps I've been in too many academic communities in my life, where this sort of freedom is taken for granted. Perhaps its my forgiving nature, where I labor against all evidence to look for good intent. But reading my words my first reaction was that you had personnally been threatened due to your atheism. As in threatened with death. If that's so, I am sorry to have touched a nerve. If not, perhaps you can elaborate, so the simple verbal literalist in me can get where you are going.

No, Phil, I haven't been directly threatened personally. I have seen others threatened for doing something I might do.

Webster Cook was threatened and assaulted and removed from office for mistaking the conventions of one Catholic service for another. I've spent time in Catholic churches to admire the art and architecture. They're open to the public for that purpose as well as for worship, but they don't come with guides. Even being respectful by my definition, I'm in an alien culture there. If a kid walking back to his seat without swallowing is worthy of assault and death threats, how difficult would it be for me to cross someone unknown line and become subject to the same?

PZ received death threats for mocking people's sense of proportion. I don't think I need to explain how this one is directly relevant to my life. Do I get to die now?

There are things that are said directly in conversations I'm a part of that tell me there are religious people who think that because I'm an atheist, I'm less than human.
  • I can't love.
  • I have no morals.
  • I can't find any meaning or joy in life.
How big a step is it from that last one to "it doesn't matter if I live"? How big a step from the first two to deciding that it's better for the world if I'm not here?

Me being visibly atheist, polite or no, offends people, even when I'm talking to other atheists. See the bus ads that were just pulled in Iowa. They literally tell atheists they're not alone, but they were pulled because of complaints. "DART claims it received numerous phone calls from people who were offended by the ads".

This is something I do have direct experience with. I'm involved in a number of activities designed to raise the profile of atheists, precisely so people feel less alone. I'm not as active as I could be, but I don't keep silent either. Someone I know posted this in a discussion at Greg's.

I'm a Christian who chooses not to preach to others. I have an incredibly devout Catholic friend who doesn't preach to me. However, I'm finding some of my other friends are very irritating with all their atheist proselytizing.

Let's live and let live, already.

Now, that looks pretty simple on the face of it, but as I said, I know this person. I know what kind of "proselytizing" they're exposed to. My response:

I post about atheism on Facebook and on my blog because I find the topic interesting, because I want people to know they do know an atheist, and because a large number of the people who read my stuff in both places are atheists. I don't do it because I'm trying to change anyone else's mind about their religion. Maybe their assumptions about mine, but that's somewhat different.

If you mention a sermon you found interesting, are you trying to convert me? If you mention a TSA agent you found annoying, are you trying to get me to rebel against the government? If you wax enthusiastic about knitting, are you suggesting I need to take up needles? No, you're just talking about your life.

That's exactly the problem that an atheist faces in a situation like this. As far as society in general (in the U.S.) is concerned, mentioning religion is just talking about your life. Mentioning atheism is somehow encroaching on someone else's. Do you do it anyway, or do you hang out in the closet?

My behaviors are interpreted differently, even by people who know me, because they involve atheism. Being nonreligious is seen as a direct challenge to religion. I'm annoying because I address other atheists, publicly, on the topic of atheism.

So, I'm annoying, offensive, subhuman. Other people in situations similar to mine have been threatened and assaulted. They've been silenced. People not that much further away have been killed.

Do I expect PZ's actions to reach moderates and make them feel warm and fuzzy about atheists? No, of course not. I expect his actions in Crackergate did two things. I saw that it gave Catholic extremists someone to focus their hate on in a very public, educational way. I suspect that, for a number of people, it deflated some of the drama of desecration. After all the build-up, the reality was downright prosaic. Secular even. And, well, look at that, that blog post had some interesting points.

What PZ has done is make it harder for people to look at me, minding my own business with a bunch of my atheist buddies and a few people who don't hold anything sacred, even if they think its sacred, chatting about what we've got in common, and think I'm doing something wrong. What PZ did? Well, you know, that wasn't very nice, but that well-spoken little atheist chick over there is much more reasonable. People will--and do--reserve their arguing for him and talk to me. Or to plenty of other people who sound much more moderate.

We get to be good cops, but we couldn't do it without the "bad" ones. That is why we need atheists who are less than polite.

Update: And the very first comment....

Update 2: Quite a ways down in the comments, Steve apologizes and blames the whole thing on a prank by a friend. The apology has been accepted.

78 comments:

Anonymous said...

Atheists don't need to be polite at all, because you're all a bunch of worthless fuck stains. The sooner you die the better.

Michael said...

Anonymous, I love when comments that are meant to be demeaning actually underscore the argument of the post itself perfectly.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Anonymity on the web isn't all it's cracked up to be. Based on the timing, ISP and referring URL, Anonymous, who would like me to die very soon, is Steve, who blogs here and with whom I was arguing at Pull My Finger yesterday.

