Ambassadors for Atheism

In the world of Philip Pullman’s fantasy series His Dark Materials, each human being is accompanied everywhere by their daemon, an intelligent animal-shaped spirit that is the outward manifestation of their soul. When Pullman’s heroine, Lyra, meets a boy who’s been severed from his daemon by a cruel experiment, her reaction is one of disgust and horror:

Her first impulse was to turn and run, or to be sick. A human being with no daemon was like someone without a face, or with their ribs laid open and their heart torn out: something unnatural and uncanny that belonged to the world of night-ghasts, not the waking world of sense.

There are no daemons in our world, but we atheists often face a similar situation. We have the ability to arrive at a code of ethics without the dubious help of revelation, basing our moral decisions on reason and a sense of empathy for our fellow human beings. But still, far too often, we meet believers who insist that this is impossible. They’re used to following a code of rules handed down by authority – by a text, or by other religious believers – and have become so accustomed to obeying that they literally believe it’s not possible to come up with an ethical code on your own. They’ve lost the capacity even to imagine how this might be done.

One would think the existence of the vast majority of atheists who are ordinary, decent people would force these people to reconsider, but often it doesn’t. Instead, they perceive atheists the way Lyra perceives that daemonless boy: as freaks, as bizarre and unnatural aberrations – and the evidence of our manifestly moral lives does not change that.

The flip side of this coin is that people who are unquestionably evil (or ones whom the speaker merely disagrees with) are often labeled “atheist”, as though the word were just a generic synonym for “wicked”. I’ve written about this before in “The Atheist Crew“, but this example from David Hankins of the Baptist Press surpasses them all:

We do have some recent examples of societies that do not believe in God nor recognize a mandated divine value on human beings. They are associated with names like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein. Devoid of any sense of God or godliness, they created a social order of mayhem and evil that destroyed millions of lives. So much for the morality of godlessness.

Yes, you read that last one right: this apologist claims that Saddam Hussein was an atheist. That would be the same Saddam who died while reciting a Muslim prayer, the same Saddam who ordered the Muslim creed called the takbir placed on the Iraqi flag, allegedly in his own handwriting. By the standards of the Islamic world, Saddam’s Iraq was a relatively secular state, but to call it a “godless” or atheist state is insanity. (I’ve written also about how Hitler was emphatically not an atheist. Idi Amin was also a Muslim. I should probably write some later posts on the beliefs of the other tyrants cited.)

As I said, as a purely factual claim, this would be insane. But I don’t think Hankins intended it as a factual claim, but as a statement of the way he divides up the world: in his eyes, there are the good Christians, whom he agrees with, and then there’s everyone else, the evil and wicked atheists. (The first Christians were accused of atheism by the Roman Empire for similar reasons. The fact that he’s using the logic of the Christians’ erstwhile persecutors is an irony he undoubtedly fails to appreciate.)

For people who think this way, there’s probably no hope. They’re clearly not concerned about what the facts say, just as racists are not concerned about the facts regarding the intellectual ability and capacity for achievement of blacks. But I think most people are not so set in their prejudices, and their minds can be changed. If they see that atheists are good people, the notion may become less unnatural to them, and in time they may come to accept it as normal and expected.

It’s important to remember, therefore, that we are ambassadors for atheism. Fairly or unfairly, atheism in general will be judged by the standards of behavior that individual atheists display. Thus it’s important that we be the best ambassadors possible – that we show ourselves to be moral people and present a good image of atheism to the world. This means of changing minds, in the long run, is more likely to help us than any number of rational arguments.

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.

  • chancelikely

    That sort of dualism always reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin lays out the rules for the wargame that he and Hobbes are playing (with plunger dart guns and a general’s helmet for Calvin): “OK, I’ll be the fearless American defender of liberty and democracy, while you can be the loathsome godless communist opressor.”

