On Atheist Fundamentalism

There has been something of a spat lately in the atheist blogosphere, due to an announcement from Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard. Epstein and the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy are sponsoring an event to, in their own words, “take on… atheist ‘fundamentalists’” such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and promote the value of humanism and inclusiveness. The Associated Press has run an article on Epstein’s announcement.

These comments have drawn a sharp response from those who feel that Epstein is lending support to the slurs religious zealots frequently hurl against atheists who dare to speak out. Austin Cline and Brian Flemming take the lead in raking him over the coals, while Friendly Atheist has an insider’s perspective on the feud, along with a link to Greg Epstein’s own response.

Much of my feelings on the matter depends on the precise sentiment that Epstein intended to convey. If he is saying that it is possible and desirable to speak our minds, but that we should take care to do so in a way that does not cause needless personal offense, then I agree with that. I have said as much myself many times. We can and should strongly criticize religious belief systems with which we disagree, but we should not generalize religious people as stupid, dishonest, or brainwashed. Those terms are not true and using them adds nothing to the conversation except to pointlessly offend and alienate believers. Regardless of how strongly we may disagree with them, there are many people who are sincere in their belief and believe for what are, to them, clear and convincing reasons. We should acknowledge this. Again, I am not in disagreement with any of this so far.

However, Epstein’s use of the word “fundamentalist” – even in scare quotes – to describe his fellow nonbelievers was a poor choice. Even if he meant something more benign than the AP story’s interpretation of its meaning, he had to know that word would be seized upon by opponents of atheism who are eager to overlook such subtle distinctions. That is a disreputable word for a reason, and Epstein’s long list of clarifications pointing out ways in which Dawkins, Harris and others differentiate themselves from literalist religious fanatics shows that he knows this. If he chose this word just to drum up controversy, that was wrong, and he should retract it. For his graceful response, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I hope he will be more careful in the future.

The problem is that use of this word only gives credibility to truly obnoxious and dishonest examples of anti-atheist sophistry, such as this article by Guardian writer Stuart Jeffries:

“We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism,” says Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark. “Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England.

Let’s slow down and think about this for a moment. Atheists like Richard Dawkins are just as fundamentalist as these other groups? Have any atheists claimed that Christians should not be permitted to marry each other or adopt children, the way some Christians do about gays? How many buses has Richard Dawkins bombed in the name of converting people to atheism?

What I find truly repugnant is the attitude that would equate atheists honestly and forthrightly speaking their minds with the religious zealots who try to terrify others into obedience through deliberate and planned campaigns of murderous violence. In what bizarre and demented ethical system are these two things comparable? Apparently, as far as Slee is concerned, having Richard Dawkins say some mean things to him would be every bit as bad as being blown into bloody shreds by a fanatic who sets off an explosive belt in a crowded public place. No one who espouses such a ludicrous view deserves to be taken seriously.

Or take Jeffries’ comments on Christopher Hitchens’ upcoming God Is Not Great:

Its first chapter, drolly entitled Putting it Mildly, concludes: “As I write these words and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.”

…John Gray, professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, whose book Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia will be published later this year, detects parallels between dogmatic believers and dogmatic unbelievers such as Hitchens and Dawkins.

Again, let us set aside this condescending stereotyping and consider the facts. Is Hitchens’ point actually wrong? Is Jeffries denying that there are religious believers who seek to murder and destroy in the name of their god? Surely not, since he alludes to the July 7, 2005 London transit bombings earlier in this same essay. But if Hitchens’ point is accurate – which it is – then Jeffries must be saying that even if it is true, we atheists shouldn’t talk about it. After all, correctly pointing out true facts would obviously be rude, uncivil and (heaven forbid!) “fundamentalist”. Apparently, “respecting” another person’s religion requires not criticizing that religion even for the wrong things it has actually done.

“What I find really distasteful is not just the tone of their rhetoric, but their lack of doubt,” [Rabbi Neuberger] says. “No scientific method says that there is no doubt. If you don’t accept there’s doubt in all things, you’re being intellectually dishonest.”

No, the true intellectual dishonesty is displayed by apologists who accuse atheists of being dogmatic simply because they have any opinion at all. I will not presume the right to speak for Richard Dawkins, but I can speak for myself. Like many atheists, I would be perfectly willing to change my mind if the correct evidence turns up, but no such evidence has turned up. (EDIT: Dawkins agrees.)

Having doubt in all things means reserving the right to change your opinion if contradictory evidence comes to light. It most certainly does not mean you cannot have confidence in your opinion or cannot argue strongly in its favor in the absence of such evidence. This attitude – the sophistic demand for “doubt” – is nothing more nor less than saying, “Since nobody can be absolutely sure that their view is correct, we should act as if every view is equally plausible and never state any opinion too strongly.” The only thing this position would accomplish is to ensure that we never find out who, if anyone, is in error. In that regard, Dawkins and others who take a strong stand for atheism – and expose it to criticism if it proves to be incorrect – are far greater friends of reason and doubt than religious apologists who make these facetious demands for false humility.

Jeffries closes with a revealing comment about the kind of discourse he and others are actually seeking:

What should such a public square be like? It might not be Menckian, but it could be based on respectful understanding of others’ most cherished beliefs, argues Spencer: “We should be more willing to treat other value systems as coherent, reasonable and even valuable rather than as primitive or grotesque mutations of liberal humanism to which every sane person adheres.”

But what if I do not think that a value system is coherent, reasonable or valuable? Should I lie through a pasted-on smile, speaking words I do not believe, just for the sake of ensuring that people I disagree with don’t feel bad?

The position being advanced here seems to be that if a belief system is held by many people, it automatically becomes “coherent, reasonable and even valuable” and should be treated accordingly. This is categorically wrong. An absurdity remains an absurdity, a contradiction remains a contradiction, and an atrocity remains an atrocity, even if a billion people believe it.

In opposition to this, I believe the public square should see many more sharp-edged, uncompromising, unapologetic debates between people who strongly disagree with each other. I think every point of contention should be hammered out in full public view, every grievance and argument given a thorough airing, and the evidence for every position tried, scrutinized, and tested. It is in the vigorous cut and thrust of open debate that our critical thinking skills are honed and our understanding is truly advanced – not in the bland, insipid porridge of relativism. A few bruised egos are a small price to pay for all the intellectual and cultural benefits such an approach would bring, and I would much rather live in a society where everyone’s positions, including mine, are constantly challenged than in one where people with passionate opinions are silenced in the name of not hurting anyone’s feelings.

Does this make me a “fundamentalist”? Some will doubtless say so. And there is one sense in which I will accept this charge: I am a truth fundamentalist. I believe that the truth is superior to error, that the truth should be pursued above all things, and that we should uncompromisingly defend the truth once we have discovered it (and it can be discovered, though not everyone who thinks they have done so is correct). I am unapologetic about this position. This places me in contrast to people who apparently feel that other values, such as not hurting people’s feelings, take precedence over the truth. I am proud not to be among those people.

Since I believe atheism is among the catalogue of true things, I will defend it. If anyone believes I am wrong, they’re welcome to take their best shot and offer whatever evidence they have that contradicts me, and I will gladly engage them. But I will never bow to those who illogically embrace contradictory positions as equally plausible and valid, and who think that, by mutual consent, we should abandon our quest to seek the truth.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Leslie

    Wow. Allow me to be the first to steal, “I am a truth fundamentalist,” and everything that followed. Brilliant.

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    “I would much rather live in a society where everyone’s positions, including mine, are constantly challenged than in one where people with passionate opinions are silenced in the name of not hurting anyone’s feelings.”

    Of course you can say that: you’re an excellent writer with great, well thought-out ideas, so I’d figure that you’d be home free in such a world ;-)

    Another great post.

  • http://www.gods4suckers.com Bean

    We are “fundamentalists” (read:extremists?) for speaking our minds? For exercising our rights under the First Amendment? I’ve read this in many places. Atheist fundamentalists, a term used by blogevangelists. Words can move mountains and bring truths to light, which might scare theists more than bombs and martyrdom as good xian soldiers. I hate that atheists can’t come to any agreements on…our non-beliefs; but, honestly, what is there to agree on? We aren’t a group held together by a common belief system. Atheists are incredibly diverse and the opinions of one atheist are the opinions of that individual and no one else. Evangelicals can’t grasp the fact that what one atheist says cannot represent the views of other atheists as there is no prescribed doctrine to represent. We are just people who don’t believe in a god and that’s hardly a banner of unification. Not that I’m against atheists speaking out and joining together to make the message heard: We aren’t doormats, we have opinions and a valid place in the workings of this country (US). I just despair when other atheists find it prudent to distance themselves from what they seem to regard as “fundamentalist extremist sects” of atheism. While doormat atheists are sitting on their haunches insisting that they aren’t aggressors trying to wipe-out xianity, many evangelicals appear to have just that in mind for atheism. They would prefer that we don’t exist, perhaps because our very existence sows seeds of doubt within their congregations and their own minds. We represent their own doubts and fears, yet we aren’t afraid to talk about dying in the absolute sense – or living. A quote from your previous post:

    John Avant: “If I really believed what he believed, I would be in despair. I would be living every moment in emptiness and maybe even terror”.

    Perhaps that’s what really scares them? Of course it is. They would prefer an existence of talking to an imaginary friend over a life of true human relationships. I too will be stealing the statement that “I am a truth fundamentalist” – with your permission, of course). Thank you for your eloquent commentary, and my apologies for writing so much. This has been building up in me for a while, apparently. I followed your link from the sidebar at God is for Suckers, in case you keep track of that kind of thing. Peace.

  • Polly

    Having doubt in all things means reserving the right to change your opinion if contradictory evidence comes to light. It most certainly does not mean you cannot have confidence in your opinion or cannot argue strongly in its favor in the absence of such evidence.

    Well said. This is a distinction that needed to be explicitly stated. All opinions are NOT equal just because of the possibility of falsifiability.

    There are many beliefs that are unworthy of respect. Respect is for people, not belief systems.

  • (Hey, this is pretty cool.)
  • Polly

    Everything looks smaller, now. I hope my tag usage didn’t cause problems. Never tried them before.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Great post. I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the banding around of terms like “fundamentalist” and “extremist” and “dogmatic” with regards to atheists like Richard Dawkins. It’s a ludicrous association, and nothing more than an attempt to drag us down to their level.

    I’m currently reading Alister McGrath’s “Dawkins Delusion” and I intend to write a post on it. I’ll save what I have to say for then, but he is probably the worst offender for this sort of propaganda that I have encountered.

  • Archi Medez

    “Let’s slow down and think about this for a moment. Atheists like Richard Dawkins are just as fundamentalist as these other groups? Have any atheists claimed that Christians should not be permitted to marry each other or adopt children, the way some Christians do about gays? How many buses has Richard Dawkins bombed in the name of converting people to atheism?” –Ebonmuse.

    Well said. The bizarre equivalency claims made by various kinds of believers or relativists exemplify how reckless they often are in their statements. We are expected to believe that the mere presence of a very small amount of one kind of “extremism” (e.g., alleged verbal excess) is all but equivalent to a very large amount of another kind of “extremism” (violently slaughtering innocent civilians in order to get one’s political/religious message into the mainstream media).

    What Ebonmuse has identified here on the part of Epstein is perhaps partly rhetoric designed to push people’s buttons, add drama, get attention, etc., but the kinds of equivalency claims being made are truly incredible. I recall, from the Muhammad cartoon crisis, various Muslim and non-Muslim apologists referring to the “extremists on both sides.” Supposedly, the cartoonists and free expression defenders in that case were as “extremist” as the Muslims who were, in reaction to the cartoons, slaughtering people, fire-bombing embassies, taking hostages, placing bounties on the heads of the cartoonists, and so on.

    I think, on our (atheist) side, there have been some statements that could have been phrased a little better. I find it is necessary to write defensively in anticipation of having any given statement taken out of context and misrepresented. For example, Harris’ statement about the “psychotic” OT God is something that can be easily taken out of context (wherein Harris demonstrates with examples from the OT supporting his statement) to make Harris look like some kind of (verbal) extremist. It is interesting that mainstream news media sources will often print a quote like that, but they will not print the actual verses in the OT that justify the conclusion that the character “God” is at the very least “psychotic”. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a newspaper publish the truly objectionable quotes from the OT (e.g., death to blasphemers, apostates, homosexuals, adulterers, disobedient children, etc.). I find our side is held to a very high standard. We have to be nearly perfect and factual nearly all the time; whereas the other side is free to condemn us to hell-fires and torture for all eternity, or else make wishy-washy excuses as to why we should “tolerate” such unjustified enmity. We should remain factual, presenting evidence, facts, to support our views, and highlighting the instances of immoral, unjust policies in the Bible and Koran.

    When people like Epstein make such errors, the errors need to be pointed out, exactly as Ebonmuse has done. That puts the ball back in Epstein’s court and obliges him either to respond and explain himself or allow our rebuttals to stand.

  • Vicki Baker

    I agree that “fundamentalist” may not be the best term here, but wouldn’t you agree that someone who says “Religion poisons everything” has left the world of reasoned, factually supported debate behind? Do you really think that the whole history of religion has been one of evil, that people of faith have never made positive contributions to culture because of and not in spite of their faith?

    What really is the aim of this “New Atheism” movement? Is it just one more flavor of identity politics? Is that really what the world needs today? Or can we find ways to work together on the really serious problems we are facing – environmental degradation, economic inequity, and so on? I admire the approach of EO Wilson, who while not conceding anything regarding the science of evolution, is willing to work with evangelicals to preserve “the Creation” (as a metaphor for Earth’s life support system.)

    Finally, one point on which Sam Harris and the Christian fundamentalists agree: Islam itself is to blame for terrorism. They’re united against the liberal multiculturalists who want to find a way to reach out and support Islamic moderates. Beyond arguing that it “may be ethical” to kill people for their beliefs and speculating about when torture may be justified, Harris offers not one practical idea about how to deal with Islamic fundamentalism.

    The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is cultural imperialism. In most of the developing world, religion is inextricably bound up with culture. Is it really helpful to say to an ordinary Palestinian or resident of Sadr City “You have to give up Islam or we will never have peace?” That just plays into the hands of the extremists. Already these people have the completely justified belief that their welfare is not the concern of privileged white Americans like Sam Harris. Secular Saddam persecuted them, the US has let their society disintegrate into chaos, and the Sadrists are the only organization they can turn to for practical help. So how does it really help for Sam Harris to “freely and openly” criticize the Koran in New York or Los Angeles or wherever he lives? From a Third World perspective, he’s just another in a long line of imperialists who have criticized other cultures for being backward on one hand and with the other hand have taken all they could of their resources and supported violent oppressive regimes. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht’s “Erst Brot, dann die Moral,”: Justice first, then atheism.

    I admire your passion for truth. But, I think if your goal is to liberate people from oppressive beliefs, you should look at the Buddhist tradition, which has similar goals, and try tempering your rhetoric with a good dose of compassion.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vicki,

    Straw man arguments. Source for “Religion poisons everything”? Whoever it was, I doubt in context that it meant “that people of faith have never made positive contributions to culture because of and not in spite of their faith”. I freely admit that religion has had some benefits and been the cause or motive for good things, I just think that all the benefits it offers can also be gained from other sources, without the draw backs of religion. Think of religion as a medicine which helps a bit but has terrible side effects. I think we can find the same treatment from other sources, without the side effects.

    The aim of the New Atheism movement? I don’t know if the world needs any more “identity politics” but I think it’s in dire need of the truth. That’s what Sam Harris is achieving by arguing his case, he’s under-lining the importance of the truth, and hard we should work to obtain it, whatever it is. Maybe it it’s not what the Iraqi people need to hear. Maybe it is. Either way, it’s not the point.

  • Vicki Baker

    tobe – “Religion poisons everything” was taken from the Christopher Hitchens quote in the original post, I assumed all commenters would have read the post carefully above but of course I was forgetting that we all read with our personal filters on. And I don’t think it is a “straw man” argument to point out that when Hitchens or anyone else makes sweeping generalizations like that, they will lose credibly as rational conversation partners. Likewise, Harris’ claim to be an expert on Islam after reading the Koran and the hadiths I treat with the same skepticism as I would another person’s claim to be an expert on American politics after reading the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
    Of course it is important to speak the truth. But if your object is social change, your effectiveness will increase if you take into account how your message is likely to be received. It’s just good pedagogy.

  • http://atheisthussy.blogspot.com/ Intergalactic Hussy

    It’s hard not to be a “fundamentalist” when false ideas are constantly pushed upon you. We just use logic to defend our non-beliefs. Its part funny and part sad that that is seen as being an atheist fundamentalist…I agree that

    Atheist fundamentalists, a term used by blogevangelists.

    and it not a term that makes any clear sense.

  • Kate

    Vicki, Christopher Hitchens said “Religion poisons everything” because his schtick is to be a cranky, chain-smoking, pisser. He’s also brilliant. Read his book on Mother Teresa (provocatively titled “The Missionary Position”), which explains his stance that because religions encourage aherents to do good works to ‘please God’ or ‘achieve salvation’, their works are not true charity because the works are done for selfish reasons.

    Silencing criticism of religion will not help anyone. How is the Sadr City citizen better off if Sam Harris DOESN’T criticize the Koran? Sam Harris still lives in an air-condition home, the Sadr City resident still dodges bombs on his way home. The fact that religion is often bound to culture only strengthens the argument for free discourse. Our American culture was only able to evolve into its current equal-voting, bus-sharing, South Park-airing state because the Constituion wrested a specific religion away from structure of society.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vicki,

    Thanks for pointing me to the source of the quote. I have read the article very carefully, but I’ve also slept since then.
    When you look at one quote out of context it can be called a sweeping generalisation, but the quote is taken from a book where Hitchens offers evidence to support his statement, thus making it “specific” as opposed to general.
    Whether Sam Harris, or anyone else is an expert on Islam, or any other religion is irrelevant. You don’t have to be an expert to see the damage that religious faith, particularly in Islam, is doing to human beings. I daresay the families of the victims of 9/11 weren’t experts in Islam either.
    Yes, you do have to think about how your message will be perceived, but that has to be balanced with your chances of achieving your goals. It’s down to opinion, but personally I think it’s time to speak out strongly, even if it means offending or upsetting a few people. Not through needless abuse or insult, but just by calling the situation exactly what it is, to borrow Harris’ words, “a moral and intellectual emergency”.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    There’s a simple refutation of the word “fundamentalist” when applied to atheists. We share only one fundamental: our non-belief in any gods. If that’s what makes us “fundamentalists,” then we all fall into that category. If there are other characteristics and philosophical underpinnings that Epstein identifies as atheist “fundamentalism,” then the term is meaningless.

    I don’t see any other universal commonality among us. Almost all of us, I’d venture to say, put credence in science over superstition, but that’s not a sine qua non for being an atheist. Most of us, I suspect, fight strongly for the separation of church and state, but, again that battle is not limited to atheists, nor do all atheists take part. We’re far more diverse than the media would have the gullible populace believe. Even here in the blogosphere, we write with different voices and seem to have varying world views. Which of us represents the old, and which the “New”?

    The idea that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al. have changed the atheist dialogue is nonsense. A-theists have been around as long as theists have. In the U.S., Mark Twain, Robert G. Ingersoll, H.L. Mencken, Clarence Darrow, and Langston Hughes — to name only a few — stated their free-thinking viewpoints far more eloquently than Dawkins or Harris have done. Was Darrow a fundamentalist? Was Hughes a “New Atheist”? What nonsense!

    Obviously, I strongly object to the concept that there’s a “New Atheism” movement. Since I’ve already stated my points in a post on my own blog,Open Letter to Mojoey, I won’t repeat them here. Suffice it to say, however, that we atheists ought to refuse, adamantly, to be categorized.

  • Louis Doench

    “Vicki, Christopher Hitchens said “Religion poisons everything” because his schtick is to be a cranky, chain-smoking, pisser. He’s also brilliant. Read his book on Mother Teresa (provocatively titled “The Missionary Position”), which explains his stance that because religions encourage aherents to do good works to ‘please God’ or ‘achieve salvation’, their works are not true charity because the works are done for selfish reasons.”

    Yup. Hitchens may at times be brilliant (His book on Kissinger is a must read), but having him on your side is a lot like having Pete Rose over to talk baseball. Sure he knows a lot, but he’s also a jerk who you wish would shut up a lot of the time.

  • Archi Medez

    Vicki,

    “Do you really think that the whole history of religion has been one of evil, that people of faith have never made positive contributions to culture because of and not in spite of their faith?”

    “You”? Ebonmuse? I don’t think Ebonmuse ever claimed that.

    What really is the aim of this “New Atheism” movement? Is it just one more flavor of identity politics? Is that really what the world needs today?

    Partly. The world needs less superstition, less injustice, including ideologically-based injustices, including but not limited to those based on organized religions. Criticism of injustice and immoral principles, not just challenging incredible or unsupported claims. Regarding the environment and economic equality, which you mention, Ebonmuse has addressed those very issues at this website.