Mike Haubrich said...

I returned the favor at anonymous' site, cutting and pasting and quoting his comment with a strikeout. Problem is that his comment section doesn't allow the "srikeout" tag, so it looks kind of goofy.

Stephanie Zvan said...

For the record, the information was posted for documentation purposes, not to tell people to go harass someone. Mike, his co-bloggers should probably know who they're dealing with, so I'm cool with leaving the comment, but let's let it stop there.

Philip H. said...

Stephanie,
Thanks. You are, as always, clear and to the point. Perhaps its a benefit of your writing career - perhaps its a part of your innate personality. Hopefully I can continue to get to know you, so as to determine which.

You made a lot of points in that post, and as you note, you and I will disagree on some of them. Most especially baout the need for bad cops.

As I read it, you and many other atheists see yourselves in a struggle for civil rights - principally the civil right to believe what you want to believe and not be harrassed or harmed by anyone. I think that is a cause that is entirely worthwhile, and I'm more then happy to lend my voice to it as a Christian. But I disagree wholeheartedly that you NEED PZ or anyone employing the same tactics to achieve your goals.

The problem I think you are missing is this - there will always be a small subset of people you can't reach, no matter what tactics you use. White Supremicists, Birthers, Creationists. WHile I know many like to say they are fighting a war with thos e folks, since they do not acknowledge your existence, its hard to fight them.

The vast majority of people, however,including the vast majority of Christians, aren't carried to that extreme. We will respond to reasoned arguement and fair persuasion. It's one of things I like about reading your blog - you argue on the merits. But just as Dr. King didn't NEED the Black Panthers to succeed in achieveing civil rights for black Americans (and was probably hampered by them), you don't need PZ or any other bad cops to persuade the majority to support you.

CyberLizard said...

Anonymous, LOL! Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton's fuck stains were worth quite a lot, if I'm not mistaken.

CyberLizard said...

I don't see PZ as the bad cop in this situation. What he did was actually quite noble: by offering up himself as a target for the hate and death threats he took the heat off (to some extent) of Webster Cook, while at the same time pointing out the ridiculous overreaction of the catholics (some of them, anyway).

Stephanie Zvan said...

Phil, I've heard people say that about MLK plenty of times, but none of them have ever been able to back it up with anything more than wanting it to be true. Find me a single human rights campaign that succeeded solely by being civil--that didn't have a more radical group redefining disagreement and challenge as acceptable. Don't forget that "talking back" was an offense punishible by death for African-Americans. It took many different things to change that.

CyberLizard, bad cop is not necessarily an ignoble role. It's what parenting is all about sometimes. But it does amuse me that the atheists biggest bad cops are so damned mild.

Super Mon said...

Stephanie,
Great post! I have received a broad range of reactions when mentioning that I am an atheist (and/or insert "feminist" here too) from silence to verbal abuse to questions about what will happen to me after I die, to "me too!" to "meh, what are you eating?" When my co-worker made a snide remark after learning I am an atheist, like "that's right you don't believe in anything," I felt obligated to take the discussion to the next level by explaining that that just isn't true. My version of atheism doesn't preclude her belief in Jesus. It's my belief. She freely gets to talk about going to Mass and believing in Jesus as her savior, and I don't really care. But, when it comes to discussing atheism, forget it. That is out of the question because she feels I am being insensitive or negating her belief somehow. As you mentioned, as atheists/feminists there seems to be a demand that we shut the hell up about it. I can't help but wonder at the insecurity of such a belief that you can't even hear about someone who differs from you without feeling like you're being converted to Devil Worship. Mhuawhahahaha!


Anonymous,

LOL x one million! You are for sure going to Heaven as you are a poster child for Christian compassion and understanding. I am so glad secure folks like you are around to set things straight!

Signed,

A Liberal Feminist Atheist Fuck Stain

CyberLizard said...

I guess I see the phrase "bad cop" meaning something a little different. I see it typically used as a threat, like, "if you don't cooperate I'm going to let 'bad cop' do what he wants to you." I don't see M&K using him that way.

But, then, I wholly agree with PZ on the crackergate issue, so does that make me one of the bad boyz? I sure hope so, that would be so kewl!

Greg said...

When people meet PZ Myers in person, they tend to be disappointed that he is very polite and has only four limbs. Personally, I think he does an excellent job at calibrating his level of discourse to match the object of it. Failure to do that is certainly the problem more often than not with many of us.

Lou FCD said...

"As I read it, you and many other atheists see yourselves in a struggle for civil rights - principally the civil right to believe what you want to believe and not be harrassed or harmed by anyone. I think that is a cause that is entirely worthwhile, and I'm more then happy to lend my voice to it as a Christian. But I disagree wholeheartedly that you NEED PZ or anyone employing the same tactics to achieve your goals."