    The “atheism” in these situations isn’t really about factual claims (beyond plausible deniability; most Americans wouldn’t be able to speak intelligently enough about Idi Amin’s religious views to be able to say, “Nope, he was a Muslim, which means he thought he was worshiping the same God as you or Ted Haggard do”) but about putting a Them Label on the Bad Guys.

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul Fidalgo

    And this is precisely why we need a quality set of atheist TV talkers so we are not always/only represented by those who may be a little too odd, too brash, etc. We need to recruit some media ambassadors with cool heads and an ease on camera. I blogged on this recently.

  • http://2nonbelief.blogspot.com Uruk

    Interesting post. I especially like the bit about the first Christians being accused of atheism by the Roman Empire — then facing persecution as a result. Oh, the irony indeed!

    You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  • Stacey Melissa

    In the process of being a defacto atheist ambassador, it’s important to make sure people know you’re an atheist. Otherwise, they’ll just assume you’re religious, and all the credit for your good behavior will go to the religion.

  • mikespeir

    Despite the fact that I write, myself, you’re about to get an insight into my literariness–or lack thereof.

    There’s an old book that I read as a kid entitled Sam Weskit on the Planet Framingham. (If you’ve never heard of it, don’t lose any sleep over it.) Well, it would seem our heroes had been captured by the evil West Framinghamians and put on display in a cage in the town square. All the townspeople began to gather around, express their sympathy for the captives, and to bemoan the injustice of it all.

    Well, the powers-that-be weren’t going to stand for that! They hung a sign on the cage reading, “MONSTERS.” That changed the whole complexion of the thing. Instantly, the townsfolk became horrified at the sight of the prisoners. “Look at that,” one of them exclaimed. “A nose right in the middle of his face!” And with many other words others made similar remarks to show that these erstwhile humans had indeed transmogrified into monsters in their minds.

    I’ve wasted all the above text to make the obvious point that no matter how we conduct ourselves certain believers are only going to see evil in us as soon as the label ATHEIST is attached. All the good we do will be ignored and any slip-ups will be noted, exaggerated, and trumpeted.

    I’m neither arguing that we should hide our atheism nor that we should allow ourselves to slide into decadence because “we just can’t win.” (Indeed, I would argue against either position.) And I’m sure there’s not an atheist here who can’t attest to truth of what I’ve just said, so it isn’t news. Maybe this is just for the record and to incite thoughts.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com/ Cannonball Jones

    “it’s important to make sure people know you’re an atheist”

    True but then you get accused of being ‘militant’ or ‘pushing your beliefs on people’, it’s a no-win situation! I prefer to just go about my life, doing what I do and generally being a nice guy. If the topic of religion comes up then I’ll let people know where I stand but otherwise I don’t feel the need to shout about it.

    I’ve crossed swords with the whole “no morality without religion” meme too many times to care that much about it any more. I just look on its proponents with pity and gently try to wake them up from their stupor should the need ever arise.

  • velkyn

    I’ll have to admit, why are so many atheists so reluctant to call theists like Mr. Hankins what they are, liars? Mr. Hankins is a liar, be it intentionally or from willful ignorance. He spreads lies like the quote above. Why pussyfoot around the issue? It’s not “insane” and its sure not “factual”.

  • Pantalaimon

    ***SPOILER WARNING (His dark Materials 1)***

    A sidenot to the beginning. The daemonless boy, is a result of experiments by the church to get rid of what they believe is the manifestation of original sin.

    Humans whio underwent successful experiments become zombielike. Basicly they can talk and do what they’re told to(e ven more complex tasks), but with a comlete lack of imagination and curiosity or emotions. Just like some kind of robot, sheep, if you want, unable to think for themselves.

    I think the whole Bolvangar-part (the research facility) takes the “child abuse”-argument to the extreme.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    You would have thought that the evidence against the inherent morality of the religious;Money grubbing evangelists, paedophile priests and suicide bombing muslims etc would negate the need for atheists to hold themselves up as examples.