    “Finally, one point on which Sam Harris and the Christian fundamentalists agree: Islam itself is to blame for terrorism. They’re united against the liberal multiculturalists who want to find a way to reach out and support Islamic moderates.”

    I don’t think Harris claimed that Islam itself was the only factor that contributes to the terrorism carried out by self-proclaimed jihadist groups. Rather, Harris pointed out in The End of Faith that there is more than enough material in the Koran and Hadith to explicitly support hatred and terrorism against non-Muslims that the Islamic ideology’s core doctrine is probably a major motivating factor. It is a misleading oversimplification to say that he is “against” moderates. Indeed, Harris wrote, in his article The Reality of Islam, that “…we should urge Muslim communities, East and West, to reform the ideology of their religion.” What Harris has said is that such reform is going to be difficult given the contents of the Islamic texts. As an atheist, I assume he would prefer that believers reject the religion, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t prefer reform to the status quo. All anyone can reasonably expect, short of asking for apostasy (which should be available as a reasonable and safe option), is that moderates of Islam honestly acknowledge the problems in their scriptures, seek new interpretations, and work with others to take active steps to control the militant jihadists and radical imams, and to oppose the imposition of sharia.

    BTW, there are some Christian fundamentalists who do not think Islam itself is to blame for terrorism. Bush himself has declared Islam to be a religion of peace and that terrorism is not what Islam is about. That’s an oversimplification in the other direction, but not all Christian fundamentalists blame Islam. Plenty of them prefer to blame the sinful ways of the West for terrorism against the U.S., Britain, etc.

    Liberal multiculturalists in their quest for inclusiveness should not forget to also embrace Islam’s disidents, apostates, “heretics”, etc. They are at greater risk of being persecuted or killed (by Muslims) than moderates.

    “Harris offers not one practical idea about how to deal with Islamic fundamentalism.”

    One practical idea which is consitent with Harris’ suggestions: Muslims should apostasize and become atheists. Another practical idea: We should continue to criticize those problematic aspects of Islam publicly, thereby putting more pressure toward positive change.

    “Is it really helpful to say to an ordinary Palestinian or resident of Sadr City “You have to give up Islam or we will never have peace?”

    It hasn’t yet been tried. I think it is worth a try. It would not be a panacea, because Islam is not the only contributing factor to the problems, but it could have some positive effects. The status quo, with Islamic doctrine dominating the society and contributing to the persecution of Christian minorities in the PA, while inspiring terrorist attacks against the Israelis, certainly isn’t working. Freedom of religion is needed throughout the Islamic world. To achieve that, specific aspects of Islamic law, such as the penalties for apostasy and “blasphemy” must be opposed. Moreover, the concepts of martyrdom (which promise rewards for killing civilians) as currently being taught in Palestinian schools and glorified in the media need to be rejected.

    That just plays into the hands of the extremists.

    How?

    “Already these people have the completely justified belief that their welfare is not the concern of privileged white Americans like Sam Harris.”

    What people? And what does the color of Harris’ skin have to do with this? Ad hominem attacks like are inadmissible, irrational, and immoral.

    Secular Saddam persecuted them,

    Secular Saddam, like secular Bush, believed in his religion. Saddam was a believing Sunni Muslim.

    “the US has let their society disintegrate into chaos,”

    The Sunnis and Shia militant groups and the insurgents, who are actually doing most of the killing there, do deserve some of the blame, don’t you think?

    “and the Sadrists are the only organization they can turn to for practical help.”

    Not if you’re a Sunni! (Besides, what evidence do you have that, in the overall scheme of things, Sadr is actually doing less harm than good?)

    “So how does it really help for Sam Harris to “freely and openly” criticize the Koran in New York or Los Angeles or wherever he lives?”

    The American media is spread world-wide, such that what Sam Harris or Wafa Sultan or any other critic might say reaches other countries, including Islamic countries. This information is also conveyed by word of mouth between friends and relatives in countries where the media is more strictly controlled. By helping to establish the social acceptability of criticizing Islam (like any other religious or political ideology), Harris and other critics (many of them ex-Muslims) are helping win an important battle for freedom of conscience and freedom of expression for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

    “From a Third World perspective, he’s just another in a long line of imperialists who have criticized other cultures for being backward on one hand and with the other hand have taken all they could of their resources and supported violent oppressive regimes.

    Again, ad hominem, where you accuse Harris of being an imperialist “from a Third World” perspective. Don’t you think there are any nonbelievers in the Third World? What about their rights?

    “To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht’s “Erst Brot, dann die Moral,”: Justice first, then atheism.”

    Public apostasy and blasphemy are both illegal in Islam, and obviously such a ruling is unjust because it violates freedom of belief and freedom of expression. Also, again, atheists do not only criticize the factually implausible aspects of religious beliefs, but they also focus on the morally objectionable practices and beliefs in a religion. Thus, Brecht’s quote, or at least your presentation of it in this context, presents a false dichotomy. Atheism and justice are not mutually exclusive.

    “I think if your goal is to liberate people from oppressive beliefs, you should look at the Buddhist tradition, which has similar goals, and try tempering your rhetoric with a good dose of compassion.”

    1. “Buddha himself said, “The female’s defects … greed, hate, and delusion and other defilements – are greater than the male’s … You (women) should have such an intention … ‘Because I wish to be freed from the impurities of the woman’s body, I will acquire the beautiful and fresh body of a man’.””
    Source: http://www.proutworld.org/features/status.htm
    The Status of Women in World Religions
    By Garda Ghista”

    That doesn’t mean that all Buddhism is bad; it just means that maybe you should research it yourself before giving a wholesale endorsement.

    2. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that Ebonmuse’s writings lack compassion. That’s certainly not been my impression–indeed, quite the opposite.

    3. In regards to your above comments about Harris’ criticism of “backwards” beliefs, here is some of what Harris says about Buddhism:

    “….There are traditions of
    introspection which really do have something to offer us when it comes time to look “within.” Granted, there is a lot of mumbo jumbo to be sifted through on this front, but it is simply a fact that a tradition like Buddhism has developed far more sophisticated methods of introspection than we have in the West…”

    http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/archives/001340.html

    I take that to mean that he doesn’t dismiss it all as backward. At the same time, I doubt that he accepts it all without question.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vicki,

    One other thing, after reading your first comment. You said,

    “Harris offers not one practical idea about how to deal with Islamic fundamentalism.”

    One idea that Harris does suggest in The End of Faith, is that the Western nations make the conversion from oil to renewable fuels NOW, not when we run out. By doing this, we help the environment, ensure our own economic independence, and take away power from the Middle East by taking away its income. As he points out, the Middle East countries are rich through a fluke of nature. I’m not making direct accusations against governments here, but one way or another, some oil money ends up financing terrorism, and taking that away could seriously damage the threat we currently face.

    Maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn’t, but if this isn’t a practical idea, I don’t know what is.

  • http://rhinocrisy.org/ saurabh

    Tobe – terrorism does not occur because Middle Eastern societies are powerful, it occurs because they are powerless. Terrorism is the weapon of the weak against the strong – when you can’t win via direct combat, you use “asymmetric warfare”. It’s not obvious to me that there’s a lot of government financing for terrorism, and it’s certainly not clear that removing power (as in, e.g., Afghanistan) at all facilitates the state of affairs where terrorism becomes less appealing. I suggest you study the philosophical (political) roots of the Islamism that underlies modern terrorism – you’ll find that the best way to conquer it is, ironically, exactly that advocated by George Bush – democracy. Unfortunately what he fails to realize is that democracy does not flow spontaneously into societies and cannot be delivered in bomb casings.

    As to Islam – I must agree with Vicki’s point. Suggesting that Muslims can improve their lot by apostasy and conversion to atheism shows an appalling lack of understanding of Islam and its importance as a cultural force. It is, frankly, a stupid prescription. Few Muslims will be inclined to accept it, and even if they do, they will be ostracized, rather than being able to positively influence their society away from radical strains of Islam. A moderate, reformed Islam is a MUCH more powerful force in this regard. Proximate and ultimate goals are not identical. This is a political truth.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Saurabh,

    First, I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t implicating governments in funding terrorism, not having the evidence to support such a claim. The most obvious example of my argument, as I understand it, is Osama Bin Laden who’s family is wealthy from oil. You make a reasonably valid point about terrorism being the weak against the strong, but it is a philosophical argument. The bottom line is, pilot training, bombs etc cost money and that money has to come from somewhere. It wasn’t really my intention to begin a debate on this particular point, simply to refute Vicki’s claim that Harris had made no constructive suggestions.

    As far as the difference between Muslims becoming more liberal or deconverting completely, I think we’d call the latter our ‘Plan A’. We’re not in a position to be choosy, and any step Islam takes in the direction of liberalism will be gratefully welcomed.

    I agree that democracy is essential for development, and that Bush and Blair are not going about delivering it the right way. But do you really think the Middle East will be receptive any other way? And, if fundamentalist Muslims won’t consider atheism, do you really think they’ll be any more receptive to the idea of liberalism? Maybe a bit, but negligible, I think.

  • Vicki Baker

    tobe38: I didn’t know that Harris made that suggestion in “End of Faith.” I did read it but I guess not that thoroughly. You’re right, it’s definitely a practical idea that would defuse conflicts in/over the Middle East. Again, reducing dependency on fossil fuels is something that people from all different viewpoints, beliefs, and non-beliefs are going to have to work together to achieve. I walk, ride my bike, and belong to a car co-op for the times when I can’t avoid driving.

    Archi: Wow, that’s a lot of verbiage. The point I’m trying to make is that especially when it comes to Westerners prescribing to other cultures what to believe or not to believe, it might be in order to consider how the message might be received in the light of the history of Western intervention in that particular culture. Usually, and especially in the Mid-East, this intervention has not had the effect of increasing justice, peace, or economic equity. As Thich Nhat Hahn has said “Save us from your salvation.” Sorry if some of my comments came across as ad hominem attacks.

    I’m pretty aware of the problems with Buddhism, having both studied it and worked with Buddhist mutual aid associations for Indochinese refugees. My point in mentioning Buddhism at all was its goal of ridding oneself of delusions and conditioned thinking, and the ideal of enlightened ones re-engaging with the world of delusion out of compassion for those trapped in suffering. To make the point that privileged, enlightened atheists might be more effective with a modicum of compassion. No reflection on the author of this blog, who seems a better advocate for his cause than the atheist-celebrities I was criticizing.

    As for Hitchens, I love a brilliant, cranky, articulate, alcoholic, chain-smoking Brit as much as the next gal. He had a point about Mother Theresa needing people to be poor.

  • John P

    Love the essay, love the comments even more. Very energetic, very thought-provoking.

    Is it me, though, or does anyone else notice that quibbling over the labeling of atheists focuses the matter away from the argument, and more on the arguer?

    It’s almost seems as if it is a well designed tactic to get us (atheists, rationalists, whatever) bickering among ourselves. While major news magazines spend ink and trees discussing the atheists, atheism itself is left unscrutinized.

    And if there is one thing that always works in our favor, it’s scrutiny.

  • Archi Medez

    Vicky,

    “Archi: Wow, that’s a lot of verbiage.”

    My apologies. There were many points to address. BTW, there is a history of negative interventions on both sides (Islam vs West, or Islam vs Africa or India) historically, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a reason for diluting the criticism on either side. Yes, from a persuasive standpoint hostile or insulting rhetoric should obviously be avoided, though some strongly-worded criticisms can have the benefit of getting people talking (e.g., Wafa Sultan’s dispute with an imam on al-Jazeera last year, which got lots of attention).

  • MKateS

    Returning to the cause of truth as the fundamental basis for justice and respect, I would just like to add my observation that religion apologists seem particulary fearful that an atheist’s claim that there’s no evidence for a god might become too well publicized in main stream media. As a child, raised as a catholic, I remember the shock I felt the first time I talked to a jewish boy, who in no uncertain terms told me he had no faith,whatsoever,in the dinity of Jesus. Suddenly, the world became a more confusing, yet exciting, place. If young people become aware through face to face or media introductions of intelligent, respected Atheists, who are quite sure of themselves, suddenly religion’s received “truth” becomes very relative and the nature of Truth may become an object for investigation. I also want to say that, perhaps it is somewhat arrogant of us to refer to another nation’s culture as a reason for not discussing with them what we consider to be the nature of truth as a basis for a just society. We need not imperially force our conclusions on anyone, but to avoid the dialogue because of a “cultural difference” is not helpful. We are all human beings,(even women, believe it or not).

  • Vicki Baker

    MKateS writes “perhaps it is somewhat arrogant of us to refer to another nation’s culture as a reason for not discussing with them what we consider to be the nature of truth as a basis for a just society.” I’m guessing that was directed at my comments, but where did I say that we have to avoid dialogue? I’m just saying, it’s sound pedagogy to consider how your message is likely to be received and a modicum of cultural sensitivity and awareness of the historical setting can actually aid an ongoing dialogue. Also, consider what mode of discourse might be most effective. Are political polemics really the best way to reach hearts and minds? What about the arts? What if there was a way to fund travelling theater troupes, novelists, film-makers,and radio dramas to counter Islamic extremism and start discussions within those cultures, without seeming to co-opt the artists?
    What I see in some of Sam Harris’ writings is the echo of the right-wing policy of “being tough on X”, where X is crime, drugs or Islam, and that any attempt to analyze or contextualize these problems is “being soft.” Yes, I’m a liberal, quelle horreur!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Archi Medez makes a good point:

    I think, on our (atheist) side, there have been some statements that could have been phrased a little better. I find it is necessary to write defensively in anticipation of having any given statement taken out of context and misrepresented.

    I think that “writing defensively” is an excellent way to describe it. There are many religious apologists who are only too glad to tear our comments out of context, and we should anticipate that and foil them by writing with an eye to how our words could be misused. Unfortunately, when you have people like Sam Harris use the quite apt term “psychotic” to describe the Old Testament God, and back it up with pages of evidence, only to have journalists seize on the one word and ignore the evidence supporting it – well, there’s only so much you can do to head off misrepresentation.

    Also, for Vicki Baker:

    I agree that “fundamentalist” may not be the best term here, but wouldn’t you agree that someone who says “Religion poisons everything” has left the world of reasoned, factually supported debate behind? Do you really think that the whole history of religion has been one of evil, that people of faith have never made positive contributions to culture because of and not in spite of their faith?

    No, I don’t think that, and I don’t believe you’ll find any well-known atheists (or any regular commenters on this blog) who do. Religion has brought some great art, architecture and music into the world, it has promoted many good teachings on morality, and it has inspired some ordinary people to astounding acts of charity. Those are plain, undisputable facts. It has also brought huge amounts of war, hatred, bloodshed and division into the world, has promoted many evil and horrendous teachings on morality, and has inspired ordinary people to hideous acts of evil. Those, too, are undisputable facts. The question is whether we have to take the good with the bad, and I don’t think we do.

    However, even given Hitchens’ well-deserved reputation as an all-around crank, I think you’re giving that phrase the worst possible interpretation and one that is not necessarily supported by the context. It is not necessary to believe that religion has never brought any good into the world in order to believe that it has brought about a huge amount of animosity and division, even on trivial matters that no rational person would ever see the need to fight over otherwise. That is an equally valid interpretation of Hitchens’ words, and one that I would definitely support.

    What really is the aim of this “New Atheism” movement? Is it just one more flavor of identity politics? Is that really what the world needs today? Or can we find ways to work together on the really serious problems we are facing – environmental degradation, economic inequity, and so on?

    I am perfectly willing to work together with Christians and other believers on issues of common concern to humanity. However, I reserve the right to criticize them on areas where we still disagree. This is especially true when it is the positions of some other believers that are in large measure contributing to these problems – like the apocalypse fanatics who claim there’s no good reason to protect the environment since Jesus is coming back soon anyway.

    So how does it really help for Sam Harris to “freely and openly” criticize the Koran in New York or Los Angeles or wherever he lives?

    Because that is the only way we will ever get an Islamic reformation going. The moderate version of Islam you mention is an enemy of the fundamentalists just as much as atheism is. The only way to advance either is to attack the stifling ideals of oppression and militarism that are now popular in those countries.

    In addition, I reject the notion that for a Westerner to speak out against unacceptable practices of Islamic societies amounts to “cultural imperialism”. The undeniably shameful history of colonialism does not mean that Islamic states today can do no wrong, nor does it mean Westerners have lost the right to criticize them when they do. Morality is universal, and therefore the right to condemn those who transgress it is also universal. Humanism is a creed that knows no national or ethnic boundaries, and there are freethinkers among Muslim societies just as there are freethinkers here. How could we not support them by promoting the repeal of the barbaric customs that have so far kept so many of them silenced?

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  • Micah

    I’ve read a lot of good articles on this site, but this is the greatest single treatise on atheism I’ve ever read. I couldn’t help but comment; great job, Ebonmuse.

    I hope this article winds up in your book. Actually, I hope this article winds up in history books someday; I don’t know of a single passage that more clearly communicates atheist ideas and passion.

  • Micah

    I’ve read a lot of good articles on this site, but this is the greatest single treatise on atheism I’ve ever read. I couldn’t help but comment; great job, Ebonmuse.

    I hope this article winds up in your book. Actually, I hope this article winds up in history books someday; I don’t know of a single passage that more clearly communicates atheist ideas and passion.

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse, do you really think that non-Muslims writing fierce denunciations of the Koran “is the only way we will ever get an Islamic reformation going”?

    “The only way to advance either is to attack the stifling ideals of oppression and militarism that are now popular in those countries.” Look how well it’s working in Iraq and Afghanistan! How about we in this country try to prevent our government from arming the oppressive militarists in the first place?

    I say: “it’s sound pedagogy to consider how your message is likely to be received and a modicum of cultural sensitivity and awareness of the historical setting can actually aid an ongoing dialogue”

    And you apparently hear: “The… shameful history of colonialism [means] that Islamic states today can do no wrong.”

    Just an example of how communication can be difficult. How about instead of fighting about who has the right to criticize whom, we all listen to each other and try to figure out some solutions to common problems in which we are all deeply implicated?

    “Cross-cultural outreach is hard! Let’s go blogging!” – Barbie

    Meanwhile I’ve been inspired by this discussion to research foundations or NGO’s supporting creative expression in the Islamic world.

  • http://evilpoet.stumbleupon.com EvilPoet

    John P. wrote: Is it me, though, or does anyone else notice that quibbling over the labeling of atheists focuses the matter away from the argument, and more on the arguer? It’s almost seems as if it is a well designed tactic to get us (atheists, rationalists, whatever) bickering among ourselves.

    Nope not just you. I have thought to myself many times while reading all the various debates since this issue came up that this whole thing has a Rovian stench attached to it. Divide and distract is a very old and effective tactic. Like I said, it all has a Rovian stench to it.

  • http://evilpoet.stumbleupon.com EvilPoet

    John P. wrote: Is it me, though, or does anyone else notice that quibbling over the labeling of atheists focuses the matter away from the argument, and more on the arguer? It’s almost seems as if it is a well designed tactic to get us (atheists, rationalists, whatever) bickering among ourselves.

    Nope not just you. I have thought to myself many times while reading all the various debates since this issue came up that this whole thing has a Rovian stench attached to it. Divide and distract is a very old and effective tactic. Like I said, it all has a Rovian stench to it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Ebonmuse, do you really think that non-Muslims writing fierce denunciations of the Koran “is the only way we will ever get an Islamic reformation going”?

    Yes. Why not? There are, without a doubt, secularists, freethinkers and potential freethinkers in Muslim societies just like there are in every other society on the planet. How can we get these people to speak out and mobilize as a force for positive social change other than by letting them know that they are not alone and that they have allies around the world?

    “The only way to advance either is to attack the stifling ideals of oppression and militarism that are now popular in those countries.” Look how well it’s working in Iraq and Afghanistan! How about we in this country try to prevent our government from arming the oppressive militarists in the first place?

    That is a good idea too, and I have worked to oppose the abhorrent militarism of the Bush administration. But even if America’s foreign policy changed completely overnight, there can be no doubt that fundamentalist Muslims would not stop hating us. It was certainly not American imperialism that inspired the Saudis or the Taliban to enact brutal sharia law or force their women to wear burqas. Islam is not the whole of the problem; but it is a major part of the problem. As Sam Harris and others, such as Dr. Tawfik Hamid point out, there are many other cultures that have suffered the injustice of Western imperialism and colonialism without giving rise to persistent terrorism.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Ebonmuse, do you really think that non-Muslims writing fierce denunciations of the Koran “is the only way we will ever get an Islamic reformation going”?

    Yes. Why not? There are, without a doubt, secularists, freethinkers and potential freethinkers in Muslim societies just like there are in every other society on the planet. How can we get these people to speak out and mobilize as a force for positive social change other than by letting them know that they are not alone and that they have allies around the world?