Waaah. PZ stabbed a cracker and threw it in the trash where it belongs.

Y'know what? I can't even begin to tell you how sick and tired I am of hearing about how non-Christians should just be nice and respectful and everything will be ok. The Good Christians™ will be right over to fix the bad things the Not Troo Christians™ have done.

Reason and polite conversation haven't gotten us anywhere because you just can't reason with people who believe there is an Invisible Zombie Who Lives in the Sky. If reason were even remotely effective, they wouldn't be so delusional in the first place.

We need more PZs, not fewer.

Jason Thibeault said...

We need every kind of unit on the field -- the ones that accomodate the "weakly" religious and sidle them into science slowly, the ones that get into the face of the True Believers, and everything in between. If we take any of us off that field, we're weakening our own effort. And that's the kind of nonsense I won't brook, and that's why I hate M&K's backbiting as much as I do.

Also, I am shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that a Paultard has no idea how the interwebs works. Guess what, shitface? If there's one thing us atheists can do, it's follow the evidence.

Thomas Joseph said...

Reason and polite conversation haven't gotten us anywhere because you just can't reason with people who believe there is an Invisible Zombie Who Lives in the Sky. If reason were even remotely effective, they wouldn't be so delusional in the first place.

Lou FCD, Home Depot called. They want their big paintbrush back.

rystefn said...

If you're one of the people who say things like "It's ok to be an atheist as long as you aren't so vocal about it," then you're part of the problem. A big part.

Silence is support for the status quo.

I can't recommend this essay by Greta Christina highly enough. Read it, and if you still can't understand the loud, vocal section of atheists (or any other suppressed voice), then I don't think I can help you.

Jason Thibeault said...

The funny thing about my own comment is, as distasteful as I have found rystefn in the past, I wouldn't even recommend taking HIM off the field, because there's bound to be SOMEONE he can reach that I couldn't. Hopefully vice-versa.

Jason Thibeault said...

Thomas: I don't see that as a broad brushstroke at all. Reasonable theists exist but they generally hedge on everything, from miracles all the way down. And the people to which Lou refers specifically believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible in the face of all the science that has come after it, and are therefore driven to conflict with atheists directly. It's a selection bias thing, if anything.

CyberLizard said...

*sigh* Rystefn is right, Greta Christina is an awesome writer and nails it in her posts about atheism.

If polygamy were legal I would so ask her to marry me and my wife. I think she'd like both of us ;-)

Thomas Joseph said...

Jason said: Reasonable theists exist but they generally hedge on everything, from miracles all the way down.

I'm not buying it. Lou clearly lumps all theists (reasonable or not) together and says they are delusional, which doesn't really equate with being rational or reasonable in the slightest.

The problem I have with PZ is that, at least to me, the fight has gone away from science literacy* into a blanket condemnation of religion. The only thing that could make it worse is if we politicized science completely (I say completely because in some regards it already has been politicized).

As far as "hedging", I have no idea what you mean by that phrase. Willing to live and let live? Compromising? Knowing not to make more of an issue than it is worth? For me, life has never been about black and white. It's always been a few thousand shades of gray.

*Reading Jerry Coyne's review of Chris and Sheril's book in Science, and his claiming that we're awash in popular science, I'm beginning to wonder what all the railing is about. If we're not scientifically illiterate, if the country is on good sound footing in the sciences, why are we even caring about the creationist minority (albeit the very loud, but still a minority)?

Lou FCD said...

Get some paint on you, did I, Thomas?

Ask me if I give a fuck.

Jason, my only comment about your comment about my comment is that there is no such thing as someone who really takes the Bible literally. Those who claim they do pick and choose which parts of the Bible to take literally, and the differences among them are merely which parts. Otherwise, they'd be stoning their kids to death. Although I suppose it's possible that a teenager exists that has never once shown disrespect to his/her parents, I have yet to come across any evidence of such a teenager.

Steve said...

I absolutely did not leave that comment. I think I was the victim of some trickery. I was some college friends the arguments I had been having on various blogs and I think one them had some fun at my expense after I left the room.

You can look at the arguments Stephanie and I were having on the Pull My Finger blog and see that while heated, there was no tripe such as this being spread.

What's almost humorous about this is that I pretty much share the same stance as you guys on religion. I wrote about it on my blog over a year ago in a post called Religion, Sports and Me.

So let me be the first to apologize for a very crude prank gone horribly wrong.

rystefn said...

It's a special kind of person I can reach. I don't imagine I've changed a lot of minds (though I do know of a few). I would say that, more than individuals reached by individuals, it's the accumulation of effect that matters.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Phillip -

I don't think it is as easy as all that to claim that the Black Panthers weren't an integral part of the civil rights movement. Just as it is entirely unreasonable to claim that the "in your face" aspects of the gay rights movement weren't and in some places don't continue to be an integral part of the gay rights movement. The more vocal and angry aspects of any movement are usually just as important as the calmer, moderated aspects. Because without the angry, loud folks, no one hears the moderates...