  • Christopher

    I’ve wasted all the above text to make the obvious point that no matter how we conduct ourselves certain believers are only going to see evil in us as soon as the label ATHEIST is attached. All the good we do will be ignored and any slip-ups will be noted, exaggerated, and trumpeted.

    This is why I argue that relgion is just a symptom of a larger problem: herd mentallity! Just as the use of the word “Atheist” immediately causes the devoted to see you as a monster, words like “Liberal” or “Conservative” make those opposed to one ideology react with vitriol towards the other; or the sight of a man of different appearence (let’s say skin color – as that’s the most common “race” indicator of U.S. society) will immediately set off sparks of one of a differing appearence; or the sight of a lower-class person in certain areas incite those of the upper-class to to either leave or else take measures to remove the “social inferiors;” the list goes on!

    So long as people keep thinking of themselves as being part of a larger collective social unit, they will see people as being members of units rather than individuals. The only real cure for this is to kill that mentallity: get people to think of themselves as “I” first and members of any collective second and they will think of others in the same manner. Only when this has been accomplished can you effectively be an “ambassidor for Atheism” (or any other unpopular group) and not get dismissed on the spot over a label.

  • Polly

    Timely post for me. I finally told my mother that I’m an atheist. Naturally, she is worried that I’ll go to Hell!

    But, what’s more interesting is the conversation leading up to it. We were talking about Gaza. I won’t get political.

    She stated flatly that Arabs (not Muslims, “ARABS”) are fighting on the side of Satan, while Israel is God’s chosen nation. So, I asked directly:

    “Do you think Arabs/Pal’s are lower than the Israelis?”

    “Yes.”

    A fews weeks back she told my wife and me “if someone is sick, that shows there’s something wrong in their spiritual life, because children of god are promised health.”
    Context: My wife’s mother was completely immobilized by MS for two decades before dying miserably. They had faith.

    Religion has warped her morality and I told her as much. When I wouldn’t ascribe special status to Biblical prophecy as a guide to current world events, she finally asked if I even believe that Jesus will come again. Finally, I had to say NO.

    When the tears started flowing I began to feel like I was being selfish for not lying. But then I thought: People who believe irrational and hateful things deserve to be confronted with the natural discomfort those beliefs bring. By lying, I had been shielding her from the full negative effects of believing (racist and bigoted) fairytales all this time.

    So, now I can be an “embassador for atheism” not by mocking her beliefs but by being one more real life example of a HAPPY, MORAL ATHEIST. I thought about that later. She even asked, rhetorically of course, “How can you be happy without god?!?”

    How can anyone be happy worshipping a monster?

  • terrence

    Cannonball, if the need ever arises, try this:

    “Do you consider yourself to be a morally good, ethical, responsible, law-abiding citizen?”

    “Of course.”

    “Well, suppose you awake tomorrow morning to find headlines the world over that scientists have discovered documented, indisputable, easily understood proof that there is no god. Would you abandon your family and job and become a murderer, thief and rapist? If not, why not?”

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Timely post for me. I finally told my mother that I’m an atheist.

    Good for you Polly! I got the message from some of your previous posts that concealing it was a burden.

  • Erika

    It’s important to remember, therefore, that we are ambassadors for atheism. Fairly or unfairly, atheism in general will be judged by the standards of behavior that individual atheists display.

    What makes this hard is that any misstep made by an atheist will be given more weight than all that we do that is good and moral or just plain normal.

    I recently had a discussion with a friend where we both demonstrated less than stellar behavior. I accused him of double standards, and he accused me of being a hypocrite. My statement was taken as showing that atheists are mean, critical people who want to hurt and abuse Christians. His statement was, even after being called on it, perfectly excusable and, at worse, a reflection on him as an individual, not Christians in general.

    This is not unique to atheism and religion. In almost every realm, the negative behavior of a minority member is given more weight than the same negative behavior in a majority member, but the effect is the same. Years of good impression can be wrecked by a single mistake (and we all make mistakes eventually).