    “The only way to advance either is to attack the stifling ideals of oppression and militarism that are now popular in those countries.” Look how well it’s working in Iraq and Afghanistan! How about we in this country try to prevent our government from arming the oppressive militarists in the first place?

    That is a good idea too, and I have worked to oppose the abhorrent militarism of the Bush administration. But even if America’s foreign policy changed completely overnight, there can be no doubt that fundamentalist Muslims would not stop hating us. It was certainly not American imperialism that inspired the Saudis or the Taliban to enact brutal sharia law or force their women to wear burqas. Islam is not the whole of the problem; but it is a major part of the problem. As Sam Harris and others, such as Dr. Tawfik Hamid point out, there are many other cultures that have suffered the injustice of Western imperialism and colonialism without giving rise to persistent terrorism.

  • Vicki Baker

    “How can we get these people to speak out and mobilize as a force for positive social change other than by letting them know that they are not alone and that they have allies around the world?”

    How about writing a check, or a letter:

    Project Itjihad: http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/ijtihad.html

    Amnesty International: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-goodnews-eng

    Revolutionary Assn. of the Women of Afghanistan: http://www.rawa.org/index.php

    Refugees International: http://www.refugeesinternational.org/section/waystohelp

  • Vicki Baker

    “How can we get these people to speak out and mobilize as a force for positive social change other than by letting them know that they are not alone and that they have allies around the world?”

    How about writing a check, or a letter:

    Project Itjihad: http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/ijtihad.html

    Amnesty International: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-goodnews-eng

    Revolutionary Assn. of the Women of Afghanistan: http://www.rawa.org/index.php

    Refugees International: http://www.refugeesinternational.org/section/waystohelp

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  • vellvoot!

    Are we Atheist Fundamentalists? GOOD GOD YES!

    Atheists have a central common creed, and follow it word by word, in that regard Atheists are SIGNIFICANTLY more fundamentalist than Islamic or Christian fundamentalists.

    Religious fundamentalists are only moderates when it comes to the fundamental question of Fundamentalism! Religious Fundies are conservatives when convenient and their texts have been selectively sanitized by religious elites for ages and even so they are interpreted in a manner conducive to the cause of gaining or maintaining power. (Or so history would tell us)

    Thus Religious Fundamentalists can really not be called Fundamentalist, because they lack the fundamental characteristic of fundamentally following the textual fundamentals. :)

    Having said that, I also acknowledge that those who coined this term are likely exploitative people, whose ends it serves to control the young, undereducated and indoctrinated and stay their decline into senility.

    By “Fundamentalist” I believe Colin Slee really was suggesting that Atheists are beginning to defend and spread their “belief” as aggressively and violently as the most extreme religious fundamentalists. I believe that Slee is two-fold wrong! He is wrong first because of the misnomer, and second because, as Atheists we do not organize. Our tenants exalt human life, and those which are codified are codes of conduct, which acknowledge the other’s humanity and individuality.

    No reasonable person would attack so illusive and disunited a group as Atheists and call them “Fundamentalists” i mean come on! The only reason anyone has a problem with Religious Fundamentalists is because of their high levels of coordinated organization and their willingness to “burn for christ” burn for yourself!

    Thus Atheists are “Fundamentalists” in that we ardently follow the tenants of our (somewhat codefied)beliefs regarding how we treat each other, so we are Political Fundamentalists.

    Religious Fundamentalists are Moderate Nancy’s!

  • vellvoot!

    Are we Atheist Fundamentalists? GOOD GOD YES!

    Atheists have a central common creed, and follow it word by word, in that regard Atheists are SIGNIFICANTLY more fundamentalist than Islamic or Christian fundamentalists.

    Religious fundamentalists are only moderates when it comes to the fundamental question of Fundamentalism! Religious Fundies are conservatives when convenient and their texts have been selectively sanitized by religious elites for ages and even so they are interpreted in a manner conducive to the cause of gaining or maintaining power. (Or so history would tell us)

    Thus Religious Fundamentalists can really not be called Fundamentalist, because they lack the fundamental characteristic of fundamentally following the textual fundamentals. :)

    Having said that, I also acknowledge that those who coined this term are likely exploitative people, whose ends it serves to control the young, undereducated and indoctrinated and stay their decline into senility.

    By “Fundamentalist” I believe Colin Slee really was suggesting that Atheists are beginning to defend and spread their “belief” as aggressively and violently as the most extreme religious fundamentalists. I believe that Slee is two-fold wrong! He is wrong first because of the misnomer, and second because, as Atheists we do not organize. Our tenants exalt human life, and those which are codified are codes of conduct, which acknowledge the other’s humanity and individuality.

    No reasonable person would attack so illusive and disunited a group as Atheists and call them “Fundamentalists” i mean come on! The only reason anyone has a problem with Religious Fundamentalists is because of their high levels of coordinated organization and their willingness to “burn for christ” burn for yourself!

    Thus Atheists are “Fundamentalists” in that we ardently follow the tenants of our (somewhat codefied)beliefs regarding how we treat each other, so we are Political Fundamentalists.

    Religious Fundamentalists are Moderate Nancy’s!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    All excellent groups, Vicki, and all worthy of support. The question still remains, will we choose to speak out in defense of human rights and against militant fundamentalism, and if so, what do we say? If our issue is not merely with violent interpretations of Islam but with Islam itself, do we say that forthrightly? Or do we hold back, urging less than we want or even remaining silent altogether, so as not to further enrage the fundamentalists and potentially impede the efforts of those people working for reform from within the tradition?

    You linked to Irshad Manji’s site, and if you click through and read her story you’ll find something interesting. She was born a Muslim and still is. She is not an atheist, but a reformer who wants to revitalize her faith from the inside. What has that gotten her? Have the fundamentalists looked upon her more kindly as a fellow believer in Islam? On the contrary: her book has been banned, threats have been made on her life. She lives in a home with bulletproof windows. The response to her, as far as I can tell, has been every bit as savage and murderous as that directed against non-Muslims like Salman Rushdie.

    So what, then, do we say? What words of support do we offer? Please note that it is not only Muslims who are calling for the reform of Islam, but nonbelievers as well – people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, like Ibn Warraq, like Wafa Sultan, like Younus Shaikh, like Salman Rushdie – who come from these nations, who come from these cultures, and who had the courage and the strength of character to reject Islam despite tremendous social pressure, vicious threats, and even actual attempts on their lives. They are freethinkers, they are atheists, they are my brothers and sisters in mind and heart; and they are risking everything by calling for reform in the face of societies that would gladly see them dead. Should I leave them twisting in the wind? Should I not add my voice to theirs, even though I agree wholeheartedly with the principles they defend, because they are “too radical”?

    To ask me to do that is to ask me to betray myself. I will never remain silent rather than speak out in defense of what I feel is right. Their cause is a noble and worthy one, and I will stand by them without apology and without hesitation. If the fundamentalists want to rage, let them. If they want to slander us, let them. Our cause is the right one, and we will win in the end.

  • vellvoot

    In regard to your first paragraph Ebon:

    I agree, its a difficult position Atheists are placed in when our simple incredulity offends, and when we cannot question their beliefs forthrightly for fear of violent retaliation while they gasp and awe at our godlessness? And for that matter, Atheists don’t even share a thing such as a ‘belief’ because history and science is our direct evidence.

    We have to realize that religious institutions are so ingrained into the functions of our society that our secular culture has developed methods not to piss off the fundamentalists… Thus people have found ways to remain silent and… let them come around in their own good time :)… If we speak out, and force our position on the “God question” upon Theists(and I acknowledge that there really is no question here) we will be directly imposing on their freedom of belief. So speak but don’t tell – We are part of a great historical movement, a movement, which moves naturally, without pushing… let them come around and look to your own.

  • vellvoot

    In regard to your first paragraph Ebon:

    I agree, its a difficult position Atheists are placed in when our simple incredulity offends, and when we cannot question their beliefs forthrightly for fear of violent retaliation while they gasp and awe at our godlessness? And for that matter, Atheists don’t even share a thing such as a ‘belief’ because history and science is our direct evidence.

    We have to realize that religious institutions are so ingrained into the functions of our society that our secular culture has developed methods not to piss off the fundamentalists… Thus people have found ways to remain silent and… let them come around in their own good time :)… If we speak out, and force our position on the “God question” upon Theists(and I acknowledge that there really is no question here) we will be directly imposing on their freedom of belief. So speak but don’t tell – We are part of a great historical movement, a movement, which moves naturally, without pushing… let them come around and look to your own.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vellvoot,

    How, exactly, is forcing our position on the “God question” directly imposing on their “freedom of belief”? What do you mean by “force”? If you mean, as I think you do, being outspoken and blunt about what we think, then this has no effect on anyone’s freedom to believe. You may as well say that a Christian’s statement of belief in God imposes on our right not to believe.

    If we stand perfectly still, hold our breath, don’t make eye contact and keep complete silence, maybe they won’t notice we’re here and get all offended and hurt, right? Nonsense. Time is not on our side. We don’t have the luxury of leaving people to come around in their own time. We will never, as long as I’ve got anything to say about it, directly impose on anyone’s right to believe, but this is the time to speak out and make ourselves heard.

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse:

    Let me repeat what I’m trying to say:

    “… it’s sound pedagogy to consider how your message is likely to be received and a modicum of cultural sensitivity and awareness of the historical setting can actually aid an ongoing dialogue. Also, consider what mode of discourse might be most effective.”

    Why this gets interpreted as an attempt to silence you I really don’t know. Just consider it free advice from an elder (44 yrs.) who’s done a fair amount of advocacy for human rights in cultures different from her own. Take it or leave it.

    In the realm of human rights, our first responsibility as citizens of a democracy is the human rights violations our government commits in our name. I’d be willing to bet that even as we’ve been having this conversation, our Homeland Security Dept. has rejected an asylum application from a gay person, feminist, or apostate from a hard-line Islamic country. These people deserve our support too. Not to mention what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

    Free speech is a wonderful thing, but one final suggestion: The next time you are in dialog with a Muslim of whatever level of conviction, considering listening at least 50% of the time?

  • vellvoot

    It’s imposing on their freedom of belief if we ostracize them from society, prejudge them irresponsibly and overgeneralize in our classifications. We cannot responsibly make this a black and white issue. Its not Atheists vs. Theists… most Theists are just people who have been indoctrinated and… lied to since they were born, like the Santa Clause ruse that no one remembered to tell them was a cute joke. So we cannot hold them guilty, by our own, sacred standards we cannot hold them guilty. We MUST be out spoken, indeed but we ought not wander into the realm of punishment and persecution.

    that was merely what i was attempting to explain in my previous post.
    I think we agree here, however our sense of urgency differs perhaps… neither of us really know how urgent this need be.

    But don’t get me wrong, speak freely, but don’t over generalize and don’t persecute – most Theists are victims.

  • Polly

    Heroic sentiments, eloquently stated, Ebon. Just one thing,

    “She was born a Muslim and still is.”

    tsk tsk. She was born an atheist, like everyone else. :-)

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vellvoot,

    Yes, overall, I agree that we agree :)

    I certainly don’t want to persecute or prejudge anyone, or ostracise them from society or anything else. But I don’t think speaking out, no matter how directly, qualifies as any of these.

    All theists are victims in a sense, you’re right. But this only buys them so much leniency. Were the 9/11 attackers just victims? In a sense, yes, because religion ended up robbing them of their lives too, but we can’t just say they’re victims and leave it at that. Whoever the victims are, we need to be working to stop the direct harm that is being caused by religious faith.

  • vellvoot

    Glad we can agree.
    The line I think we all need draw with personal belief is when it no longer becomes personal, but a matter of public concern and security.

    so no, clearly the 9/11 attackers were not the victims, but the aggressors.

  • vellvoot

    Glad we can agree.
    The line I think we all need draw with personal belief is when it no longer becomes personal, but a matter of public concern and security.

    so no, clearly the 9/11 attackers were not the victims, but the aggressors.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    tsk tsk. She was born an atheist, like everyone else. :-)

    Touché. Mea culpa. :)

  • Archi Medez

    …though according to the Hadith, everyone is born a Muslim:

    Narrated Abu Huraira:
    Allah’s Apostle said, “Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: “The pure Allah’s Islamic nature (true faith of Islam) (i.e. worshipping none but Allah) with which He has created human beings. No change let there be in the religion of Allah (i.e. joining none in worship with Allah). That is the straight religion (Islam) but most of men know, not.” (30.30) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 441)

    As interpreted in Islamic laws, a person who has never voluntarily embraced Islam in the first place is considered Muslim if his/her parents are Muslim. If this person disbelieves and still does not believe in Islam after the age of puberty, and makes this expression of disbelief public, he/she is subject to the apostasy penalty (up to and including death).

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse, on reflection, I can see that it was quite naive of me to assume that your primary goal with this post was to establish how best to liberate others from oppressive delusions. I see now that the main goal was probably to establish your street cred among your cohort as a fierce, uncompromising warrior who’s tough on religion. Obviously, you are quite successful at that.

    Good luck with the war on religion. I’m sure it has the potential to be at least as successful as the war on crime, the war on drugs, or the war on terror.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I have stated my motives and my reasoning as clearly as I wish to, and I stand by what I have said. I find it unfortunate that you’ve decided my motives are insincere simply because we disagree on the best approach to protecting human rights. Apparently, you’re convinced that we should not say or do anything about militant Islam abroad until we have first fixed every single problem in our own home countries, and that is unfortunate as well.

    I suppose reactions like this are a microcosm of what Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris routinely experience for speaking their minds. If that is the case, I’m happy to be numbered among them.

  • Archi Medez

    Vicki wrote:

    “I see now that the main goal was probably to establish your street cred among your cohort as a fierce, uncompromising warrior who’s tough on religion.”

    and

    “Good luck with the war on religion. I’m sure it has the potential to be at least as successful as the war on crime, the war on drugs, or the war on terror.”

    (bolding added)

    What was it you were saying, Vicki, about reaching out to people, and carefully expressing yourself in terms of how your message will be received?

    This thread deals mostly with the subject of over-the-top rhetoric (alleged “fundamentalist” atheists) and misrepresentations of other people’s views. I think your statements (the ones quoted, and others) are prime examples of over-the-top rhetoric and misrepresentations.

    The analogy to “war” is misleading, but in particular is misleading in comparison to the (U.S. gov’t's) wars on drugs, crime, and terrorism. The analogy fails insofar as what we atheists are doing, by contrast, is (a) non-violent, (b) focussed on beliefs and ideology, education, debate, and truth-seeking; (c) focussed on prevention more than crisis management, (d) operates on a relatively tiny budget, and (e) causing minimal real harm and violates no laws (except maybe blasphemy laws) or human rights. We are doing all of that without compromising our core positions on such issues as freedom of conscience (e.g., to change religions or have no religion), and freedom of expression.

  • Vicki Baker

    “Apparently, you’re convinced that we should not say or do anything about militant Islam abroad until we have first fixed every single problem in our own home countries, and that is unfortunate as well.”

    Ebonmuse, I never said this. I said our first – but not only – responsibility was to address the human rights violations our government commits in our name – including violations that enable persecution of liberal or apostate Muslims by oppressive regimes.

    In regards to conducting dialogue, what I said was “… it’s sound pedagogy to consider how your message is likely to be received and a modicum of cultural sensitivity and awareness of the historical setting can actually aid an ongoing dialogue. Also, consider what mode of discourse might be most effective.” How do you read that as “don’t do or say anything about militant Islam abroad?”

    My criticism is essentially the same criticism Neil deGrasse Tyson makes in this video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYBFqse7tiU and which Dawkins brushes off with an obscenity.

    I just encounter this punitive “tough on X’ mindset in so many different situations, by so many different types of people. The right wing has been extremely successful at framing the discourse this way. I have a friend who served on the board of an organization which ran a highly successful prison arts program here in CA. There was ample evidence that the program resulted in a number of positive outcomes in prison and after release for the inmates. Nevertheless, our late unlamented Gov., Gray Davis saw fit to gut the program because it was important to his image to be “tough on crime.” The fact that the program was actually effective in reducing crime made no difference – being seen to be “tough on crime” was most important.

    Forgive me if I can’t help seeing a parallel with the “religion must be destroyed!” advocates.

  • Vicki Baker

    Archi writes: “What was it you were saying, Vicki, about reaching out to people, and carefully expressing yourself in terms of how your message will be received?”

    You’re absolutely right Archi. Don’t listen to me, I’m being a bad example. Listen to DeGrasse-Tyson in the clip above. I think there’s a point to be made, but I may have blown it with that comment. It just seemed a good explanatory theory for how my message of “good pedagogy” got distorted to “don’t say anything. I’ll shut up now.

  • Mark C.

    http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/

    The term “fundamentalist” was not used literally, and was apparently supposed to be in quotes.

  • http://msn.com Thousands or Billions?

    The thing I most notice when I listen to Dawkins, is that he is gentle and thoughtful. I think most of the bad rap he gets is the rhetoric and propaganda from the Right. In fact, when I first began hearing the name Dawkins years back, I remember it was almost always in a negative light. Only now, upon actually hearing him speak and reading his book “The God Delusion”, do I adore his work, and style of arguing, and the good humor (in the face of morons). We all need to spend less time patting eachother on the back, and do the dirty work of going to the Creationist websites. My new schtick is telling people that I am “still a good Christian” even though I no longer believe in the Holy Spirit or any of the other baloney I can’t see or touch or that is not in the encylopedia. Another good one I heard lately is “I’m actually a tooth fairy agnostic”.

    Here is some vintage Dawkins…
    http://richarddawkins.net/article,34,Der-Digitale-Planet-lecture,Richard-Dawkins

    “Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading.”

    “Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.”

    “It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe..”

    “There’s this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out.”

    “Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions. This is why the $740,000 reward of James Randi, offered to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal effect under proper scientific controls, is safe.”

    http://richarddawkins.net/home

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    “I am a truth fundamentalist” ought to be a catch-cry. So I do not apologise for propagating it on my blog (with credit given to the source, of course).

  • Archi Medez

    Thousands or Billions,

    You wrote:

    “We all need to spend less time patting eachother on the back, and do the dirty work of going to the Creationist websites. My new schtick is telling people that I am “still a good Christian” even though I no longer believe in the Holy Spirit or any of the other baloney I can’t see or touch or that is not in the encylopedia.”

    If you are a non-believer and what you are advocating is the use of deceptive covers like “a good Christian”, I think that’s wrong morally, and gives us (other non-believers) a bad name. It just gives more examples that the theists can use to portray us in a bad light.

    To use deception, there would have to be some very strong justifications for it (e.g., like some kind of undercover police operation) or an agreement among the parties that deception can be used in a limited way (e.g., in games), etc.

    I do agree, though, that we (non-believers of various kinds) need to engage more in discussion on pro-religion websites.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Vicki,

    “My criticism is essentially the same criticism Neil deGrasse Tyson makes in this video clip . . . and which Dawkins brushes off with an obscenity.”

    This is very mis-leading about Dawkins’ reaction. He actually said “I gratefully accept the rebuke”, then told an amusing anecdote that had a swear word in. Not quite the same thing.

    DeGrasse Tyson grossly oversimplifies the situation, saying that Dawkins isn’t a true educator because he just “puts the facts out there” without “pursuassion”. I don’t know what he’s basing this on. As the true scientist he is, Dawkins always provides examples and evidence to “pursuade” people that he’s right. This is why I find terms like “dogmatic” and “fundamentalist” so laughable when applied to him.

  • Jarrod

    Allright, back to posting after a long time away. Ebon, I just have a few questions about this whole post (or any other atheists who want to answer). First off, you assert repeatedly in the beginning that you think that no needless personal offenses need be made when talking with theists. And I’m wondering, why is this not an issue for you when it comes to people like Dawkins? I looked back through the review you wrote for his most recent book, the God Delusion, and the only reference that you make to this whole thing is worrying about the title of the book. Nowhere did you mention that Dawkins incessantly derides theists as uneducated, ignorant, and just plain stupid. Why is there a double standard here? If you’re going to criticize such things here, why don’t you use that standard equally and go after people like Dawkins, or more close to home, several of the posters on your site, who seem to have a good time insinuating that I am ignorant, a liar, or as Dawkins might assert, simply stupid. I’m curious as to why this bizarre lapse of objections exists.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    And I’m wondering, why is this not an issue for you when it comes to people like Dawkins? I looked back through the review you wrote for his most recent book, the God Delusion, and the only reference that you make to this whole thing is worrying about the title of the book.

    How can you claim that this is not an issue for me while simultaneously acknowledging that I criticized Dawkins for his choice of title? I hope you don’t expect me to go through the book checking off each individual paragraph or sentence I disagreed with. Where I have objections, I have made them clear, and I don’t feel I need to belabor the point.

    In any case, I nowhere remember Dawkins calling theists in general uneducated or stupid, either in The God Delusion or anywhere else. If you have evidence supporting this, feel free to cite it.