Thomas -

I for one, am all about attacking religion as a whole and for very good reasons. Theism is poison and causes a great deal of harm on a great many levels. I not into actively convincing people that they should give up their faith, but I am all about helping people understand that there is a reasonable life to be had outside of faith.

benjdm said...

One example springs to my mind:

Military.com was running a story about Jeremy Hall, who had his atheist meeting in Iraq busted up by a Major. They ran a poll with the story: "Military Atheists Allowed?" Not do you know one, or do they make good soldiers, but 'are they allowed?'

Click through to the poll and you get: "Should atheists and pagans be afforded the same rights as Christians, Jews, or Muslims?" It's directly asking if atheists and pagans are second class citizens, with lesser rights. What would sum up the 'No' answer? "Hell, no. American money doesn't read "In God We Trust" for nothing." Imagine that. Harmless National Motto, my ass.
http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,149846,00.html

Thomas Joseph said...

Lou, I'm sure you don't give a fuck. And you have the right to be as big a dick as you want. Enjoy.

Those who claim they do pick and choose which parts of the Bible to take literally, and the differences among them are merely which parts.

This is really a nonsensical argument, and made by people who are generally pretty ignorant of what the Bible is (which is a collection of books). It's like going into a library and bitching that people don't take the books in the fiction section literally, but they do in the biography and history sections.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks for the apology, Steve.

Philip H. said...

If you're one of the people who say things like "It's ok to be an atheist as long as you aren't so vocal about it," then you're part of the problem. A big part.

Silence is support for the status quo.


Actually I'm one o fthose peopel who says:

"Its Ok to be an athiest, now lets talk about what we have in common and what we don't."

I'm also one of those people who say:

"Its Ok to be an atheist, and I'll sign your petition so you can be freely in the U.S."

I'm also one of those people who say:
"Fundamnetalist Christians get the Bible wrong for two reasons - they cherry pick, and the forget that Jesus told them He was doing away with all the Hellfire and brim stone in the Old Testament."

I could go on.

Thomas Joseph said...

DuWayne said: I for one, am all about attacking religion as a whole and for very good reasons.

Hate to quibble hear, but define "whole". If you truly mean, "as a whole" you also mean the individual believers to, right? So while perhaps you're not into convincing people to give up religion, you're ok with badgering them?

Theism is poison and causes a great deal of harm on a great many levels.

I've seen this said a lot. Of course that doesn't make it true.

I not into actively convincing people that they should give up their faith, but I am all about helping people understand that there is a reasonable life to be had outside of faith.

You mean that atheists can lead a fulfilling, enjoyable, happy, reasonable, (insert all sorts of adjectives here) life? Holy shit! Who knew! Of course, why theism (and theists) need to be berated to get this point across is beyond me. Of course, I'm just one of the deluded.

rystefn said...

Thomas, it's more like standing in the middle of the fiction section and pointing out that no matter which part of it you pretend is the biology and history section, and which part you admit is fiction, you're still wrong. It's all fiction, and any accurate facts that get in are incidental.

Philip, you left out the part where you said that throwing a cracker in the trash is going too far. I'd say that's setting the line of acceptable levels of expressing yourself pretty low.

Oh, and CyberLizard, you should join in the fight. Limiting marriage to just two people is just as wrong as limiting it to only between a man and a woman... but that a completely different subject, so I'll set it aside for now.

Jason Thibeault said...

"You mean that atheists can lead a fulfilling, enjoyable, happy, reasonable, (insert all sorts of adjectives here) life? Holy shit! Who knew! Of course, why theism (and theists) need to be berated to get this point across is beyond me. Of course, I'm just one of the deluded."

As someone who has been told that I CANNOT have these things without Finding Jesus, I can tell you, there are assuredly people on your side of this argument that truly do not know or do not believe that this is the case. So, yes, it needs to be said. And the people who believe otherwise need to be berated. If you are annoyed with this, I suggest the next time you hear one of your fellow theists make some spurious claim about what atheists are and are not capable of, you rush to the atheists' defense. (And as a side-game, you can bring a stopwatch to time how long it takes for your cohorts to turn on you.)

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hate to quibble hear, but define "whole". If you truly mean, "as a whole" you also mean the individual believers to, right?

Are you a religion Thomas? Or are you religious? I am after religion as a whole, not the religious. Though I am also occasionally inclined to go after believers, when they are acting in an egregious fashion.

I've seen this said a lot. Of course that doesn't make it true.

Click my name and scroll to my tags, click on religion. I am not going to rehash it all, as I don't have time. We have about twenty minutes until quiet time is over and the boys and I are off to the library.

Of course, why theism (and theists) need to be berated to get this point across is beyond me.

That is not the point I am trying to get across - don't know why you would think it is. Do you have reading comprehension issues, along with your delusions? Again, if you click my name and click on my religion tag, you will see exactly why I feel the way I do about it.

Or you could pretend that I am saying things I am not and whack away at something else entirely...

CyberLizard said...

I can barely keep up with cohabitating with one spouse, let alone two! Throw kids on top of that and forget it. My comment about Greta was just hyperbole and wishful fantasizing.

Jason, I agree with you. Atheists are being dehumanized by their opponents just as surely as other groups fighting for civil rights have been dehumanized. Once you've established the opposition as something less than human, less than worthy, that opens the door for all kinds of atrocities. So far, we have generally been spared the kind of treatment that the african americans and the gays have, but if we do sit down and shut up, that won't be far off.

CyberLizard said...

Hey Thomas, Delusional: Psychiatry A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness

Going by this commonly understood definition of delusional, I'd have to say that religious people, regardless of the religion, are, in fact, delusional. The continued rabid denial of evolution, the insistence that the supernatural affects the natural world despite having absolutely no evidence; all this kinda points to delusion.

We've all got our mental quirks (FSM knows I've got my share) but that doesn't mean we should be silent about it when then delusional attempt to coopt the government and reality in general to impose their delusions upon the rest of us.

Greg said...

I have updated my post to point to Steve's comment above. Thanks, Steve.

Lou FCD said...

This is really a nonsensical argument, and made by people who are generally pretty ignorant of what the Bible is (which is a collection of books).

30 seconds of research would have disabused you of such a stupid assumption, Thomas.

Philip H. said...

C.L.
The continued rabid denial of evolution, the insistence that the supernatural affects the natural world despite having absolutely no evidence; all this kinda points to delusion.

This is what Thomas and I are struggling with -it is a braod brush painting all religious persons (particularly Christians) and is demonstrably not true. Yes, there are fundamentalists who believe this and act on it, but they are not in the majority of Christians, never mind the majority of religious persons across all faiths.

And DuWayne, my verbal literalism is struggling with your dichotomy of relgion vs. religious people. In my view, hard to have one withothe the other, except as a thought exercise. Same is true, FWIW, for atheism.

rystefn said...

CyberLizard, I get that, and did as soon as you said it. I just saw an opportunity to bring up one of my pet issues and took it. It's a character flaw, I know.

CyberLizard said...

"This is what Thomas and I are struggling with -it is a braod brush painting all religious persons (particularly Christians) and is demonstrably not true. Yes, there are fundamentalists who believe this and act on it, but they are not in the majority of Christians, never mind the majority of religious persons across all faiths."

Aside from perhaps a rabid denial of evolution, by definition the majority of christians (and all theists) believe in a supernatural deity with absolutely no evidence other than the writings of some bronze age nomadic tribes, with revisions a few centuries later by other men. Not exactly the extraordinary evidence required to back up the extraordinary claim of the existence of a god/gods.

It is by this that I can use a large brush and state that y'all are delusional. And while you, personally, may not be engaged in the efforts to insert your imaginary deity's "laws" into our government/schools, by your continued following of such obviously improbable tripe, you continue to feed the delusions of those who do.

And WTF is up with the blockquote tag not being allowed?!?

Thomas Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray Ingles said...

Philip H. - Did you notice the part about the bus ads? All they said was "Don't Believe In God? You're Not Alone", and the website of the Iowa Freethinkers. That's it.

And they were pulled because people complained. About that. Seriously.

The problem with telling atheists that they need to be less 'strident' or 'militant' is that we run into people all the friggin' time who consider simply stating that you're an atheist to be strident and militant.

Want proof? Do some searches on Google News. To be considered a 'militant' believer, you have to actually pick up a gun and kill someone. To be a 'militant' atheist, all you have to do is write a book.

Thomas Joseph said...

DuWayne: Are you a religion Thomas? Or are you religious? I am after religion as a whole, not the religious.

And that's why I asked DuWayne. I asked you (a rather reasonable request, I might add) what you meant by "as a whole" because when I read that, to me it obviously has to include "those who hold to those religious beliefs".

DuWayne said: That is not the point I am trying to get across - don't know why you would think it is. Do you have reading comprehension issues, along with your delusions?

Perhaps DuWayne, if you had just defined what you meant by "as a whole" I'd be able to follow you more completely. That's why I asked what I asked. There is of course another way to look at things -- perhaps my reading comprehension is fine, and you just suck at getting your point across. ;)

Jason said: As someone who has been told that I CANNOT have these things without Finding Jesus, I can tell you, there are assuredly people on your side of this argument that truly do not know or do not believe that this is the case.