  • Jarrod

    Ebonmuse:
    Thanks for the swift response. I appreciate it.
    I made sure to go through The God Delusion and find plenty of evidence for you. Here’s the list, with pages numbers and a little summary.
    Page 5: “Dyed-in-the-wool faith heads…” Doesn’t really need an explanation.
    Page 6: Top of the page, discussion about religion and movement towards atheism. According to Dawkins, those who can become atheists are those who are either not indoctrinated enough or have enough ‘native intelligence’ to overcome their brainwashing. Ergo, those who cannot are simply idiots.
    Page 168: Christians (Roman Catholics specifically in this passage) are simply guilt-ridden individuals with “less than normal intelligence.” First off, as a Catholic, I know this to be untrue, and secondly, if that’s not an insult, I don’t know what is.
    Page 199: Ridicules faith as a matter of beliefs defying evidence. Again, very much contrary to a great many strains of Christian thought and little more than a silly, unfounded attack.
    Page 229: Atheism is correlated with higher intelligence, education, etc., ergo, religion is correlated with lower intelligence, etc. This is listed as a ‘good possibility,’ not something he backs up with evidence.
    Page 231: Ridicules theists for “sucking up to God”; especially hilarious given that his Darwinian view of morality consists of people sucking up to other people.
    Page 316: More straw man construction and religious ridicule, this time about priests as people “whose professional life is largely dedicated to arousing guilt.” Has Dawkins stepped inside a Church lately? I’ve been to plenty and rarely seen a priest who spends all his time arousing guilt. With little basis in reality, this can only be taken as an insulting attack.
    Page 317: Being raised religious is worse than being sexually abused. This one is just plain sick. I know plenty of people who have been raised religious, and in great contrast to sexually abused people, who are often riddled with psychological problems that last a lifetime, these religious individuals are quite balanced, sane, and otherwise well off.
    Page 360: Religious belief in a universe imbued with meaning by God is “infantilism.”

    Need I go on? The point is, Dawkins goes well out of his way throughout the book not only to attack theists but to blatantly and unnecessarily ridicule them. Were any theist to come out and say so many insulting things about atheists, I have no doubt he would be fiercely condemned by you. Whether or not Dawkins and other atheists are right in their assumptions, there is no reason for you to try and convince everyone else by heaping scorn on them. As you said yourself, all this does is alienate people, and that is exactly what Dawkins is doing to the very people he’s trying to reach. Yes, you did raise objections to the title, but that is a far cry from highlighting the openly arrogant and scornful language that permeates the book. I don’t expect you to go through and name every paragraph, sentence, etc. I don’t even expect you to name any of them. But given your statement that such brazen hostility is not a good thing, the omission in your review of Dawkins’ rampant hostility is rather glaring.
    That said, what about the posters on your site? If you believe that such hostility is bad, and have a forum to voice that view, why not share it in more than just passing for your fellow atheists? I’m one of those theists you once called “civil and sincere,” yet in the course of my posts on other threads, I’ve been incessantly insulted and degraded. This, without any provocation. Why?

    In relation to the topic of this thread, perhaps another one of the reasons some atheists are seen as dogmatic or fundamentalist in a sense because they have a tendency to embrace similar mindsets as those on the far Christian right. Take Dawkins for instance. In The God Delusion, he makes this nice statement on page 123 that in one chapter of Origin of Species (just one chapter!), Darwin “anticipated and disposed of every single one of the alleged difficulties (difficulties on the theory of descent with modification) that have since been proposed.” Every. Single. One. I for one find this extraordinarily hard to believe, given the vast number of developments in biology between now and then. If Darwin dealt with all the problems, why the heck are we still investing so much in the study of evolution? Why do scientists argue about all the details? More than anything else Dawkins says, this smacks of dogmatism and unbending faith, not in a God, but in Darwin and his amazing book. I would honestly love to hear an explanation for this one.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Jarrod, I’m going to respond to this, but this is going to be the end of discussion on this topic. It hasn’t been productive and it has very little to do with the subject of this thread.

    I’ve gone through your list, and my conclusion is that you have either taken your examples out of context or decided that they were intended as insults when the text itself supports no such conclusion. For instance, your first one: “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads”. That term plainly is intended to describe people who are dogmatic believers in a religion and do not intend to change their minds. However, you seem to have read into it an insult directed at believers’ intelligence. I see no such thing. Similarly, your complaint about priests “arousing guilt” is just a desire to interpret the situation differently from Dawkins, which does not make his words a personal attack. On the contrary, they are obviously an attack on the dogma itself.

    Or this one, a flagrant example of taking quotes out of context:

    Christians (Roman Catholics specifically in this passage) are simply guilt-ridden individuals with “less than normal intelligence.”

    Here is the real quote, which is actually from page 167:

    It is hard to believe, for example, that health is improved by the semi-permanent state of morbid guilt suffered by a Roman Catholic possessed of normal human frailty and less than normal intelligence.

    Again, Dawkins’ actual language does not support the implication you are attempting to read into it.

    Page 229: Atheism is correlated with higher intelligence, education, etc., ergo, religion is correlated with lower intelligence, etc. This is listed as a ‘good possibility,’ not something he backs up with evidence.

    Like it or not, this is true. Studies consistently show that the more educated a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. Here, for example, is one such study (it’s the one by Bruce Sacerdote and Edward L. Glaeser). And once again, you have manufactured an insult out of Dawkins’ words, rather than finding one in the words themselves.

    Page 317: Being raised religious is worse than being sexually abused.

    I can agree that this is one of the most controversial claims in this book. However, you seem to have neglected a rather important point, which is that Dawkins supports it with evidence. To wit, he cites a woman who was brought up Catholic and subjected to sexual abuse by a priest, and the woman herself states that Catholic teachings about Hell caused her far greater suffering. Here is her quote:

    Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yucky’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest – but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.

    You are free to disagree with this woman’s assessment, if you wish. What you are not free to do is make up your own facts and claim that this is a slanderous and unfounded insult which that monster Dawkins has invented to use against the religious.

    In closing, I have one additional comment.

    I’m one of those theists you once called “civil and sincere,” yet in the course of my posts on other threads, I’ve been incessantly insulted and degraded. This, without any provocation. Why?

    I do not agree that you have offered no provocation. On the contrary, it seems to me that you have gone out of your way to be combative, to treat others condescendingly, and to cast aspersions on others’ motives (such as your previous comment in this thread in which you claimed I had a “double standard”). I once said you were civil and sincere, but you can consider those remarks withdrawn. I’ve had a great many theist visitors to this site with whom I and others have been able to dialogue without the discussion breaking down. You do not appear to be one of them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Jarrod, I’m going to respond to this, but this is going to be the end of discussion on this topic. It hasn’t been productive and it has very little to do with the subject of this thread.

    I’ve gone through your list, and my conclusion is that you have either taken your examples out of context or decided that they were intended as insults when the text itself supports no such conclusion. For instance, your first one: “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads”. That term plainly is intended to describe people who are dogmatic believers in a religion and do not intend to change their minds. However, you seem to have read into it an insult directed at believers’ intelligence. I see no such thing. Similarly, your complaint about priests “arousing guilt” is just a desire to interpret the situation differently from Dawkins, which does not make his words a personal attack. On the contrary, they are obviously an attack on the dogma itself.

    Or this one, a flagrant example of taking quotes out of context:

    Christians (Roman Catholics specifically in this passage) are simply guilt-ridden individuals with “less than normal intelligence.”

    Here is the real quote, which is actually from page 167:

    It is hard to believe, for example, that health is improved by the semi-permanent state of morbid guilt suffered by a Roman Catholic possessed of normal human frailty and less than normal intelligence.

    Again, Dawkins’ actual language does not support the implication you are attempting to read into it.

    Page 229: Atheism is correlated with higher intelligence, education, etc., ergo, religion is correlated with lower intelligence, etc. This is listed as a ‘good possibility,’ not something he backs up with evidence.

    Like it or not, this is true. Studies consistently show that the more educated a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. Here, for example, is one such study (it’s the one by Bruce Sacerdote and Edward L. Glaeser). And once again, you have manufactured an insult out of Dawkins’ words, rather than finding one in the words themselves.

    Page 317: Being raised religious is worse than being sexually abused.

    I can agree that this is one of the most controversial claims in this book. However, you seem to have neglected a rather important point, which is that Dawkins supports it with evidence. To wit, he cites a woman who was brought up Catholic and subjected to sexual abuse by a priest, and the woman herself states that Catholic teachings about Hell caused her far greater suffering. Here is her quote:

    Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yucky’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest – but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.

    You are free to disagree with this woman’s assessment, if you wish. What you are not free to do is make up your own facts and claim that this is a slanderous and unfounded insult which that monster Dawkins has invented to use against the religious.

    In closing, I have one additional comment.

    I’m one of those theists you once called “civil and sincere,” yet in the course of my posts on other threads, I’ve been incessantly insulted and degraded. This, without any provocation. Why?

    I do not agree that you have offered no provocation. On the contrary, it seems to me that you have gone out of your way to be combative, to treat others condescendingly, and to cast aspersions on others’ motives (such as your previous comment in this thread in which you claimed I had a “double standard”). I once said you were civil and sincere, but you can consider those remarks withdrawn. I’ve had a great many theist visitors to this site with whom I and others have been able to dialogue without the discussion breaking down. You do not appear to be one of them.

  • Archi Medez

    Even if we accept everything Jarrod claims about Dawkins, when we move to the counter-point we see that the excesses of hostility expressed in the Bible and Koran toward non-believers, blasphemers, etc., clearly exceed by several orders of magnitude anything Dawkins may have said. Surely Jarrod realizes that drowning people in a flood, or stoning them to death for mere words (Lev. 24:16), or condemning them to eternal hell-fires and torture, are worse than mere verbal excesses (even if offensive) of Dawkins?

  • Archi Medez

    Even if we accept everything Jarrod claims about Dawkins, when we move to the counter-point we see that the excesses of hostility expressed in the Bible and Koran toward non-believers, blasphemers, etc., clearly exceed by several orders of magnitude anything Dawkins may have said. Surely Jarrod realizes that drowning people in a flood, or stoning them to death for mere words (Lev. 24:16), or condemning them to eternal hell-fires and torture, are worse than mere verbal excesses (even if offensive) of Dawkins?

  • lpetrich

    Another thing about this accusation of atheist “fundamentalism” — it’s linking atheism with being anti-religion. It’s possible to be an atheist and be neutral toward religion, or even pro-religion, in the fashion of Plato’s Royal Lie and Marxian opium for the people.

    So are Dawkins and Harris anti-religion fundamentalists? I doubt it.

    And now for some advice for Jarrod:

    Love your enemies.
    Pray for those who persecute you.
    Do not resist an evil person.
    If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
    And if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your jacket as well.
    If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I have said as much myself many times. We can and should strongly criticize religious belief systems with which we disagree, but we should not generalize religious people as stupid, dishonest, or brainwashed. Those terms are not true and using them adds nothing to the conversation except to pointlessly offend and alienate believers. Regardless of how strongly we may disagree with them, there are many people who are sincere in their belief and believe for what are, to them, clear and convincing reasons. We should acknowledge this.

    You and I are on the same page. It is a relief to know that someone else thinks this way!

    One thing that does concern me, however, is when you say:

    …and it can be discovered, though not everyone who thinks they have done so is correct…

    Say I find the truth. If you disagree with me, it appears that you have a loophole by which you can invalidate my “truth” no matter how much evidence I claim to have. Could you clarify this for me?

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I have said as much myself many times. We can and should strongly criticize religious belief systems with which we disagree, but we should not generalize religious people as stupid, dishonest, or brainwashed. Those terms are not true and using them adds nothing to the conversation except to pointlessly offend and alienate believers. Regardless of how strongly we may disagree with them, there are many people who are sincere in their belief and believe for what are, to them, clear and convincing reasons. We should acknowledge this.

    You and I are on the same page. It is a relief to know that someone else thinks this way!

    One thing that does concern me, however, is when you say:

    …and it can be discovered, though not everyone who thinks they have done so is correct…

    Say I find the truth. If you disagree with me, it appears that you have a loophole by which you can invalidate my “truth” no matter how much evidence I claim to have. Could you clarify this for me?

  • Alex Weaver

    Propositions that are true will be consistently supported by evidence and observation. Believing something doesn’t make it true. I think that’s where you’re confused.

  • Jim

    Just wondering and maybe this is not the place to pose this question but why does there have to be a debate at all?

    I believe in God, others do not. I have no problem with people being atheist or having a different idea of GOD than me. So why do people on both sides have to debate this? Makes no sense to me. Oh and why should you as you say “should strongly criticize religious belief systems with which we disagree”. Instead of criticize why not just let people believe what they may and leave it alone.

    Just a thought

  • Jim

    Just wondering and maybe this is not the place to pose this question but why does there have to be a debate at all?

    I believe in God, others do not. I have no problem with people being atheist or having a different idea of GOD than me. So why do people on both sides have to debate this? Makes no sense to me. Oh and why should you as you say “should strongly criticize religious belief systems with which we disagree”. Instead of criticize why not just let people believe what they may and leave it alone.

    Just a thought

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Jim, I think you’ll generally find that atheists would be quite content to live and let live, if only religious people would extend us the same courtesy and stop trying to force their religion on us. They started this conflict, not us.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Jim, I think you’ll generally find that atheists would be quite content to live and let live, if only religious people would extend us the same courtesy and stop trying to force their religion on us. They started this conflict, not us.

  • theistscientist

    I am a theistscientist. I am an academic and a consultant.I passionately believe that abortion is both a sin and a terrible moral wrong.I beleive that abortion is one of the greatest evils of our generation(right up there with slavery, jim crow,genocide, etc). I dont advocate violence but I do advocate civil disobedience against abortion, and have participated in this. I have suffered professionally, financially, and physically, from my advocacy for the unborn.I beleive that we have a duty to defend the rights of the defenseless unborn. Does this make me a fundamentalist?

  • theistscientist

    and if I may add a followup: Mr. Ebon respectfully, I’m not really sure “we” started this. You know, they used to use the McGuffie reader to teach students in public school to read by using verses from the Bible. Prayer used to be commonplace in schools as well as daily Bible reading and teaching. Secular humanist teachers also indoctrinate a lot of stundents today in public schools and colleges. Hollywood, the liberal media also market a very secular, hedonistic “product”. I think many would argue it is a two way street.

  • theistscientist

    and if I may add a followup: Mr. Ebon respectfully, I’m not really sure “we” started this. You know, they used to use the McGuffie reader to teach students in public school to read by using verses from the Bible. Prayer used to be commonplace in schools as well as daily Bible reading and teaching. Secular humanist teachers also indoctrinate a lot of stundents today in public schools and colleges. Hollywood, the liberal media also market a very secular, hedonistic “product”. I think many would argue it is a two way street.

  • a

    That would be an ideal society but critical thinking and faith don’t mix by the very definition of the word. It requires you believe despite lack of evidence and discourages change.

  • a

    That would be an ideal society but critical thinking and faith don’t mix by the very definition of the word. It requires you believe despite lack of evidence and discourages change.

  • Bro Bobby

    Hi, I was reading the bit where it was said that Richard Dawkins was not a fundamentalist (atheist) because for one he was not forbidding Christians to have children, as Chrisians do other people. And yet he publickly (TV doco) claimed that raising children with a Christian world view is abuse. Doesn’t that mean he does not think that Christians should be permitted to have, or raise, children? I met some atheists on the street recently. They happily watched Christians arrested. Would they have wanted someone to stand for their freedom of speach if they where the ones being arrested? I have tried to live faithfull to my belief in Jesus Christ and alow those around me the same freedom. I discuss with and try to ‘convert’ atheists as they do me, and still leave on friendly terms. This is increasingly difficult as atheists are increasingly as ‘fundamentalist’minded as anyone else I meet. It is only a matter of time before atheism will imprison Christians, as they already do in atheist countries. For what its worth, they do not believe in free speech. I do. They believe in persecution. I do not. They are guilty of hate crimes and discrimination. God help us if atheism become free to do to the free world what they have done in Old USSR.
    Love in Christ, Bro Bobby.

  • Bro Bobby

    Hi, I was reading the bit where it was said that Richard Dawkins was not a fundamentalist (atheist) because for one he was not forbidding Christians to have children, as Chrisians do other people. And yet he publickly (TV doco) claimed that raising children with a Christian world view is abuse. Doesn’t that mean he does not think that Christians should be permitted to have, or raise, children? I met some atheists on the street recently. They happily watched Christians arrested. Would they have wanted someone to stand for their freedom of speach if they where the ones being arrested? I have tried to live faithfull to my belief in Jesus Christ and alow those around me the same freedom. I discuss with and try to ‘convert’ atheists as they do me, and still leave on friendly terms. This is increasingly difficult as atheists are increasingly as ‘fundamentalist’minded as anyone else I meet. It is only a matter of time before atheism will imprison Christians, as they already do in atheist countries. For what its worth, they do not believe in free speech. I do. They believe in persecution. I do not. They are guilty of hate crimes and discrimination. God help us if atheism become free to do to the free world what they have done in Old USSR.
    Love in Christ, Bro Bobby.

  • Caius

    Bro Bobby, I wonder what you mean by atheists happily watching Christians being arrested. Your implication seems clear, but the actual facts are entirely opaque.

    As for Dawkins, he never once, that I know of, advocated legislating anything like preventing Christians from having or raising children. Courts, meanwhile, routinely consider religious households superior to nonreligious ones, so in that respect, it seems like the opposite is happening.In fact, I have never seen or heard of any atheists who tried to disenfranchise Christians in the US in any way. I have never heard of atheists who hope to bar or censor religious speech, only remove it from government and government-sponsored programs, because the establishment of religion by the state is prohibited under the U.S. Constitution.

    And you mention “atheist” countries: I would tell you that today, religious fundamentalist regimes are worse oppressors than any existing communist one. But that is entirely beside the point. American atheists are almost invariably advocates for liberty, while those who would legislate their beliefs and moralities are usually Christian. You, my friend, seem to have it exactly backwards.

    And theistscientist, I remind you that religious oppression of their opponents started before atheism even existed, and atheists have been demonized (literally) for hundreds of years. And I put to you that the government and Hollywood are vastly different things. The First Amendment should guarantee that the Bible is not taught to public school children (prayer is allowed, I remind you, just not if it’s led by faculty or school employees), and that the government should be neutral on the matter of religion (which it was definitely not before the 20th Century, and still isn’t to a significant degree). Unless you’re advocating censorship of Hollywood, I suggest that it can coexist in the market with mega-churches and evangelical literature.

  • Tom

    theistscientist, you say you support civil disobedience, which is a form of direct action. May I ask you, are you a citizen of the country in which you live? Do you vote? Do you believe you have fair political representation and a functioning government? Because even nonviolent civil disobedience has the same basic purpose as terrorism; a rejection of the actions and laws of a government representing the will of the people and an attempt to force the will of a minority on the majority.

    Direct action by the disenfranchised is a different matter; it is the only means by which they can gain political rights. Direct action by those with full political freedom, on the other hand, is an implicit rejection of that freedom. Show me someone resorting to direct action in a dictatorship and I’ll show you a freedom fighter. Show me someone resorting to direct action in a functioning democracy and I’ll show you a would-be dictator. The people of your country, whose constitutional principles I assume you subscribe to, have evidently decided to legalise abortion; while you’re perfectly entitled to argue against that, who are you to attempt to force them to comply to your will instead?

  • Tom

    theistscientist, you say you support civil disobedience, which is a form of direct action. May I ask you, are you a citizen of the country in which you live? Do you vote? Do you believe you have fair political representation and a functioning government? Because even nonviolent civil disobedience has the same basic purpose as terrorism; a rejection of the actions and laws of a government representing the will of the people and an attempt to force the will of a minority on the majority.

    Direct action by the disenfranchised is a different matter; it is the only means by which they can gain political rights. Direct action by those with full political freedom, on the other hand, is an implicit rejection of that freedom. Show me someone resorting to direct action in a dictatorship and I’ll show you a freedom fighter. Show me someone resorting to direct action in a functioning democracy and I’ll show you a would-be dictator. The people of your country, whose constitutional principles I assume you subscribe to, have evidently decided to legalise abortion; while you’re perfectly entitled to argue against that, who are you to attempt to force them to comply to your will instead?

  • Adele

    Hey,
    I have been reading this blog for quite a while – only just got up the nerve to start posting. I just want to thank you all so – so much – for the support you have unwittingly given me over the past few months.

    I was born to two freethinking atheists who gave me great religious freedom. Although they were sad when I announced my conversion to fundamentalist Christianity (through the youth program at my friend’s church – one that screams to me now “child indoctrination!”), they supported me as much as they could without actually coming into the church. I tried to convert them several times, the last of which ended in my storming out of their house, waving my pamphlets and swearing I would not speak to them again. Despite my parents’ attempts to contact me, I refused to speak to them for several years.