Oh I know it. I lived in Oklahoma for quite awhile, and was told as a Catholic that I too needed to "find Jesus" because I was an idolater and hell-bound (for the vocal portion of the Baptists in Oklahoma, Catholicism does not count as Christian). It's irritating, about as irritating at atheists who insist on telling me that because I'm religious, I must make a bad scientist (we'll see how bad I really am after my tenure review at the end of the year).

Jason said: If you are annoyed with this, I suggest the next time you hear one of your fellow theists make some spurious claim about what atheists are and are not capable of, you rush to the atheists' defense.

Sure thing. What gets me is the assumptions. You think you need to make this suggestion to me, without actually thinking that I might already do things along these lines.

Jason said:(And as a side-game, you can bring a stopwatch to time how long it takes for your cohorts to turn on you.)

Exactly why are they my cohorts? Because we share one thing in common, and on that one thing there is probably a vast disconnect on any number of issues? That's like saying that because I don't collect stamps, I'm automatically associated with everyone else who isn't a stamp collector. That's a bit bizarre.

rystefn: Touche on the library analogy, but it sort of sidesteps the whole point I was making.

Philip H. said...

Philip H. - Did you notice the part about the bus ads? All they said was "Don't Believe In God? You're Not Alone", and the website of the Iowa Freethinkers. That's it.

And they were pulled because people complained. About that. Seriously.


Ray, speaking with my government bureaucrat hat on, I can almost guarantee you the ads were pulled because a county lawyer told them that leaving them on the bus would more then likely bring a lawsuit and the county bus system decided it didn't want the trouble or expense. Granted people likely complained because they are fundies, but that doesn't mean that religious intolerance wa steh reason the ads got pulled. Government overreacts all the time to threats of legal action.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thomas, do you "believe there is an Invisible Zombie Who Lives in the Sky"? Do you "really take the Bible literally"? If not, why are you working so hard to be offended by what people are saying? You keep trying to say, "I'm not like them," at the same time you're claiming solidarity by insisting that atheists making fairly specific statements--about their own beliefs--are being mean to you.

Phil, read the bus ad article. Note what the government officials, as officials, added to the conversation. They did not say, "We're scared of lawsuits, even though we support (in theory only, of course) the rights of atheists to pay for the privilege to display simple, declarative statements." Seriously, read it before you dismiss it and my reaction to it.

Thomas Joseph said...

Stephanie: Thomas, do you "believe there is an Invisible Zombie Who Lives in the Sky"?

No. I am a theist though. I figure the above phrase is merely a pejorative.

Do you "really take the Bible literally"?

I believe in a proper exegesis of Biblical texts. Some texts should be taken literally/historically, others not.

If not, why are you working so hard to be offended by what people are saying?

I'm mostly asking questions, and trying to get the point across that blanket insults against all believers seems, to me at least, counter productive.

You keep trying to say, "I'm not like them," at the same time you're claiming solidarity by insisting that atheists making fairly specific statements--about their own beliefs--are being mean to you.

No. First off, everyone's experiences are their experiences, and far be it from me to tell them what is and isn't valid. It's all valid because they experienced it, and they're entitled to feel the way they feel. Like I said above though, lumping all believers together doesn't (at least to me) appear to be the best route of action. I feel that I am certainly not like fundamentalist Christians, yet many people here would consider me just as delusional, and just as much of a problem, as the fundamentalists. Am I misreading things?

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thomas, go back and look at your statements here. Count the number of times you had to say "figure" and "assume" in order to take things as insults to you. You're working way too hard for this. Enjoying it?

Thomas Joseph said...

Thomas, go back and look at your statements here. Count the number of times you had to say "figure" and "assume" in order to take things as insults to you. You're working way too hard for this. Enjoying it?

I used the word "figure" once, and the word "assumption" once as well in the entire time I've been in this thread. I'm not trolling the thread looking to start arguments, if you feel that I am, I'm more than willing to depart.

Ben Zvan said...

Phil:
I can almost guarantee you the ads were pulled because a county lawyer told them that leaving them on the bus would more then likely bring a lawsuit and the county bus system decided it didn't want the trouble or expense. Granted people likely complained because they are fundies, but that doesn't mean that religious intolerance wa steh reason the ads got pulled.

I don't know about you but I see a direct relation in your argument between religious intolerance and the ads getting pulled.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Goodness, no, Thomas. Just be aware that nobody here is going to take responsibility for your bruised feelings when you keep shoving the things in the way.

Thomas Joseph said...

Just be aware that nobody here is going to take responsibility for your bruised feelings ...

Last I checked, I'm not that gentle of a wall flower.

Now, would you indulge me with a response to the question I asked above? Rephrased: As a non-fundie theist, am I as much a part of a problem as those fundie theists? If so, why?

Stephanie Zvan said...

Which problem? And which of us did you want to have answer? We are not a monolithic front, you know.

Ray Ingles said...

Geez, Philip, what Ben said. Aside from the fact that your hypothesis has no evidence for it, and quite a bit against it (the governor of Iowa said he was "disturbed" by the ads) - your hypothesis doesn't make things any better.

I mean, what you're saying is that (a) there are people out there who will sue over a message as inoffensive as that and (b) nobody thinks enough of the free speech rights of atheists to defend against a spurious lawsuit.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I asked you (a rather reasonable request, I might add) what you meant by "as a whole" because when I read that, to me it obviously has to include "those who hold to those religious beliefs".

And Thomas, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me, to assume that that meant what I meant, not what you thought it meant. I mean exactly what I say and when I say religion, I am talking about systems of belief. It is really not my fault that you can't comprehend the English language.

Perhaps DuWayne, if you had just defined what you meant by "as a whole" I'd be able to follow you more completely.

I was talking about your statement, which I was responding to - you know; You mean that atheists can lead a fulfilling, enjoyable, happy, reasonable, (insert all sorts of adjectives here) life? Holy shit! Who knew!

Not the point I was making and the reason I was asking about your comprehension of the English language. I never once mentioned any of that in my comments and still would love to know why the fuck you would attribute this to me.

Though for the record, a bunch of your fellow fucking theists don't believe that these are possible. That you do, doesn't make your faith palatable or any less poison than the fundamentalist fucking morons who don't. Indeed your faith is far more toxic than theirs, because it is far more insidious. By virtue of not being bent on all manner of extremism and stupidity, it makes it seem more reasonable though it is anything but. It is still belief without evidence, that breeds more belief without evidence and allows people to decide to believe things without evidence, even when said belief contradicts evidence.

There is of course another way to look at things -- perhaps my reading comprehension is fine, and you just suck at getting your point across. ;)

Problem being, I know that I don't actually suck at getting my point across. So I'll just stick to the assumption that you have issues with the English language.

DuWayne Brayton said...

As a non-fundie theist, am I as much a part of a problem as those fundie theists? If so, why?

No, you're a far more pervasive part of the problem. It's people like you and me, not all that long ago, who are capable of maintaining the taboos our society has about criticizing religion and getting rid of ridiculous fucking accommodations - such as allowing people to endanger public health, by not vaccinating - or allowing people to keep their children from getting the best possible healthcare, because it is against their religion...I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

It isn't the fundies that keep the public feeling that way - it's people like you...And, as I mentioned - me a short while ago.

CyberLizard said...

Well said, DuWayne. You're much better than I at getting a point across.

Thomas, I already answered your question:
"Aside from perhaps a rabid denial of evolution, by definition the majority of christians (and all theists) believe in a supernatural deity with absolutely no evidence other than the writings of some bronze age nomadic tribes, with revisions a few centuries later by other men. Not exactly the extraordinary evidence required to back up the extraordinary claim of the existence of a god/gods.

It is by this that I can use a large brush and state that y'all are delusional. And while you, personally, may not be engaged in the efforts to insert your imaginary deity's "laws" into our government/schools, by your continued following of such obviously improbable tripe, you continue to feed the delusions of those who do."

I think this pretty much means, yes, you are as much of a problem.

rystefn said...

Thomas: "Touche on the library analogy, but it sort of sidesteps the whole point I was making."

It was supposed to. Your point was that you are more right than people who believe different parts are literally true than you do, correct? My point (and others will agree, I think) is that you're still wrong. You stand with the group of people in the fiction section claiming it's the history, biology, and physics sections, and wonder why those of us not in the fiction section refer to you as a single group.

I don't care if you believe Cat in the Hat, Lord of the Rings, or Pride and Prejudice is the true account. You're all part and parcel of the same problem.

Ray Ingles said...

Thomas - And here we show that atheists have a divergence of opinion. I draw a distinction between dogmatic and non-dogmatic theists.

That being said... believing in 'unknowable', 'supernatural' stuff seems, in my estimation, to be a risk factor for dogmatism. Not all theists become dogmatic, just as most smokers don't get cancer... but it does seem to be a major risk factor.

So, not as much a part of the problem, no. But still problematical.

D. C. said...

Find me a single human rights campaign that succeeded solely by being civil--that didn't have a more radical group redefining disagreement and challenge as acceptable.

Sure. Jewish civil rights in the USA and (mostly earlier) Great Britain.

Of course, it also took all in all two or three centuries, maybe more depending on where you want to put the start date and whether you consider the program mostly complete. The current theocratic movement in the USA makes that last a bit doubtful.

D. C. said...

But, when it comes to discussing atheism, forget it. That is out of the question because she feels I am being insensitive or negating her belief somehow.