    Three years ago, a close friend of mine read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. She urged me to read it, and with my utter conviction of the truth of the Christian doctrine, I was convinced it would be a laughable read. In reading it, though, my belief was shaken to its very foundation.

    The next two years were a frantic search for anything at all that supported my fanatical beliefs. I read The Case for Christ along with several other apologetic books and compared them to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell, etc. I found that nothing any of the apologists put forward stood up to logical scrutiny, and I came to see that my parents had been right.

    I have been a “closet atheist” for the past year, reading all the atheist/freethinking material I could get my hands on. This website, along with Ebon Musings, has been an invaluable source of comfort. I can’t even tell you how much my life has changed in the past year – I reestablished contact with my parents, strengthened relations with my freethinking sister, and revoked my church membership two months ago. I am so much happier now – I cannot thank you, Ebonmuse, and those of you here at Daylight Atheism enough for the support you have given me.

    To freethinkers, secular humanists, and atheists worldwide – my brothers and sisters – thank you!

    - Adele Tabuteau

    P.S. In terms of the conversation – my original purpose for posting, although it may not seem so :) – the difference between fundamentalists and passionate atheists such as Richard Dawkins is, essentially, tolerance – that we do not try to amend laws or force our beliefs on others, nor do we persecute others for their beliefs.

  • Adele

    Bro Bobby -
    Kudos for your tolerance, support of human rights, and fair-mindedness – even if your views of atheists are fundamentally wrong sometimes :)

  • Adele

    Bro Bobby -
    Kudos for your tolerance, support of human rights, and fair-mindedness – even if your views of atheists are fundamentally wrong sometimes :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Adele, that was a truly beautiful story. And the best part is that it has a happy ending. :)

    I’m honored to have played a part in your journey back to reason and out of the poisonous fundamentalism that threatened to tear your family apart. I’m sure Richard Dawkins would feel the same way. Your story really sums up why we do what we do and shows us all that our effort is not in vain. Thank you so much for posting it! We’re glad to have you back.

    I think your story cuts to the essence of why it’s important that we take a forthright stand for atheism and reason. It’s true, as mediocre pundits often point out, that people harm each other for reasons other than religion, and would no doubt go on harming each other for those reasons even if religion were to disappear tomorrow. But what your story highlights so well is that religion provides an additional source of harm, one that acts to divide human beings and set them against each other even when there’s no other reason for them to be opposed. You’ve lived that truth and come back to tell the tale. And who knows – perhaps someone else who’s now in the situation you once were in will read your comment and recognize themselves in it, and your story will sow good seeds in turn.

  • windy

    Matthew Yglesias also asks “Why [new atheists] think an organized, self-consciously atheistic mass movement would be a good thing is a bit beyond me.”

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/10/preaching_to_the_choir.php

    And apparently Maher is a New Atheist now.

  • Rightintheface

    Some atheists do threaten violence, call for the pope to be executed, etc. Some atheists DO think that I shouldn’t have the right to practice my religion, publicly or privately.

    Should I hold you accountable for their lunacy the way you hold me accountable for the Spanish Inquisition?What you do is no different than the idiots that attempt to force school districts to teach creationism in science class.

    You insist upon the sole validity of your world view and paint anyone who thinks differently as ignorant or blind. I don’t do that as a Christian; if someone does that, please JOIN ME in condemning their short-sighted stupidity. You’re grouping people together who don’t deserve to be grouped. I balance my religious belief with scientific understanding. I have no difficulty keeping the two quite separate. I acknowledge the logical fallacies in Christianity but simultaneously maintain that faith isn’t something to be proved or disproved.

    There are plenty of things in this world that beg explanations outside of science. Science has no complete description or understanding of love, hope, rage, racism, etc.

    Anthropology, neuroscience, etc. may explain some aspects, but there are esoteric concepts that are very salient despite their lack of empirical substantiation.Regardless, I’m not interested in convincing you.

    As I’ve said several times to others, I just want you (atheists that I know) to stop feigning superiority based on your thoughts on a completely subjective matter. Even if God doesn’t exist, faith does, and there is a scientific and anthropologically sound reason. So shut up.

  • Rightintheface

    Some atheists do threaten violence, call for the pope to be executed, etc. Some atheists DO think that I shouldn’t have the right to practice my religion, publicly or privately.

    Should I hold you accountable for their lunacy the way you hold me accountable for the Spanish Inquisition?What you do is no different than the idiots that attempt to force school districts to teach creationism in science class.

    You insist upon the sole validity of your world view and paint anyone who thinks differently as ignorant or blind. I don’t do that as a Christian; if someone does that, please JOIN ME in condemning their short-sighted stupidity. You’re grouping people together who don’t deserve to be grouped. I balance my religious belief with scientific understanding. I have no difficulty keeping the two quite separate. I acknowledge the logical fallacies in Christianity but simultaneously maintain that faith isn’t something to be proved or disproved.

    There are plenty of things in this world that beg explanations outside of science. Science has no complete description or understanding of love, hope, rage, racism, etc.

    Anthropology, neuroscience, etc. may explain some aspects, but there are esoteric concepts that are very salient despite their lack of empirical substantiation.Regardless, I’m not interested in convincing you.

    As I’ve said several times to others, I just want you (atheists that I know) to stop feigning superiority based on your thoughts on a completely subjective matter. Even if God doesn’t exist, faith does, and there is a scientific and anthropologically sound reason. So shut up.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Some atheists do threaten violence, call for the pope to be executed, etc. Some atheists DO think that I shouldn’t have the right to practice my religion, publicly or privately.

    Who? And, how does atheism lead to such actions in a similar way as the belief that your book is authoritative and that all others are heathens?

    What you do is no different than the idiots that attempt to force school districts to teach creationism in science class.

    How so?

    You insist upon the sole validity of your world view and paint anyone who thinks differently as ignorant or blind.

    Except for all the caveats where we say that god is possible and all that. I do maintain that the only rational position to hold is that god does not exist, but no one here says you are ignorant or blind.

    I don’t do that as a Christian; if someone does that, please JOIN ME in condemning their short-sighted stupidity.

    Does that include you telling us to shut up?

    I acknowledge the logical fallacies in Christianity but simultaneously maintain that faith isn’t something to be proved or disproved.

    IOW, you understand that Xianity isn’t logically possible, but you believe anyway because you just want to. If Xianity is logically false, then it is irrational to have faith in it.

    There are plenty of things in this world that beg explanations outside of science. Science has no complete description or understanding of love, hope, rage, racism, etc.

    Define “complete description.” If you are looking for the most minute details and 100% proof, you’ll never have that, nor should you be looking for that, because it’s a fool’s errand. Also, it should be pointed out that science doesn’t have to have an answer for everything for your faith to be irrational. Your faith is not the default position.

    As I’ve said several times to others, I just want you (atheists that I know) to stop feigning superiority based on your thoughts on a completely subjective matter.

    How is the existence or non-existence of god a subjective matter?

    Even if God doesn’t exist, faith does, and there is a scientific and anthropologically sound reason.

    And, your point is?

  • Brad

    There is no intrinsic threat in atheism and freethought – but there is inherent threat in dogmas, traditions, and institutions which seek there own self-perpetuation as well as contain harmful contents (such as misguided views of human nature or incitement to kill others). Although we should not hold people personally accountable for mere association with such harmful things, we can rightly criticize those dogmas, traditions, and institutions which caused people to do evil in the first place.

    You insist upon the sole validity of your world view and paint anyone who thinks differently as ignorant or blind.

    Who are you talking to, “Rightintheface”?

    Regardless, I’m not interested in convincing you.

    But you are interested in making supernatural claims without any support at all, and then saying we “feign superiority” on a forum with huge amounts of time and thought dedicated to explaining and arguing atheism. (See Internet Infidels and Ebon Musings.) Blind belief, wishful thinking, mindless indoctrination, emotional manipulation, and so on do not have “scientific and anthropologically sound reason.” People of any “world view” should be able to speak their mind if they want to.

  • Brad

    There is no intrinsic threat in atheism and freethought – but there is inherent threat in dogmas, traditions, and institutions which seek there own self-perpetuation as well as contain harmful contents (such as misguided views of human nature or incitement to kill others). Although we should not hold people personally accountable for mere association with such harmful things, we can rightly criticize those dogmas, traditions, and institutions which caused people to do evil in the first place.

    You insist upon the sole validity of your world view and paint anyone who thinks differently as ignorant or blind.

    Who are you talking to, “Rightintheface”?

    Regardless, I’m not interested in convincing you.

    But you are interested in making supernatural claims without any support at all, and then saying we “feign superiority” on a forum with huge amounts of time and thought dedicated to explaining and arguing atheism. (See Internet Infidels and Ebon Musings.) Blind belief, wishful thinking, mindless indoctrination, emotional manipulation, and so on do not have “scientific and anthropologically sound reason.” People of any “world view” should be able to speak their mind if they want to.

  • Rightintheface

    Good, I’m glad you don’t defend those views.

    But neither do I defend the extreme views shared by some people of faith, and I don’t want to be crucified with them, as it were.

    You talk about “what I believe” but faith is a personal thing. As I’ve said, I don’t believe in Hell.

    I don’t believe in original sin. I don’t believe that mine is the right way, or that you can absolutely know anything.

    I trust that God knows all the right answers and I try to live according to the rules he’s set down.

    Many things in the bible are misconstrued, misinterpreted, and/or just twisted to suit the needs of people craving power, superiority, etc.

    Similarly, you’re twisting scripture and religious dogma (often without understanding or appreciation of the difference) to suit your world view. It’s not the right thing to do.

    I agree that a fundamentalist attitude is a dangerous thing. I’m not a fundamentalist. If you want to rail against fundamentalism, do so.

    But don’t include me in that.

    Also, realize that the hallmark of fundamentalism is close-minded insistence that you have nothing to learn from the opposing viewpoint. Who does that sound like?

    We can’t prove or disprove God, and I’m not going down that road. However, religion exists, and it has been both a source of tremendous good and tremendous evil.

    This is specifically because people implement it. That has nothing to do with God or religion, because people seek power in any number of ways.

    Christians have a saying (trite though it may be, it’s applicable here) that one should “hate the sin, not the sinner.”

    I don’t appreciate or deserve being lumped in with the bible thumping lunatic preaching on the street corner that “god hates f*gs.”

    I don’t have anything in common with Pat effing Robertson or Billy Graham or Hagee or Wright or any lunatic that uses religion to preach hatred, intolerance, or advance their own goals for power.

    You need to separate out specifically what you disagree with.

    It isn’t that I believe in God, it’s how I act on that belief, right? Yell about that. But be specific to the people acting that way.

    As for “validity based on logic”, logic is flawed and doesn’t explain the esoteric.

    It’s a good tool for explaining the world around you but God isn’t explainable in that way.

    Especially if he isn’t real but is just a concept that makes me act a certain way.

    Like I’ve said, it’s like trying to prove that 2+2=4 because pancakes are fluffy and delicious.

    Logic is irrelevant when discussing God.

    You cling to logic like some cling desperately to beliefs that God will cure their cancer.

    God has no place in science, and logic has no place in faith.

    Sure, some people get defensive and argue otherwise. You’re attacking a fundamental belief system. Doesn’t make them right, or you better.

    Next, How do I separate religion and science. I believe in evolution. I believe in scientific principles. I believe that God is the source of life, but the methods of creation are able to be observed.

    The big bang, the dinosaurs, evolution…it’s all rooted in God to me, but that doesn’t mean that the process can’t be systematically observed and learned from.

    I don’t believe that God makes the blood pump in my veins, but I believe that evolution has given me a four chambered heart that pumps blood efficiently.

    I believe that God lit the match that started this whole business.

    Another example: I am pro-life because I believe that God abhors killing, especially the innocent. I believe that a fetus is a living thing, and “Thou shalt not kill” is meaningful to me.

    But I haven’t yet voted for a pro-life candidate because I haven’t yet trusted a politician that I’ve seen run to legislate such a delicate and important matter in a responsible way.

    So I maintain my religious belief, but I don’t abandon all reason in pursuit of one small part of my belief system. Make sense?

    To me, it isn’t forced apathy to understand that some concepts are bigger than what I can understand.

    Sit and think of the concept of infinity.

    That’s a mathematical reality.

    Pi will likely go on forever, but our brains are not organized to really be able to conceptualize that concept.

    It’s too big, and it fails to fit our brain’s need to organize information.

    Sit and think about the ever-expanding universe. What’s it expanding into? Where does it stop? We have NO idea, and that’s okay.

    As time goes on we’ll likely learn more and more, but so many of the things we know are in truth much bigger than our initial pitiful attempts at understanding.

    Hell, we thought humors ruled the body. We thought atoms were the smallest particles. We thought the earth was flat.

    The truth each time was very exciting and opened up new ways of understanding the world. Doesn’t mean I mistrust science, but it does mean I acknowledge its limitations. Just like I do with religion.

    Love isn’t something science can explain.

    Science, like religion, needs to understand its place.

    The world is not as logical and ordered as you pretend. Science explains the explainable.

    You’ll never be able to predict who I fall in love with.

    You’ll never be able to predict my choice of career, my favorite candy, or what specific combination of feeding, dancing, singing, rocking and diaper changes will make the colicky baby finally fall asleep (trust me.)

    Some things don’t need explanations, and even if we get them, some people will find that other things work better for them. Infant care is a great example of that.

    We’ve done certain things that don’t fall in with the AMA guidelines, and my daughter is still doing great. I know the scientific reason for their recommendations, but I’ve chosen otherwise. Is that logical? No. Is it human? Absolutely.

    So I’ve pretty much defined them, but for the sake of addressing point for point, I’ll do it again here:

    esoteric-abstract concepts defined differently by each person, and that are not able to be sufficiently explained by science.
    salient-observable phenomena that fall within science’s scope of explanation.

    i.e. you might be able to explain the biochemical changes in my brain when I look at my daughter, but you’ll never be able to explain the crazy illogical things I would do for her.

    You can explain the reaction of a family that keeps a member alive on ventilators although there is no chance that person will ever wake again.

    As a medical professional, I face this every day.

    People aren’t logical.

    They often ignore the most logical options because of emotional reactions.

    I’ve watched doctors refuse surgeries for their children that they would recommend to any other patient. At the end of the day, they don’t want someone to cut their baby.

    I post because what I *am* interested in is getting EVERYONE; you, Akusai, and everyone in between; to be rational and respectful. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’m sick of being cut down by you.

    I’m also sick of people cutting atheists down and talking about them going to Hell. Neither side is right. And once again, faith isn’t something to CONVINCE anyone of. That’s something many Christians ignore, I agree, but don’t paint everyone with the same brush. That’s ignorant too.

    You are feigning superiority. You’re using logic to try and disprove something not bound to the rules of HUMAN logic. I do read the “fundies” posts. I find yours and theirs equally ridiculous.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    But neither do I defend the extreme views shared by some people of faith, and I don’t want to be crucified with them, as it were.

    What are you doing to speak out against it?

    You talk about “what I believe” but faith is a personal thing. As I’ve said, I don’t believe in Hell.

    OK, but hell is in the Bible.

    I trust that God knows all the right answers and I try to live according to the rules he’s set down.

    Why would you trust in that? What reason would you have for that?

    Many things in the bible are misconstrued, misinterpreted, and/or just twisted to suit the needs of people craving power, superiority, etc.

    So, why would you believe in the god described in it?

    Similarly, you’re twisting scripture and religious dogma (often without understanding or appreciation of the difference) to suit your world view. It’s not the right thing to do.

    For example? Please give evidence for this. And, I dispute that we don’t understand the scripture. Most people here probably understand it better than you.

    Also, realize that the hallmark of fundamentalism is close-minded insistence that you have nothing to learn from the opposing viewpoint. Who does that sound like?

    It doesn’t sound like any of the atheists here, but you do seem to fit that bill.

    We can’t prove or disprove God, and I’m not going down that road.

    Good, because it is not my job to disprove your god. It is your job to show he exists.

    However, religion exists, and it has been both a source of tremendous good and tremendous evil.

    What good, and how did it come strictly from religion? And, once again, this is not a compelling argument for religion. Simply because it exists doesn’t mean it is good or that god exists.

    You need to separate out specifically what you disagree with.

    Perhaps you should actually read the posts here.

    As for “validity based on logic”, logic is flawed and doesn’t explain the esoteric.

    No, it is not flawed. This is like saying that evolution is flawed because it doesn’t explain gravity.

    It’s a good tool for explaining the world around you but God isn’t explainable in that way.

    Got it, god is illogical. That’s what we’ve been saying. Why believe in something that is illogical and irrational and has no proof?

    You’re attacking a fundamental belief system.

    Just because you don’t think god hates fags doesn’t make your beliefs any more rational than Fred Phelps’.

    You cling to logic like some cling desperately to beliefs that God will cure their cancer.

    What else should we cling to? Should we simply decide to have faith in any fanciful notion we can come up with? If we aren’t using logic and rationality, then why not believe in the tooth fairy, the FSM, etc.?

    Next, How do I separate religion and science. I believe in evolution. I believe in scientific principles. I believe that God is the source of life, but the methods of creation are able to be observed.

    And, what evidence do you have that compels you to believe in any sort of deity. If we can explain everything through natural means, such as evolution, then why add on the unnecessary layer of god?

    Another example: I am pro-life because I believe that God abhors killing, especially the innocent. I believe that a fetus is a living thing, and “Thou shalt not kill” is meaningful to me.

    Plants are living things too. Skin cells are alive. Bugs are alive. If god abhors all killing, then you do things that are abhorrent to god every time you breathe, scratch yourself, eat, etc.

    To me, it isn’t forced apathy to understand that some concepts are bigger than what I can understand.

    Yeah, and? If you are using this as an argument for god, then you are simply using a god of the gaps fallacy.

    The world is not as logical and ordered as you pretend. Science explains the explainable.

    And, so far, it’s the only tool we’ve ever developed to understand the world around us. Faith and religion have not given us any knowledge or understanding of the world. And, even if science can’t explain everything, this in no way makes an argument for god.

    People aren’t logical.

    Again, and? What’s this got to do with anything?

    I post because what I *am* interested in is getting EVERYONE; you, Akusai, and everyone in between; to be rational and respectful. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’m sick of being cut down by you.

    Well, I’m sorry that you can’t tell the difference between criticizing your beliefs and criticizing you. That, quite frankly, is your problem, not mine. Your beliefs are not immune from criticism.

    You are feigning superiority.

    To me, this looks like projection.

    I do read the “fundies” posts. I find yours and theirs equally ridiculous.

    I’m sorry that you find posts where “fundies” proselytize and make baseless assertions to be equally ridiculous with posts that use rationality and evidence.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    But neither do I defend the extreme views shared by some people of faith, and I don’t want to be crucified with them, as it were.

    What are you doing to speak out against it?

    You talk about “what I believe” but faith is a personal thing. As I’ve said, I don’t believe in Hell.

    OK, but hell is in the Bible.

    I trust that God knows all the right answers and I try to live according to the rules he’s set down.

    Why would you trust in that? What reason would you have for that?

    Many things in the bible are misconstrued, misinterpreted, and/or just twisted to suit the needs of people craving power, superiority, etc.

    So, why would you believe in the god described in it?

    Similarly, you’re twisting scripture and religious dogma (often without understanding or appreciation of the difference) to suit your world view. It’s not the right thing to do.

    For example? Please give evidence for this. And, I dispute that we don’t understand the scripture. Most people here probably understand it better than you.

    Also, realize that the hallmark of fundamentalism is close-minded insistence that you have nothing to learn from the opposing viewpoint. Who does that sound like?

    It doesn’t sound like any of the atheists here, but you do seem to fit that bill.

    We can’t prove or disprove God, and I’m not going down that road.

    Good, because it is not my job to disprove your god. It is your job to show he exists.

    However, religion exists, and it has been both a source of tremendous good and tremendous evil.

    What good, and how did it come strictly from religion? And, once again, this is not a compelling argument for religion. Simply because it exists doesn’t mean it is good or that god exists.

    You need to separate out specifically what you disagree with.

    Perhaps you should actually read the posts here.

    As for “validity based on logic”, logic is flawed and doesn’t explain the esoteric.

    No, it is not flawed. This is like saying that evolution is flawed because it doesn’t explain gravity.

    It’s a good tool for explaining the world around you but God isn’t explainable in that way.

    Got it, god is illogical. That’s what we’ve been saying. Why believe in something that is illogical and irrational and has no proof?

    You’re attacking a fundamental belief system.

    Just because you don’t think god hates fags doesn’t make your beliefs any more rational than Fred Phelps’.

    You cling to logic like some cling desperately to beliefs that God will cure their cancer.

    What else should we cling to? Should we simply decide to have faith in any fanciful notion we can come up with? If we aren’t using logic and rationality, then why not believe in the tooth fairy, the FSM, etc.?

    Next, How do I separate religion and science. I believe in evolution. I believe in scientific principles. I believe that God is the source of life, but the methods of creation are able to be observed.

    And, what evidence do you have that compels you to believe in any sort of deity. If we can explain everything through natural means, such as evolution, then why add on the unnecessary layer of god?

    Another example: I am pro-life because I believe that God abhors killing, especially the innocent. I believe that a fetus is a living thing, and “Thou shalt not kill” is meaningful to me.

    Plants are living things too. Skin cells are alive. Bugs are alive. If god abhors all killing, then you do things that are abhorrent to god every time you breathe, scratch yourself, eat, etc.

    To me, it isn’t forced apathy to understand that some concepts are bigger than what I can understand.

    Yeah, and? If you are using this as an argument for god, then you are simply using a god of the gaps fallacy.

    The world is not as logical and ordered as you pretend. Science explains the explainable.

    And, so far, it’s the only tool we’ve ever developed to understand the world around us. Faith and religion have not given us any knowledge or understanding of the world. And, even if science can’t explain everything, this in no way makes an argument for god.

    People aren’t logical.

    Again, and? What’s this got to do with anything?

    I post because what I *am* interested in is getting EVERYONE; you, Akusai, and everyone in between; to be rational and respectful. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’m sick of being cut down by you.

    Well, I’m sorry that you can’t tell the difference between criticizing your beliefs and criticizing you. That, quite frankly, is your problem, not mine. Your beliefs are not immune from criticism.

    You are feigning superiority.

    To me, this looks like projection.

    I do read the “fundies” posts. I find yours and theirs equally ridiculous.

    I’m sorry that you find posts where “fundies” proselytize and make baseless assertions to be equally ridiculous with posts that use rationality and evidence.

  • Brad

    “Rightintheface,” could you please not space your lines so much? It makes it hard to read your posts.

    but faith is a personal thing.

    I’m guessing this is why you were telling us to “shut up.” Well, perhaps faith is a personal thing, but the institution of religion is definitely not, nor is the scholarship and theology revolving around the Bible and God.

    I trust that God knows all the right answers and I try to live according to the rules he’s set down.

    To trust someone, you have to believe s/he exists in the first place. That’s where atheists differ from theists on obeying God. As for interpreting scripture, there is a lot of gray there. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree within this thread about such a point.

    Who does that sound like?

    You’re right: it sounds like fundamentalists. If fundamentalism means “clinging to a stubborn, entrenched position that defies reasoned argument or contradictory evidence,” then I do not think there are many atheist fundamentalists. (Note: definition from Dawkins.)

    We can’t prove or disprove God

    And how do you know that even? To me, this seems like “strong” agnosticism, where “weak” agnosticism is just being humble and saying “I haven’t seen a proof or disproof.” If you choose not to address this topic, (“not go down this road”), then so be it, we’ll just move on.

    However, religion exists, and it has been both a source of tremendous good and tremendous evil.

    That has nothing to do with God or religion, because people seek power in any number of ways.

    This is a blatant contradiction. I agree, maybe a bit reservedly, with the first point. Ebonmuse talks about this himself:

    This is a dramatic illustration of the “megaphone” hypothesis of religion amplifying both the good and the bad in human nature in equal measure. At one extreme, it can produce astounding acts of courage and self-sacrificing love. At the other extreme, it can produce hatred, xenophobia and superstitious fear so poisonous that parents can be turned against their own minor children.

    As for yourself being “lumped” into the fundamentalist group, I’m not so sure you’re not a already in it. Being a literalist isn’t always the equivalent of being a fundamentalist. And that still doesn’t mean we can’t criticize even the liberal beliefs too.

    As for “validity based on logic”, logic is flawed and doesn’t explain the esoteric.

    It’s a good tool for explaining the world around you but God isn’t explainable in that way.

    Especially if he isn’t real but is just a concept that makes me act a certain way.

    And why can’t it explain subjectivity and mysticism? If God isn’t explainable by logic it is because he is illogical. What does it mean for God to be real but just a practical concept? By all appearances, you are evading the obvious answers here.

    Logic is irrelevant when discussing God.

    You cling to logic like some cling desperately to beliefs that God will cure their cancer.

    This is going straight onto Fundies Say the Darndest Things! Faith is like “guess and check” but without the check. It has no more potential for finding truth than mere intuition and wishful thinking. By not touching on reason or evidence, faith is indeed “blind.” (Note I am not talking about overcoming solipsism – I am talking about fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, and virgin births.)

    If you believe in evolution, then you have further problem with the POE:

    One could postulate a god like the kind I described – but then one is also faced with the unavoidable problem that a god which controlled evolution would be a god who deliberately brought about enormous amounts of suffering, terror, death and extinction to achieve his goals. Evolution proceeds by the death of the losers, and those organisms that are weak or cannot defend themselves are ruthlessly exploited. Infectious disease, parasitism, and predation are the rule at every level and in every niche of life. It’s quite amazing that this process of ceaseless struggle and violence has brought forth living things as beautiful, intricate and diverse as the ones as we see. We can appreciate that beauty, but we shouldn’t forget what lies behind it. This is just what Darwin meant when he wrote about the parasitic wasps who implant their hungry larvae in a caterpillar’s living body, and how he could not persuade himself that a benevolent god would have deliberately designed such a thing.

    “Though shalt not kill”:

    I believe that God abhors killing, especially the innocent.

    I suggest reading the Old Testament.

    Pi will likely go on forever, but our brains are not organized to really be able to conceptualize that concept.

    If we couldn’t conceptualize this fact, then it wouldn’t be a concept, and we wouldn’t have the mathematics that we do to deal with the concept. However, if there are vague ideas that we cannot truly conceptualize, then what basis do we have in claiming their truth or believing them? Feelings? I agree with you wholeheartedly on this sentiment: “We have NO idea, and that’s okay.”

    but you’ll never be able to explain the crazy illogical things I would do for her

    Here is the explanation: love. Where is the explanation for love? Here it is: the brain. And there you have it.

    You are feigning superiority. You’re using logic to try and disprove something not bound to the rules of HUMAN logic.

    If God is not bound by logic, then can he create a rock so big he can’t lift it? The thing is, if reason and evidence do successfully outweigh belief in God, then God is subject to human logic. We don’t need to “feign” the superiority of atheism: we merely actuate the claim by supporting atheism with arguments and explanations. Hence, Ebon Musings and Internet Infidels.

    If a child said that you were being ignorant for using “logic” in trying to disprove Santa Claus, would you think the child has a good point, or would you think the child was merely trying to evade the obvious?

  • Rightintheface

    I’m on lunch break so excuse my partial answer. I speak out against both sides of this extremist debate. I do it here against you and I get after people who preach bigotry or intolerance using God as a weapon too. It may be that homosexuality is wrong, but the bible also says love thy neighbor and let God be the one to judge. So, is it my role to tell a gay person they’re doing something terrible? That’s where the scripture is INTERPRETED and important differences in belief come into play.

    Some believe that you’re supposed to tell them; that it’s your duty to ‘protect’ them from sin. Others like myself believe that loving them, being a good example, and reserving the judgment for God to take care of is the more “Christian” method. The bible was written by men. Even if it wasn’t, and it truly were purely God-inspired, it’s been translated roughly 20 times and is INTERPRETED by men, who are by their very nature imperfect.

    How can we be sure we get it right? My solution is to do as the bible suggests and have “faith like a child.” Many of you want to tell me that I’m “not a Christian” because I don’t believe some ridiculous extraneous piece of dogma. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus died for my sins. That’s Christianity. Everything else is fluff. What you do with that information is what’s important.
    The larger issue is this: Can you coexist with me with my beliefs?

    I have married an athiest, my best and oldest friends are atheists, and yet my family is deeply religious.

    Yes, I took crap because I didn’t marry a Christian. Yes, the discussion of whether our kids would go to church was difficult. But I’ve managed to coexist with people of vastly different beliefs. I can only conclude that the strife here isn’t coming from me. Many of you don’t want your beliefs put to the same level of scrutiny. You don’t answer the big questions either. And yet, though you rail against people of faith when they try to force their theories down your throat, but turn around and exhibit the same behavior.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I speak out against both sides of this extremist debate. I do it here against you…

    I’m not seeing what is so extreme about us here. Perhaps you could explain. Simply making accusations about our extremism isn’t helping.

    How can we be sure we get it right? My solution is to do as the bible suggests and have “faith like a child.” Many of you want to tell me that I’m “not a Christian” because I don’t believe some ridiculous extraneous piece of dogma.

    No, what I’m suggesting is this:
    If you don’t accept the Bible, or if you think the Bible was simply written by men, then you have no reason to accept that its claims about god are true. You have no reason to think that having “faith like a child” is a good thing. You have no reason to believe in this god. It is irrational to believe in this god.

    But I’ve managed to coexist with people of vastly different beliefs. I can only conclude that the strife here isn’t coming from me.

    I beg to differ. Whatever strife there is is purely coming from you. Not only are you imagining that there is strife here (no one is angry at you) but you’ve also come in here, guns blazing, making accusations that you haven’t bothered to back up. Now, you are claiming that it’s our fault that you didn’t conduct yourself in a respectful way, and that you are imagining some sort of “strife.”

    Many of you don’t want your beliefs put to the same level of scrutiny.

    Again with the accusations. I can categorically tell you that you are wrong on this. Go ahead and scrutinize. If my non-beliefs can’t stand up to scrutiny, then why should I hold them?

    You don’t answer the big questions either.

    More accusations. What big questions?

    And yet, though you rail against people of faith when they try to force their theories down your throat, but turn around and exhibit the same behavior.

    More accusations. No one is trying to ram anything down your throat. No is here is trying to force atheism on anyone.

  • heliobates

    And yet, though you rail against people of faith when they try to force their theories down your throat, but turn around and exhibit the same behavior.

    Do I understand this idiot correctly? Is there now some form of compulsion that makes believers read Daylight Atheism or else we’ll kill them and their families?

    Are we erecting atheist displays, denying Christians jobs, asserting that Christians can’t truly be citizens, attempting to smear our political opponents who welcome Christians into their ranks?

    Mr. Right, as your name suggests, you’ve taken one too many to the face.

  • heliobates

    And yet, though you rail against people of faith when they try to force their theories down your throat, but turn around and exhibit the same behavior.

    Do I understand this idiot correctly? Is there now some form of compulsion that makes believers read Daylight Atheism or else we’ll kill them and their families?

    Are we erecting atheist displays, denying Christians jobs, asserting that Christians can’t truly be citizens, attempting to smear our political opponents who welcome Christians into their ranks?

    Mr. Right, as your name suggests, you’ve taken one too many to the face.

  • Brad

    So to figure things out correctly, we should think like children. Am I understanding your solution accurately, “Rightintheface”?

    Everything else is fluff.

    And herein lies the discrepancy between you and OMGF, heliobates, and I. While you say these things aren’t debatable, and try to silence scrutiny on the subject by telling us to shut up or saying we should stop seeking explanations that aren’t there, we genuinely think philosophy, theology, and religion are debatable – and in fact offer a lot to be debated. You hand-wave all of the difficulties away, and in the meantime, you have made quite a few assertions that we have asked for support for and of which you have not presented any. There is no time limit here, so please don’t feel pressured if you make partial posts, but please do satisfactorily address our points sometime, and do back up the assertions so that we can save time here. We are the ones presenting specific questions and applying scrutiny to your posts, while you do little more than make “more accusations,” as OMGF points out.

    I can applaud you for having the open mind, tolerance, understanding, and respect you must have to marry an atheist. What you have demonstrated here on this forum, however, towards us atheist “fundamentalists”, is ironic in light of this background information. You really did come here “guns blazing,” causing this argument. (“Strife” might be an exaggeration of this wordfight.) I also think your idea of “coexistince” seems to be the state in which we choose to ignore large elephants within rooms. Should the discourse of religion be reduced to mere whispering, or is it safe for us to all talk about it?

  • Rightintheface

    The point, Brad, isn’t “ignoring large elephants in the room”. To some extent, they are there. I know my wife and friend disagree with me. When discussing nicely, I can give lots of insight. I think you take it too far though. You question, and I answer. At some point, in order to actually have a discussion rather than an argument, you have to accept that I believe these things.

    You don’t have to “sign off” on my world view in order for me to feel good about it.
    .
    It isn’t that I get uncomfortable with the questioning; hell, I do it myself all the time. It’s that the questions aren’t asked by someone wanting to learn (not learn about God, but about my world view) it’s someone wanting to pick it apart and point out the flaws. That isn’t ‘civilized discussion’ to me.

    My religion is my business. What I share here, I do out of the goodness of my heart. Understand that I do so guardedly because you have a history of putting me down for it.

    That isn’t an easy situation to come into. I apologize for my defensiveness, but at the same time, isn’t it a little bit understandable given the subject matter?

    I believe in God. I believe in science. I apply science to my understanding of worldly things, and God to my understanding of “the other stuff.” I believe that God is bigger than any of us can conceive, and accept that it may be difficult to stomach for someone who wants proof, which is not an unreasonable request. I can’t provide you with proof, and I can’t provide you with faith.

    I also know that science, despite its successes, can never provide me with ALL the answers. There’s some stuff that is beyond it. That, to me, is where God comes in. Accept it or not. No judgment either way.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    RITF,

    It’s that the questions aren’t asked by someone wanting to learn (not learn about God, but about my world view) it’s someone wanting to pick it apart and point out the flaws. That isn’t ‘civilized discussion’ to me.

    IOW, my beliefs are off-limits and you may not criticize my religion or beliefs. I have to ask why not? Why are your beliefs immune to criticism?

    Understand that I do so guardedly because you have a history of putting me down for it.

    Considering that you’ve just started posting here under this name and no one has been putting you down, can I assume that you’ve posted here under other names? If so, can you point out these alleged put-downs? Often-times, these alleged put-downs amount to nothing more than “Those atheists are so mean because they question my beliefs,” and based on your other statements, I’m inclined to think this might be the case.

    That isn’t an easy situation to come into. I apologize for my defensiveness, but at the same time, isn’t it a little bit understandable given the subject matter?

    No, it’s not. But, thank you for recognizing your defensiveness and your apology.

    I also know that science, despite its successes, can never provide me with ALL the answers. There’s some stuff that is beyond it. That, to me, is where God comes in.

    This sounds like god of the gaps reasoning to me.

  • Brad

    I am not saying that we should, in real life, jump at every chance to converse about religion with everybody. Personally, I do not engage in the topic in real life unless someone else expresses desire to do so. What I am saying is that religion can be talked about anytime, and in fact should be talked about at some points – but I never said anything about being generally pushy. As for online forums where we are specifically directed to talk about religion, I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell us to shut up in the matter. We are here to talk about it, and so we will.

    Obviously you say atheists (in general) “feign superiority” on a “completely subjective matter.” You’ve said it is impossible to prove/disprove God, and so when it comes to God you say science and logic don’t have all the answers, and thus the entire issue is reduced down to “Accept it or not.” Equally obviously we atheists have a response to this: why? (We also take issue with the existence of God being a subjective matter; we think he exists or he doesn’t independently of our private thoughts and opinions.) Here is where you say “Regardless, I’m not interested in convincing you.” I have to wonder, what are you here for? To point out bigotry, extremism, and fundamentalism? I can see bigotry – yes – but I do not much see the latter two, and you haven’t made any good argument to the contrary.

    As for pointing out and picking apart flaws in each other’s reasoning: what did you expect? You’re on an atheist forum! The atheists will defend their territory from your attacks by picking them apart!

  • Tim Neal

    I hate to repeat what everyone else is saying, but I encounter this sentiment a lot and I think it’s important to respond. The two requests for proof (for the existence of a god, and the non-existence of a god) are not equivalent. Proving the existence of god is a matter of finding some evidence, or trustworthy testimony of evidence, to the effect that god exists. Proving the non-existence of god (or anything, really) is a whole different ball game. The best we can do is to say that god has no observable effect; that the notion doesn’t offer any additional explanation for the facts of the world beyond what we already have. Since we don’t need god’s presence to account for the way things are, we can set god aside. That’s the crux of the non-existence argument.

    All of the above all old news — you’ve heard the story countless times. What I don’t get (and maybe it can be explained) is how, if god is truly beyond the reach of evidence and that believing is a matter of a leap of faith, we can ever have public discussions about religion or that two people could ever believe in the same god. Further, if there’s no evidence, how can one know anything about god? Usually, god is described as having certain characteristics and attributes. Believers argue about these characteristics and attributes. Do you believe that all those arguments are groundless? If not, how can you find out whether god is good or evil? Is there a different sort of evidence than that used in figuring, say, the chances of it raining tomorrow?

  • thefoolish

    To Rightintheface stating that logic cannot be used to explain God. The majority of atheists agree, and thus the problem with God. If we were to believe anything, like the success of a vaccine, we would use logic before injecting it into our blood. We would surely think critically about a new governmental system before adopting it as the way that we would run our lives. Why is God so exempt from this? Why is religion exempt from this? Religion is the only thing that people will look at your like you’re crazy if you try to critically analyze. That. Is. Dumb. Also, the thought that, though we have no logic proof for it, there’s no harm in believing in it, is flawed. If this is our only life to live, and we have no proof that this is anything but our only life (absence of evidence is evidence of absence), then every moment we spend if to be cherished, and would should not spend any of them foolishly.

    Also, I must agree with Tim Neal right before me. To disprove something is very different from proving something, especially supernatural. I hate to insult, but it’s the exact same ballgame as disproving the purple unicorn standing behind me telling standup jokes. Do you believe he’s there? No. You know why? There’s no real, documented, non-anecdotal proof.

    Anyway, peace.

  • Rightintheface

    None of us knows for sure, right? I believe there’s a God despite the lack of scientific data. You regard the lack of scientific data as proof that God doesn’t exist.

    For me, if we want to talk science, it’s a matter of measuring the wrong things. Looking for the wrong evidence. Evaluating with the wrong frame of reference. Example: If I evaluated a child and was blinded to the fact that a child had selective mutism, I might come to the conclusion that the child’s communications skills were impaired. Could it be a neurological problem? Damage to the speech areas to the brain? Is receptive language impaired as well? Is the child autistic?
    This line of questioning could go on for a long time and I might come to some medically viable conclusion based on the frame of reference I used. But I’d be wrong; the kid could talk fine, they actively chose not to. My scientific conclusion would be completely incorrect.

    With religion, we have people trying to use biology, or rules of logic, or anthropology, or psychology, to explain something that can’t be accurately described by any of the above disciplines. God isn’t a person, so bio and psych are out. God isn’t synonymous with religion, so anthropology/sociology are out. God in any definition I’ve seen is an entity that has abilities and knowledge that we can’t possibly have. In what universe do you presume to dictate logic to a being that has greater understanding of the universe? If we’re talking about God with the operational definition of “an all-powerful being” which would be the standard Christian definition, then why do we assume that a group of beings who are advanced for this world but largely blind to the secrets of the universe can dictate to that entity, or define him/it/whatever?

    I don’t seek to understand everything. I don’t pretend that belief in God is logical. But none of us KNOWS. So if you don’t know for a fact (which is a logical position to take) and you believe that there isn’t a God, you’re just walking one direction down the two way street. I’m walking the other way. How can one of us be more right?

  • Brad

    You regard the lack of scientific data as proof that God doesn’t exist.

    There’s more to it than that. Ebon Musings (this blog’s parent site) has formulated well-reasoned arguments for why belief in God is irrational.

    In what universe do you presume to dictate logic to a being that has greater understanding of the universe?

    We are not the dictators of logic (try proving 2+2=5), and we have our own, albeit small, understanding of the universe. So should we abandon this understanding of the universe and instead embrace wishful thinking? To gravitate towards the idea that our understanding is negated by the supposed “higher ways” of an unknown mysterious entity is intellectually reckless. One might as well believe we live in the Matrix, that the sun won’t come up tomorrow, or that the universe was created last week.

    How can one of us be more right?

    We aren’t on a two-way street. The gods, spirits, demons, miracles, and other superstitions of past religions were all held by the faith of their adherents. There are also other absurd ideas, such as the infamous invisible pink unicorn, the teapot in celestial orbit, and the flying spaghetti monster.

    Following your own logic: How is God any more right than those ideas?

  • Brad

    You regard the lack of scientific data as proof that God doesn’t exist.

    There’s more to it than that. Ebon Musings (this blog’s parent site) has formulated well-reasoned arguments for why belief in God is irrational.

    In what universe do you presume to dictate logic to a being that has greater understanding of the universe?

    We are not the dictators of logic (try proving 2+2=5), and we have our own, albeit small, understanding of the universe. So should we abandon this understanding of the universe and instead embrace wishful thinking? To gravitate towards the idea that our understanding is negated by the supposed “higher ways” of an unknown mysterious entity is intellectually reckless. One might as well believe we live in the Matrix, that the sun won’t come up tomorrow, or that the universe was created last week.