Not her belief, but her faith. As in "fidelity." The whole "community" thing.

Christianity has been bound up with secular power for 1700-plus years. The soil of Europe is soaked with blood shed over the power given to one group of Christians relative to another (and even more so over non-Christians.)

There are a lot of Christians whose "faith" consists of identifying with the winning side, as demonstrated by their ability to marginalize, exclude, or discriminate against those others. Whether the "infidel" are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, -- machts nichts.

See what happens to a high-school kid who refuses to get all worked up over the football team. By their very existence, they're calling into question one of those unquestionable group-identity articles of faith. Because they're unquestionable, they can't be supported -- and because they can't be supported, it's essential to silence the question.

If the question remains simply because the alien continues to exist, then how do you silence the question?

D. C. said...

The problem with telling atheists that they need to be less 'strident' or 'militant' is that we run into people all the friggin' time who consider simply stating that you're an atheist to be strident and militant.

Ray Ingles FTW.

Jason Thibeault said...

So this twofold effort to both convince atheists that it's okay to come out of the closet, and to convince theists that we're human beings and deserving of the same rights (including the right to discuss our beliefs), as evidenced in this thread, prompted me to try to distill out the obstacles in that effort into something relatively easy to digest. The effort got a bit long, so I threw it on my blog. http://www.lousycanuck.ca/?p=1753

Dan J said...

I can only hope that I'm rude and crude enough in my posts about religion that other atheists, when chastised for being too loud or offensive, can point to me and say, "At least I'm not as bad as him!"

rystefn said...

In writing out my own take on this, it became pretty huge (I'm kind of prone to that, I know), so I posted it to my blog instead.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Cross-posted from the comments at Skeptigirl because I don't know what Phil is actually tracking:

Phil, there’s one thing you should note about the discussions yesterday. There was a discussion on my blog in which you said MLK didn’t need the Malcolm X and his like. I challenged the statement, quite politely, and asked you to back it up. Instead, you went to Lou’s blog, where you repeated the MLK assertion and hung around getting “beat up.”

In my polite post, I linked to an article on the bus ads in Iowa. Without reading the article, you commented that you were sure there wasn’t really a discriminatory reason for the decision to take down the ads, making excuses for the discrimination that the article clearly demonstrated had occurred. (The ACLU and DART came to the same decision this morning, btw. The ads are going back up.)

For someone suggesting that politeness is a good way to reach moderate Christians, you’re doing a very good job of demonstrating that it’s useless. Want to see more politeness? Reward it. Stop worrying about PZ’s behavior while not paying attention to your own.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Dan, you're doing a great job, as well as providing a place were even "nice" atheists can go to let their hair down.

D. C., I'm not entirely convinced by the Jewish example, although I don't really know enough to argue. I don't know how much the rights they have won came out of that movement instead of as a side effect of others (and of people's desire to not be identified with the Nazis), and as you note, the fight is far from done. Jews in Minnesota who observe the Sabbath still can't buy a car or a bottle of wine on the weekend.

Dan J said...

I'm probably not going to win many friends from the "moderates" with my latest post: I guess I'm still not civil enough. Go figure.

At least I had fun writing it!

DuWayne Brayton said...

It's all right Dan, give me a little time and I will give you someone to point to and say, "it could be worse...."

But for the moment, I have my boys to play with, along with my last unit test and final for online psych (mind you the semester ended this last Thursday)...But I have definitely built a head of steam on this one. It may not end up being too full with the fucks and other cursing, but it is going to sting a bit.

rystefn said...

However bad things get, I'm pretty sure you can all point at me say, "At least we're nothing like that asshole!"

Lou FCD said...

"For someone suggesting that politeness is a good way to reach moderate Christians, you’re doing a very good job of demonstrating that it’s useless. Want to see more politeness? Reward it. Stop worrying about PZ’s behavior while not paying attention to your own."

It doesn't seem to have been pointed out directly here, so allow me to just mention that polite, civil discourse didn't resolve the bus ad situation in Iowa, either.

It took loudmouth Atheists threatening a lawsuit to get it done.

It always does.

Lou FCD said...

<--- quote FAIL.

Lou FCD said...

Pointer FAIL, too --->

Lou FCD said...

Rystefn, the way you and I seem to have been following each other around the comment sections of the Blogosphere, people are going to start talking.

And given our respective histories, who could blame them???

:)

rystefn said...

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly deny any and all allegations that I am Lou, that I am stalking Lou, or that I am sleeping with Lou. Although I have made rather lurid advances at his alter-egos, the relationship was completely literary.

(You think that helped?)

Stephanie Zvan said...

Helps what? Lou's feeling? Nah, probably not.

rystefn said...

You think he'd prefer it if I insist that I am stalking/sleeping with/the same person as him?

TTabetic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, TT.

Lou FCD said...

Might.