    How can one of us be more right?

    We aren’t on a two-way street. The gods, spirits, demons, miracles, and other superstitions of past religions were all held by the faith of their adherents. There are also other absurd ideas, such as the infamous invisible pink unicorn, the teapot in celestial orbit, and the flying spaghetti monster.

    Following your own logic: How is God any more right than those ideas?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    RITF,

    None of us knows for sure, right? I believe there’s a God despite the lack of scientific data.

    Why god? If you have no proof for god, why believe in him? You have no proof for various other things as well, so why not believe in them? How about the above referenced purple unicorn that happens to be a stand-up comedian? It’s simply irrational to decide that god exists absent any evidence.

    You regard the lack of scientific data as proof that God doesn’t exist.

    No. I regard the lack of evidence for god (of any kind) to be good reason not to believe in god. I don’t know that god doesn’t exist, but I have no rational reason to believe that he does. And, if I decide to irrationally believe in god, which one? And, why god instead of simply believing in Russell’s teapot or leprechauns?

    This line of questioning could go on for a long time and I might come to some medically viable conclusion based on the frame of reference I used. But I’d be wrong; the kid could talk fine, they actively chose not to. My scientific conclusion would be completely incorrect.

    So what? Sometimes we get things wrong, so what? What other way do you propose that we find out about this god? If science is asking the wrong questions, how do you propose we ask the right questions?

    With religion, we have people trying to use biology, or rules of logic, or anthropology, or psychology, to explain something that can’t be accurately described by any of the above disciplines.

    Then, how will you actually define or find out about this god? What you are claiming here is that we can’t use empirical means to find out about god, but those are the only means we have available to us!

    I don’t pretend that belief in God is logical.

    If it’s not logical/rational, why do it? Why disbelieve in other gods? Do you believe in Allah? Why not?

    So if you don’t know for a fact (which is a logical position to take) and you believe that there isn’t a God, you’re just walking one direction down the two way street. I’m walking the other way. How can one of us be more right?

    Because you have no basis for your belief, and without a basis it is more rational to disbelieve. It’s quite simple really. As I keep saying, if it is rational to believe in god, then it’s similarly rational to believe in leprechauns, invisible, pink unicorns, or anything else that anyone can think up. And, you have no reason to decide on the Xian god vs. any other belief.

  • Rightintheface

    We have to define God as something. If your argument is that “God” doesn’t exist, it’s perfectly reasonable to use this definition of God.

    And even if he isn’t omniscient, but still knows/understands more than we do, it’s moot. There’s still stuff we could be missing. Regardless, I’m not “assuming” anything in terms of my personal beliefs.

    I believe certain things but don’t pretend that they’re “right”. I believe them to be true but I do so without corporeal proof.

    And why does something have to be “intellectually supportable?” Plenty of things we do have absolutely no intellectual or logical basis. Faith is the least of our intellectual dishonesties, but that doesn’t mean they’re invalid or unimportant.

    Because I don’t consider myself an expert in religion-debunking, I had to look up “NOMA” arguments. I guess that yes, I am suggesting that. Furthermore, I couldn’t give a **** less what anyone thinks of that.

    I just feel bad for someone who feels the need to spend so much time cutting down religion. I’m glad I have God in my life, instead of that rankling bitterness, even if God doesn’t really exist.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    RITF,

    We have to define God as something.

    No, actually we don’t, you do.

    Regardless, I’m not “assuming” anything in terms of my personal beliefs.

    Um, yeah, actually you are. You are assuming that there is a god to believe in.

    I believe certain things but don’t pretend that they’re “right”. I believe them to be true but I do so without corporeal proof.

    And, as I keep explaining to you, this isn’t rational or logical. You have no reason to believe in god sans evidence/proof, and you have no reason to believe in that particular god instead of any other god or supernatural entity.

    And why does something have to be “intellectually supportable?”

    Because there’s no reason to believe in something that doesn’t have intellectual support. Why don’t you answer any of the myriad questions posed to you about this?

    I just feel bad for someone who feels the need to spend so much time cutting down religion.

    Well, when your civil rights are actively being curtailed and assaulted by those who are religious, it doesn’t seem like too much time at all. Either way, I don’t need your concern trolling or your condescension. You feel bad for me? I’m sorry that you feel bad for someone who actually uses logical arguments to debunk religion, but you should get over it.

    I’m glad I have God in my life, instead of that rankling bitterness, even if God doesn’t really exist.

    Thank you for invoking the bigoted stereotype of the embittered atheist. Unfortunately for you, it’s not true. I’m not bitter. You can assert it all you like, and you can continue to make baseless and inaccurate assertions, but it won’t make them so. And, I hate to have to tell you this, but saying that you “have god in [your] life” is downright silly, considering that you’ve continually admitted that you have no evidence for it. So, you can’t declare that you have god in your life, can you? You can believe that you do, but believing doesn’t make it so.

  • Wrestler/Judoka

    I find arguments of Atheists like Dawkins,for example,unrealistic.

    To strong atheists, who have no accepted concept of divinity, no argument refering to any sort of divinity would be reasonable.

    Dawkins is requesting that premisses of a metaphysical nature be verified with empirical evidence.

    This is a virtual impossibility given that a strong atheist would not give reasonable concession to the validity of any metaphysics as by their own volition they do not consider any evidence other than empirical in their conclusions.

    For Dawkins requests to be taken seriously, or reasonable to theists, he would have to entertain the concepts of metaphysics as they relate to the propostions he has issued.

    The strong atheists postion is an extreme one, given their premise to not acknowledge any concept that is not empiricaly evident.

    There are concepts that are inexpainable by modern scientific method and theory. That’s not to say science will not explain them in the future, but at this time it is beyond science.

    The existance of divinity is one of those concepts.

    It is scientificaly accepted through the many philosophical disciplines that a metaphysical concept can not be catagorized as false or non-existant simply on the grounds that it will not stand up to empirical evidence.

    Things like Santa Clause, the Great Pumpkin, The Flying Tea Pot, Hannabil Lecter, (Which is a fictional character) ect, are refutable and can be proven non-existant through modern scientific method. Concepts like these fall more into the catagory of mysticism and mythology.

    The concept of divinity, theism, has yet to be proven false or non-existant by popular and accepted modern science.

    Divinity could exist on those grounds alone. That it is explored by philosophical branches of science, epistemology, metaphysics, ect, lends more creadence to its existance, given that science has devoted branches of its ranks to the study of its existance and meaning.

    The ultimate questions here does god or do gods exist, is theism valid, more than likely will not be answered here by our meager intelects if ever.

  • Wrestler/Judoka

    I find arguments of Atheists like Dawkins,for example,unrealistic.

    To strong atheists, who have no accepted concept of divinity, no argument refering to any sort of divinity would be reasonable.

    Dawkins is requesting that premisses of a metaphysical nature be verified with empirical evidence.

    This is a virtual impossibility given that a strong atheist would not give reasonable concession to the validity of any metaphysics as by their own volition they do not consider any evidence other than empirical in their conclusions.

    For Dawkins requests to be taken seriously, or reasonable to theists, he would have to entertain the concepts of metaphysics as they relate to the propostions he has issued.

    The strong atheists postion is an extreme one, given their premise to not acknowledge any concept that is not empiricaly evident.

    There are concepts that are inexpainable by modern scientific method and theory. That’s not to say science will not explain them in the future, but at this time it is beyond science.

    The existance of divinity is one of those concepts.

    It is scientificaly accepted through the many philosophical disciplines that a metaphysical concept can not be catagorized as false or non-existant simply on the grounds that it will not stand up to empirical evidence.

    Things like Santa Clause, the Great Pumpkin, The Flying Tea Pot, Hannabil Lecter, (Which is a fictional character) ect, are refutable and can be proven non-existant through modern scientific method. Concepts like these fall more into the catagory of mysticism and mythology.

    The concept of divinity, theism, has yet to be proven false or non-existant by popular and accepted modern science.

    Divinity could exist on those grounds alone. That it is explored by philosophical branches of science, epistemology, metaphysics, ect, lends more creadence to its existance, given that science has devoted branches of its ranks to the study of its existance and meaning.

    The ultimate questions here does god or do gods exist, is theism valid, more than likely will not be answered here by our meager intelects if ever.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    W/J

    Dawkins is requesting that premisses of a metaphysical nature be verified with empirical evidence.

    Everytime I hear the complaint that it’s unfair or wrong to demand evidence of a physical nature, I’m almost compelled to ask, how else will you provide evidence?

    For Dawkins requests to be taken seriously, or reasonable to theists, he would have to entertain the concepts of metaphysics as they relate to the propostions he has issued.

    I don’t think you understand his position. His position is that if god interacts with the world, as most religions – especially Xianity – claim, then that interaction should leave physical and natural marks that can be studied. Since we can’t find these marks, the best we can say is that god does not interact with the world – but why worship such a deity?

    The strong atheists postion is an extreme one, given their premise to not acknowledge any concept that is not empiricaly evident.

    It’s only extreme if you can provide some type of non-empirical evidence. Can you?

    There are concepts that are inexpainable by modern scientific method and theory.

    As I said to RITF, so what? Invoking god in this instance is logically fallacious – god of the gaps.

    It is scientificaly accepted through the many philosophical disciplines that a metaphysical concept can not be catagorized as false or non-existant simply on the grounds that it will not stand up to empirical evidence.

    And Dawkins never says it is false, he simply says that it’s not worth believing in and probably false.

    Things like Santa Clause, the Great Pumpkin, The Flying Tea Pot, Hannabil Lecter, (Which is a fictional character) ect, are refutable and can be proven non-existant through modern scientific method.

    Then, disprove Russell’s teapot.

    The concept of divinity, theism, has yet to be proven false or non-existant by popular and accepted modern science.

    First you complain that science can’t speak to metaphysics, then you claim that science has to disprove god? Which is it? And, why is the burden of proof on the atheist? If you are positing that a god exists, it is incumbent upon you to support your assertions.

    To make matters worse for you, the Xian god and many other gods as conceptualized have been shown to be logically inconsistent and contradictory.

    Divinity could exist on those grounds alone.

    It could, but we have no reason to suspect or believe that it does. To hold that it does in the absence of evidence is irrational.

  • Wrestler

    Explain to me how to provide physical evidence of metaphysical concepts.

    OMGF wrote

    “I don’t think you understand his position. His position is that if god interacts with the world, as most religions – especially Christianity – claim, then that interaction should leave physical and natural marks that can be studied. Since we can’t find these marks, the best we can say is that god does not interact with the world – but why worship such a deity?”

    Reply

    I’m not so sure that all concepts of divinity interact in the physical world as a physical entities. Again, the premisses of metaphysics apply

    OMGF wrote: “It’s only extreme if you can provide some type of non-empirical evidence. Can you?”

    Reply

    Again, applying empirical evidence to metaphysics is a lofty endevour. Also again, strong atheists would do not entertain discussion that is not of an empirical nature which makes conclusions nearly imposible. But to hold the positon that nothing exists with out physical and empirical evidence is a fallacy. Science would even support this. Quantam mechanics comes to mind.

    “Quantum mechanics provides probabilistic results because the physical universe is itself probabilistic rather than deterministic.”

    and the EPR paradox

    OMGF wrote:”As I said to RITF, so what? Invoking god in this instance is logically fallacious – god of the gaps.”

    Reply

    But the gaps are still there no matter the “filler” invoked. I think the difference lies in perception.

    “Both science and religion represent distinct ways of approaching experience and these differences are sources of debate. Science is closely tied to mathematics–a very abstract experience, while religion is more closely tied to the ordinary experience of life. As interpretations of experience, science is descriptive and religion is prescriptive. For science and mathematics to concentrate on what the world ought to be like in the way that religion does can be inappropriate and may lead to improperly ascribing properties to the natural world as happened among the followers of Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. The reverse situation where religion attempts to be descriptive can also lead to inappropriately assigning properties to the natural world. A notable example is the now defunct belief in the Ptolemy planetary model that held sway until changes in scientific and religious thinking were brought about by Galileo and proponents of his views.”

    “Science in the Enlightenment and Colonial eras was conceived as ontological investigation which uncovered ‘facts’ about physical nature. This was often explicitly opposed to Christian Theology and the latter’s assertions of truth based on doctrine. This particular perspective on science faded in the early 20th century with the decline of Logical Empiricism and the rise of linguistic and sociological understandings of science. Modern scientists are less concerned with establishing universal or ontological truth (which is seen, and dismissed, as the pursuit of philosophy), and more inclined towards the creation of pragmatic, functional models of physical systems. Christian Theology – excluding those fundamentalist churches whose aim is to reassert doctrinal truths – has likewise softened many of its ontological claims, due to increased exposure to both scientific insights and the contrasting theological claims of other faiths.

    Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully. Non-Christian faiths have historically integrated well with scientific ideas, as in the ancient Egyptian technological mastery applied to monotheistic ends, the flourishing of logic and mathematics under Hinduism and Buddhism, and the scientific advances made by Muslim scholars during the Ottoman empire. Even many 19th century Christian communities welcomed scientists who claimed that science was not at all concerned with discovering the ultimate nature of reality.”

    OMGF wrote: “And Dawkins never says it is false, he simply says that it’s not worth believing in and probably false.”

    Reply

    Then we agree on the probability going either way. Now this is reasonable thinking. As for its worth. That would be a conclusion reached through personal research. A reasonable thinking person should no more take Dawkins word for it than any one elses. This we can agree on.

    OMGF wrote: “Then, disprove Russell’s teapot.”

    Reply

    Niether one is a theology or even a philosophy that attmepts to decipher reality as a theology and philosophy does and they are not theistic in nature. They should be more classified as a Parody religion to set up a fallacious argument to point out the deficiencies of an the argumentum ad populum which is what Russell and Sagan suggest theism is.

    Both are easily refutable by modern scientific standards. Need I indulge?

    OMGF wrote: “First you complain that science can’t speak to metaphysics, then you claim that science has to disprove god? Which is it?”

    Reply

    Ad hominem, I’m not complaining at all. Metaphysics is a science as it is a branch of Philosophy which is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language ect. The argument is not that science has to prove god (nor do theists), it is that athiests use science to attempt to disprove theism.

    Therefore the burdan of proof lies on the complainer. If atheists do not want theists to beleive in theism, they have the burdan of proof to disprove theisms.

    OMGF wrote:”It could, but we have no reason to suspect or believe that it does. To hold that it does in the absence of evidence is irrational.”

    Reply

    Then we agree it could. We have reason to think for ourselves as thinking beings. Our beliefs, suspicions and truths are related to our own personal interpretations of nor t only the the evidence but of also the premisses propostions and questions. Rationality would be relevent to the idividual.

  • Wrestler

    Explain to me how to provide physical evidence of metaphysical concepts.

    OMGF wrote

    “I don’t think you understand his position. His position is that if god interacts with the world, as most religions – especially Christianity – claim, then that interaction should leave physical and natural marks that can be studied. Since we can’t find these marks, the best we can say is that god does not interact with the world – but why worship such a deity?”

    Reply

    I’m not so sure that all concepts of divinity interact in the physical world as a physical entities. Again, the premisses of metaphysics apply

    OMGF wrote: “It’s only extreme if you can provide some type of non-empirical evidence. Can you?”

    Reply

    Again, applying empirical evidence to metaphysics is a lofty endevour. Also again, strong atheists would do not entertain discussion that is not of an empirical nature which makes conclusions nearly imposible. But to hold the positon that nothing exists with out physical and empirical evidence is a fallacy. Science would even support this. Quantam mechanics comes to mind.

    “Quantum mechanics provides probabilistic results because the physical universe is itself probabilistic rather than deterministic.”

    and the EPR paradox

    OMGF wrote:”As I said to RITF, so what? Invoking god in this instance is logically fallacious – god of the gaps.”

    Reply

    But the gaps are still there no matter the “filler” invoked. I think the difference lies in perception.

    “Both science and religion represent distinct ways of approaching experience and these differences are sources of debate. Science is closely tied to mathematics–a very abstract experience, while religion is more closely tied to the ordinary experience of life. As interpretations of experience, science is descriptive and religion is prescriptive. For science and mathematics to concentrate on what the world ought to be like in the way that religion does can be inappropriate and may lead to improperly ascribing properties to the natural world as happened among the followers of Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. The reverse situation where religion attempts to be descriptive can also lead to inappropriately assigning properties to the natural world. A notable example is the now defunct belief in the Ptolemy planetary model that held sway until changes in scientific and religious thinking were brought about by Galileo and proponents of his views.”

    “Science in the Enlightenment and Colonial eras was conceived as ontological investigation which uncovered ‘facts’ about physical nature. This was often explicitly opposed to Christian Theology and the latter’s assertions of truth based on doctrine. This particular perspective on science faded in the early 20th century with the decline of Logical Empiricism and the rise of linguistic and sociological understandings of science. Modern scientists are less concerned with establishing universal or ontological truth (which is seen, and dismissed, as the pursuit of philosophy), and more inclined towards the creation of pragmatic, functional models of physical systems. Christian Theology – excluding those fundamentalist churches whose aim is to reassert doctrinal truths – has likewise softened many of its ontological claims, due to increased exposure to both scientific insights and the contrasting theological claims of other faiths.

    Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully. Non-Christian faiths have historically integrated well with scientific ideas, as in the ancient Egyptian technological mastery applied to monotheistic ends, the flourishing of logic and mathematics under Hinduism and Buddhism, and the scientific advances made by Muslim scholars during the Ottoman empire. Even many 19th century Christian communities welcomed scientists who claimed that science was not at all concerned with discovering the ultimate nature of reality.”

    OMGF wrote: “And Dawkins never says it is false, he simply says that it’s not worth believing in and probably false.”

    Reply

    Then we agree on the probability going either way. Now this is reasonable thinking. As for its worth. That would be a conclusion reached through personal research. A reasonable thinking person should no more take Dawkins word for it than any one elses. This we can agree on.

    OMGF wrote: “Then, disprove Russell’s teapot.”

    Reply

    Niether one is a theology or even a philosophy that attmepts to decipher reality as a theology and philosophy does and they are not theistic in nature. They should be more classified as a Parody religion to set up a fallacious argument to point out the deficiencies of an the argumentum ad populum which is what Russell and Sagan suggest theism is.

    Both are easily refutable by modern scientific standards. Need I indulge?

    OMGF wrote: “First you complain that science can’t speak to metaphysics, then you claim that science has to disprove god? Which is it?”

    Reply

    Ad hominem, I’m not complaining at all. Metaphysics is a science as it is a branch of Philosophy which is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language ect. The argument is not that science has to prove god (nor do theists), it is that athiests use science to attempt to disprove theism.

    Therefore the burdan of proof lies on the complainer. If atheists do not want theists to beleive in theism, they have the burdan of proof to disprove theisms.

    OMGF wrote:”It could, but we have no reason to suspect or believe that it does. To hold that it does in the absence of evidence is irrational.”

    Reply

    Then we agree it could. We have reason to think for ourselves as thinking beings. Our beliefs, suspicions and truths are related to our own personal interpretations of nor t only the the evidence but of also the premisses propostions and questions. Rationality would be relevent to the idividual.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Wrestler,

    Explain to me how to provide physical evidence of metaphysical concepts.

    That’s not up to me. If you wish to contend that the metaphysical exists, it is up to you to provide evidence. Of course, I know of no method to test for anything that is not physical.

    I’m not so sure that all concepts of divinity interact in the physical world as a physical entities. Again, the premisses of metaphysics apply

    Maybe not all, but some certainly so. Take the Genesis account of the formation of the universe. This can and has been tested and has been found to be untrue.

    Again, applying empirical evidence to metaphysics is a lofty endevour.

    Which is why I suggested that you should supply some “non-empirical” evidence!

    Also again, strong atheists would do not entertain discussion that is not of an empirical nature which makes conclusions nearly imposible.

    Thanks for telling us all what “strong atheists” (and who knows how you define that) will and won’t accept. The fact remains that I know of no way to provide non-empirical evidence (maybe logical proof applies depending on your definition). I will accept evidence if you can present it.

    But to hold the positon that nothing exists with out physical and empirical evidence is a fallacy.

    It’s a good thing, then, that no one here seems to be saying this.

    But the gaps are still there no matter the “filler” invoked. I think the difference lies in perception.

    Whether the gaps are there or not makes little difference. You can’t simply fill in the gaps with your preferred, unevidenced “explanation” and say that you haven’t committed a logical fallacy.

    …religion is more closely tied to the ordinary experience of life.

    I dispute this. Science is much more closely tied to ordinary experience than religion ever will be. Religion is nothing more than making stuff up without evidentiary basis. Further, claiming that religion focuses on the way the world ought to be is also clearly wrong, unless you are claiming that the world ought to have a bloodthirsty, jealous, and tyrannical god at the helm.

    Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully.

    Only when religion is willing to stay out of the physical world and out of science’s way, and also willing to bend to the results of science. This is antithetical, however, to religion for the most part. Take Xianity for example. Genesis says very specific things about the formation of the universe, things that are false. For one to claim that science is correct and the Bible wrong is to claim that god himself is wrong or that god lied, etc. This is against Xian principles. Only by applying double standards to the tenets of Xianity can one really find peaceful co-existence instead of cognitive dissonance.

    Then we agree on the probability going either way.

    That depends on what you mean by that. Do I think it is equally probable either way? No. In fact, I would put the probability that god exists as vanishingly small. I’m not ruling it out completely, but I’m not going to factor it into anything either, because it is most probably not so.

    Niether one is a theology or even a philosophy that attmepts to decipher reality as a theology and philosophy does and they are not theistic in nature.

    Nice evasion. It doesn’t matter whether I claim that it’s a theology or not. You still can’t disprove it even though you claim that you can. If you are hung up on making sure it’s a religious claim, disprove Allah.

    Both are easily refutable by modern scientific standards. Need I indulge?

    Yes. What scientific standards will you use? The teapot is invisible, so you can’t see it. The teapot is incorporeal, so you can’t hit it or paint it or anything like that. So, what standards shall you use?

    Ad hominem, I’m not complaining at all.

    Not ad hominem, since I never stated that you complaining invalidated your argument. You still have to deal with the apparent contradiction.

    Metaphysics is a science…

    Really? How do you apply the scientific method to it?

    Therefore the burdan of proof lies on the complainer. If atheists do not want theists to beleive in theism, they have the burdan of proof to disprove theisms.

    This is completely bass ackwards. The burden of proof lies on the one making the positive claim. When you claim that god exists, it is incumbent upon you to back up that claim. It is not incumbent upon me to prove that you are wrong. Let’s look at a real world example, shall we? If police come to your door and arrest you for something, do you think it is up to you to prove that they are wrong, or do you feel you are innocent until they can prove you are guilty? Besides, how does one prove a negative?

    Rationality would be relevent to the idividual.

    I do so love it when theists (presumably Xians) argue for relative truth. No, sorry, but the belief in god is irrational no matter who does it, for the simply fact that it is based on logical fallacy.

  • Wrestler

    Theism has changed its mind and changed its doctrine and premises, albeit begrudgingly at times, much to the credit of sciencetific research. But I must say even with the inter woven fail safe methods and procedures for refuting, reassessin and reafirming scienctific theory and fact, scientist bicker and fuss with each other over these theories and facts to much greater degree than theists.

    I would think being dismissive would be cognitively construed as more arrogant than offering alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals.

    omgf WROTE “Maybe not all, but some certainly so. Take the Genesis account of the formation of the universe. This can and has been tested and has been found to be untrue.”

    reply

    How would an athiest know how anything metaphysical much less divinity interacts with the physical world since they do not have a concept of it? The idea of any thing that is not physicaly evident is refuted by athiests.

    The event of the “Big Bang” has been substanciated. How it relates to the creation of life, much less life on earth or human beings is still up for speculation. Or should be to the any one with a critical mind. As you have stated there are very few definates in science and every theory or fact is up for scrutiny.

    OMGF wrote ” Thanks for telling us all what “strong atheists” (and who knows how you define that) will and won’t accept. The fact remains that I know of no way to provide non-empirical evidence (maybe logical proof applies depending on your definition). I will accept evidence if you can present it.”

    reply

    From Wiki

    “Strong atheism is a term generally used to describe atheists who accept as true the proposition, “gods do not exist”. Weak atheism refers to any other type of non-theism. Historically, the terms positive and negative atheism have been used for this distinction, where “positive” atheism refers to the specific belief that gods do not exist, and “negative” atheism refers merely to an absence of belief in gods. Because of flexibility in the term “god”, it is understood that a person could be a strong atheist in terms of certain portrayals of gods, while remaining a weak atheist in terms of others.”

    As I’ve stated, strong atheist will not entertain any concept of metaphysics as per the definition, and the remainder of your response.

    OMGF wrote

    “It’s a good thing, then, that no one here seems to be saying this.”

    reply

    But this is the stance of strong athiests. Again this point could turn into an Argument from Ignorance. The soul is an accepted concept that can not be substanciated by physical evidence, but it surely exists?

    Here is how I link it all together for the purpose of discussion in this thread…..

    Dawkins issued a challenge for theists to prove certain premisses of popular theism with empirical evidence.

    Theism is the belief in god and/or gods ro religion.

    Theology is the study of god/gods/religions and a myriad of religions topics, including the philosophy of religion.

    Philosophy of Religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with the existance of god/gods amoungst other things.

    Philosophy is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language.

    Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the study of the principles of reality that transcend those of particular science.

  • Wrestler

    Theism has changed its mind and changed its doctrine and premises, albeit begrudgingly at times, much to the credit of sciencetific research. But I must say even with the inter woven fail safe methods and procedures for refuting, reassessin and reafirming scienctific theory and fact, scientist bicker and fuss with each other over these theories and facts to much greater degree than theists.

    I would think being dismissive would be cognitively construed as more arrogant than offering alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals.

    omgf WROTE “Maybe not all, but some certainly so. Take the Genesis account of the formation of the universe. This can and has been tested and has been found to be untrue.”

    reply

    How would an athiest know how anything metaphysical much less divinity interacts with the physical world since they do not have a concept of it? The idea of any thing that is not physicaly evident is refuted by athiests.

    The event of the “Big Bang” has been substanciated. How it relates to the creation of life, much less life on earth or human beings is still up for speculation. Or should be to the any one with a critical mind. As you have stated there are very few definates in science and every theory or fact is up for scrutiny.

    OMGF wrote ” Thanks for telling us all what “strong atheists” (and who knows how you define that) will and won’t accept. The fact remains that I know of no way to provide non-empirical evidence (maybe logical proof applies depending on your definition). I will accept evidence if you can present it.”

    reply

    From Wiki

    “Strong atheism is a term generally used to describe atheists who accept as true the proposition, “gods do not exist”. Weak atheism refers to any other type of non-theism. Historically, the terms positive and negative atheism have been used for this distinction, where “positive” atheism refers to the specific belief that gods do not exist, and “negative” atheism refers merely to an absence of belief in gods. Because of flexibility in the term “god”, it is understood that a person could be a strong atheist in terms of certain portrayals of gods, while remaining a weak atheist in terms of others.”

    As I’ve stated, strong atheist will not entertain any concept of metaphysics as per the definition, and the remainder of your response.

    OMGF wrote

    “It’s a good thing, then, that no one here seems to be saying this.”

    reply

    But this is the stance of strong athiests. Again this point could turn into an Argument from Ignorance. The soul is an accepted concept that can not be substanciated by physical evidence, but it surely exists?

    Here is how I link it all together for the purpose of discussion in this thread…..

    Dawkins issued a challenge for theists to prove certain premisses of popular theism with empirical evidence.

    Theism is the belief in god and/or gods ro religion.

    Theology is the study of god/gods/religions and a myriad of religions topics, including the philosophy of religion.

    Philosophy of Religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with the existance of god/gods amoungst other things.

    Philosophy is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language.

    Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the study of the principles of reality that transcend those of particular science.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    But I must say even with the inter woven fail safe methods and procedures for refuting, reassessin and reafirming scienctific theory and fact, scientist bicker and fuss with each other over these theories and facts to much greater degree than theists.

    And yet, in the end they come to consensus as the hypotheses are tested with actual, empirical experiments. What does religion do? They form schisms and then snipe at each other or go to war with each other, never having a way to actually test and resolve any differences. I’ll take science any day.

    I would think being dismissive would be cognitively construed as more arrogant than offering alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals.

    Pointing out gaps in our scientific knowledge does you no favors in your argument.

    How would an athiest know how anything metaphysical much less divinity interacts with the physical world since they do not have a concept of it? The idea of any thing that is not physicaly evident is refuted by athiests.

    Once again, stop spewing straw all over the place. Also, it is up to you to show us all how to evidence the metaphysical. That said, we have a book that claims that the universe was created in six days. We know that is not how it happened. Appealing to obfuscation will not change that fact.

    The event of the “Big Bang” has been substanciated. How it relates to the creation of life, much less life on earth or human beings is still up for speculation. Or should be to the any one with a critical mind. As you have stated there are very few definates in science and every theory or fact is up for scrutiny.

    And yet, we also have substantial evidence about how galaxies and stars formed, how elements formed, how the Earth formed, when the Earth formed, how old the universe is, evolution, etc. To brush all that aside and claim that things are “still up for speculation” is wrong-headed and much more arrogant than any straw atheist that you’ve so far conjured up.

    As I’ve stated, strong atheist will not entertain any concept of metaphysics as per the definition, and the remainder of your response.

    OK, so you’ve defined your terms. You’ll note that just about zero people on this site are actually strong atheists. Oh, and don’t forget to answer the rest of what you quoted, or were you going to dodge that?

    But this is the stance of strong athiests.

    No it is not, not even under the definition you supplied.

    The soul is an accepted concept that can not be substanciated by physical evidence, but it surely exists?

    It might exist, but we have no evidence for it. In fact, the evidence we do have speaks against it. I suggest you check out Ebon’s “Ghost in the Machine” essay on his ebonmusings site.

    Dawkins issued a challenge for theists to prove certain premisses of popular theism with empirical evidence.

    I don’t remember him stating that it had to be specifically empirical evidence, but he’s right to demand evidence from theists. Once again, theists put forth the idea of a god, so it is up to them to provide evidence for this god. Ducking the burden of proof gets you nowhere.

  • Rightintheface

    I’ve read your posts with interest and have very much enjoyed them, but as you yourself pointed out earlier on, you aren’t likely to “convince” someone like OMGFwho is dead set on not believing. Don’t get me wrong, I want to continue to hear your thoughts, but I don’t think they’re going to do what you want them to do.

  • Rightintheface

    I was addressing Wrestler in that last post.

  • heliobates

    @Wrestler

    Dawkins is requesting that premisses of a metaphysical nature be verified with empirical evidence.

    I think you’re missing an important part of the social and political context in which Dawkins makes his argument. As I read it, he’s not demanding proof that immaterial entities exist, he’s insisting that people who argue for the existence of gods and the supernatural stop making empirical claims.

    This is the problem for the metaphysician, who can argue forever in favor of logical possibilities. But believers make specific claims about the qualities of their supernatural entities and they inevitably make those claims within empirical frames of reference. For example, Dawkins’ metaphor of the “crane vs. skyhook” is specifically intended to address claims that the supernatural interacts with the natural. That is an empirical claim and you can’t back away from it or its implications: advancing a “skyhook” as a possibility is useless to the investigation of observable reality.

    I would think being dismissive would be cognitively construed as more arrogant than offering alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals.

    Appealing to the false authority of metaphysics and philosophy does not bootstrap the plausibility of the supernatural.

    It makes me wonder if you apologists ever read any philosophy more recent than the 19th century. As I’ve said elsewhere, things such as “truth” and “what does it mean to say something ‘exists’?” are emphatically not settled questions.

    How would an athiest know how anything metaphysical much less divinity interacts with the physical world since they do not have a concept of it? The idea of any thing that is not physicaly evident is refuted by athiests.

    How do you verify if anything metaphysical, much less divinity does interact with the physical world? You can’t ever know if you’re right or wrong about that if you presume that failure to detect this interaction is a failing of modern science.

    If you’re interested in something more than patrolling your territorial boundaries, I recommend A.F. Chalmers’ “What is this thing called science?” and David Deutsch’s “Fabric of Reality”. Like most apologists, you’re arguing against a 19th Century stereotype of naieve empiricism.

    The empiricist isn’t the one being close-minded here. You are shutting out any possibility of investigating your own claims, and then demanding that you be allowed to make empirical assertions about your metaphysical entities without ever having to subject them to empirical verification. Not hard to understand, really. It’s worked for you for 2,000 years and now it’s the only strategy you have left.

    As for the “gaps” in scientific knowledge and explanation—that’s a feature not a bug. Science does not work towards “proof”. The modern collection of scientific inquiry aims at “inference to the best explanation”. Saying that modern science’s inability to “disprove” the existence of God means that science is somehow deficient just shows that you don’t understand the point of the scientific enterprise.

  • heliobates

    @Wrestler

    Dawkins is requesting that premisses of a metaphysical nature be verified with empirical evidence.

    I think you’re missing an important part of the social and political context in which Dawkins makes his argument. As I read it, he’s not demanding proof that immaterial entities exist, he’s insisting that people who argue for the existence of gods and the supernatural stop making empirical claims.

    This is the problem for the metaphysician, who can argue forever in favor of logical possibilities. But believers make specific claims about the qualities of their supernatural entities and they inevitably make those claims within empirical frames of reference. For example, Dawkins’ metaphor of the “crane vs. skyhook” is specifically intended to address claims that the supernatural interacts with the natural. That is an empirical claim and you can’t back away from it or its implications: advancing a “skyhook” as a possibility is useless to the investigation of observable reality.

    I would think being dismissive would be cognitively construed as more arrogant than offering alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals.

    Appealing to the false authority of metaphysics and philosophy does not bootstrap the plausibility of the supernatural.

    It makes me wonder if you apologists ever read any philosophy more recent than the 19th century. As I’ve said elsewhere, things such as “truth” and “what does it mean to say something ‘exists’?” are emphatically not settled questions.

    How would an athiest know how anything metaphysical much less divinity interacts with the physical world since they do not have a concept of it? The idea of any thing that is not physicaly evident is refuted by athiests.

    How do you verify if anything metaphysical, much less divinity does interact with the physical world? You can’t ever know if you’re right or wrong about that if you presume that failure to detect this interaction is a failing of modern science.

    If you’re interested in something more than patrolling your territorial boundaries, I recommend A.F. Chalmers’ “What is this thing called science?” and David Deutsch’s “Fabric of Reality”. Like most apologists, you’re arguing against a 19th Century stereotype of naieve empiricism.

    The empiricist isn’t the one being close-minded here. You are shutting out any possibility of investigating your own claims, and then demanding that you be allowed to make empirical assertions about your metaphysical entities without ever having to subject them to empirical verification. Not hard to understand, really. It’s worked for you for 2,000 years and now it’s the only strategy you have left.

    As for the “gaps” in scientific knowledge and explanation—that’s a feature not a bug. Science does not work towards “proof”. The modern collection of scientific inquiry aims at “inference to the best explanation”. Saying that modern science’s inability to “disprove” the existence of God means that science is somehow deficient just shows that you don’t understand the point of the scientific enterprise.

  • Brad

    To strong atheists, who have no accepted concept of divinity, no argument refering to any sort of divinity would be reasonable.

    What is so special about this “concept of divinity” that makes it so strong-atheists don’t have it? The premise behind your entire argument is that we do not have a concept to argue for or against, and thus we have no real argument. Contrarily, atheists can and do use the very aspects of God that theists use to support their idea and their religious beliefs. Look at any formal disproof of a particular conception of God, and you will see that the definition of God is outlined at the outset.

    The concept of divinity, theism, has yet to be proven false or non-existant by popular and accepted modern science.

    I recommend Ebon Musings; for “burden of proof” specifically The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists and Naturalism in Science. When the implications of religious beliefs entail supposed facts that contradict real facts, then those beliefs are false. And even for arbitrary religious beliefs with silly, but neutral, practical implications we have to ask: “Why?” If one does not try hard to go by the best explanations of the world, then one is misguided, ignorant, or at worst dishonest, and we have every right to publicly and loudly speak out against this.

    For disproving gods, as I never tire of quoting here on this site – Mark Vuletic’s article Is Atheism Logical? concludes:

    1. One can prove with certainty that an entity does not exist if (a) the concept of that entity is incoherent, or (b) the existence of that entity is logically incompatible with obviously present states of affairs.

    2. One can be rationally justified in claiming that an entity does not exist without being certain that it does not exist. This justification comes from (a) the improbability that that entity exists given various states of affairs, and/or (b) the principle of parsimony coupled with a lack of evidence for the existence of that entity.

    And for your minor points, Wrestler:

    If atheists do not want theists to beleive in theism, they have the burdan of proof to disprove theisms.

    There is a burden of proof on the “complainer”: the burden to prove a belief is irrational (given facts and reason) and detrimental is all that is necessary. When large masses of people dwelve into a world of mindless rituals and falsehoods, we have every right to talk to those masses about it. Both rationality and irrationality are inevitably relevant to more than just single people. Religion is relevant to all; it is relevant to society at large.

    alternative conclusions to the gaps science has yet to fill in its fundamentals

    (Ignoring the semantic contradiction…) The “alternative conclusions” either need to go by less assumptions than naturalistic explanations, or do a better job of explaining the natural world than these explanations, of which superstitious explanations almost invariably do neither, and to an alarmingly irresponsible degree at that.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    RITF,

    I’ve read your posts with interest and have very much enjoyed them, but as you yourself pointed out earlier on, you aren’t likely to “convince” someone like OMGFwho is dead set on not believing.

    On the contrary, I’d be willing to believe a god exists if someone could present some actual, you know, evidence. This is something you’ve admitted you don’t have. Until then, I maintain that it is irrational to believe in any god, and doubly so to believe in any particular god. I’ll note now that you have never answered my questions regarding this, instead preferring to take pot-shots at me. Why is that? Why can you not answer simple questions?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    RITF,

    I’ve read your posts with interest and have very much enjoyed them, but as you yourself pointed out earlier on, you aren’t likely to “convince” someone like OMGFwho is dead set on not believing.

    On the contrary, I’d be willing to believe a god exists if someone could present some actual, you know, evidence. This is something you’ve admitted you don’t have. Until then, I maintain that it is irrational to believe in any god, and doubly so to believe in any particular god. I’ll note now that you have never answered my questions regarding this, instead preferring to take pot-shots at me. Why is that? Why can you not answer simple questions?

  • Wrestler

    Brad

    No, we have no realy argument because the athiests premise is that nothing can exist without empirical evidence and I have made the proposition that divinity could be purely metaphysical and not bound by the pertinacious reasoning of physical science. Give or take the linguistics.

    Depending on the individual, atheists presumably would not have “religious” beliefs. That would make them agnostic or theist. Some may hold a concept of spirituality, but any idea of religion would make them theists.
    I read them at the outset of this thread and find them more in the attitude of disproving specificaly the Christian god than that of theism.
    Well then of course these could be challenged by athiests. If a theist claims their god or gods made a loaf of bread appear before them and they fed a multitude of f people with it, more than common sense would denote, then scientist would surely need to examine that loaf. But if a group of theists dance around a fire and chant mantras to thier diety/s and request that they live long and prosper and they do, or even if they request something specific, such as the end of a famine or a divergence from a destructive weather pattern and this happens, then how does science disprove that the origin of thier prosperity is not divinely ordained, if the theists believe it to be. For that matter, why should they?
    Like, “We did a rain dance and requested the Great Spirit send us rain, and it rained.” Was it the Great Spirit, or just great timing?
    As I’ve stated before I have no bounderies. Both great studies. But studies they are indeed. Something to be injested, digested and rejected. I read everything discerningly including both religious text and scientific text as both have been proven to be fallacious at times.

    Although I would be humbled to be catagorized in the same ilk as Plato and Aristotle, I think you are more relating my argument to Christian apologetics, which makes a erronious presumption as to my religious beliefs.

    They are if they emphaticaly demand empirical evidence for teh existance of everything. Again the crux.

    No, i’m only debating opposite points, I’ve made no claims. And again, how can science apply empirical evidence to metaphysics?

    I never said that. But science does have many deficiencies and of course scientists are the first to admit it.

  • Rightintheface

    Atheism is not technically a belief system, but functionally it is.

    And the differences between atheists are just as prevalent in Christianity. The different denominations have just as diverse world views tied by a few common facts. God as the creator, Jesus as the savior…that’s about it.

    There are clearly “denominations” of atheism as well (Humanists as a distinct group, etc.)And not all Christians go to church either.

  • Rightintheface

    Atheism is not technically a belief system, but functionally it is.

    And the differences between atheists are just as prevalent in Christianity. The different denominations have just as diverse world views tied by a few common facts. God as the creator, Jesus as the savior…that’s about it.

    There are clearly “denominations” of atheism as well (Humanists as a distinct group, etc.)And not all Christians go to church either.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Atheism is not technically a belief system, but functionally it is.

    That’s like saying bald is a hair color or not collecting stamps is a hobby. With all the things that I’m sure you don’t do, you must not have a lot of free time with all your hobbies.

  • Rightintheface

    If you haven’t figured out that we differ in our subjective opinions yet, I won’t spend more time trying to convince you. You’d do well to give up on me changing my tune as well. AGREE TO DISAGREE. Be a grown-up about it.

  • Rightintheface

    If you haven’t figured out that we differ in our subjective opinions yet, I won’t spend more time trying to convince you. You’d do well to give up on me changing my tune as well. AGREE TO DISAGREE. Be a grown-up about it.