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    Polly,

    I really like your point about people who believe in nonsense should be exposed to the consequences of that nonsense. I hope your mother comes around.

    ========
    Erika,

    I was recently in a class where the instructor made a comment that I thought was really insightful, if perhaps a bit overblown. “Members of a minority succeed as individuals but fail as a group.” It’s another way of saying what you said in your last paragraph.

    =========
    Also, WRT to the blockquote in the article, if I were a hard-core believer, and I thought that MY god was the only true god, then it would be almost trivial for me to conflate believers of other religions with atheists. Since the other believers all believe in false gods, to me, that’s the same as believing in no god.

  • Alex Weaver

    I should probably write some later posts on the beliefs of the other tyrants cited.

    Short version: Stalin was a Stalinist, Pot was a Potist, Mao was a Maoist.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    What I find interesting about this point is how patently circular this particular theist argument is. They define as “atheist” anyone who does terrible things… and then use those terrible things as examples of why atheists and atheism are so terrible. It’d be funny if it weren’t so messed-up.

    “it’s important to make sure people know you’re an atheist”

    True but then you get accused of being ‘militant’ or ‘pushing your beliefs on people’, it’s a no-win situation!

    In the short run, Cannonball, there’s some truth to that. But in the long run and even in the medium run, coming out is the best way — maybe even the only way — that we can combat prejudice against us.

    Speaking as a queer person, and from the perspective of LGBT history: When LGBT people first started coming out of the closet and speaking out, we were accused of being “militant,” “in your face,” “pushing ourselves on people,” etc. Some people still say those things in the more backwards parts of the country and the world. But to progressives and most moderates, in most good-sized U.S. cities, it’s not seen as reasonable or okay to expect LGBT people to stay in the closet, and the fact that we come out about who we are and are vocal about what we want is seen as totally normal. Of course you have out gay friends. Of course there’s a gay community that’s part of the political scene. Like, duh.

    That took time. Decades. But there’s also a snowball effect: the more people come out early, the easier it becomes for others to come out… and they make it easier for others, and so on. It’s not just about being an ambassador to believers, as Ebon wrote (although that’s hugely important, too). It’s about making the world safer and better for other atheists.

  • InTheImageOfDNA

    Perhaps David Hankins and those that agree with him should read Phil Zuckerman’s excellent book “Society Without God.”

  • http://martykay.blogspot.com marty

    Also, WRT to the blockquote in the article, if I were a hard-core believer, and I thought that MY god was the only true god, then it would be almost trivial for me to conflate believers of other religions with atheists. Since the other believers all believe in false gods, to me, that’s the same as believing in no god.

    Which is exactly why the early Christians were called Atheists by the Romans. They denied the existence of all of the known gods, after all. Better throw them to lions.

  • Javaman

    I wear my atheism on my sleeve. If people of various religions can wear religious symbols around their neck to broadcast their in-group, I have no problem finding my voice. As a matter of fact, it gives me a rush to confront them. We should form a group called Atheists With Attitude. In these discussions I act as an alpha, and I ruthlessly drag their belief system out into the broad daylight. I don’t take any prisoners. If you don’t like me, that’s your problem. I think about all the thousands of heretics and nonbelievers and other faiths who were tortured and burned at the stake for centuries. I feel like I speak for them. And if we’re heading towards WWIII because of religion, then my voice will be heard. As a former science teacher, I use the scientific method of inquiry of how experiments are set up. I find that most Christians know nothing about science, so I come from a point of educating them about empirical evidence. A present encounter I’m having at my gym with a fundie: I invited myself to his church to speak, but he wouldn’t go for it.

  • nfpendleton

    Polly,

    Good for you. This isn’t easy, I know. I “came out” to my Pentacostal father just within the last year. He’s not spoken to me since. That may be be cause I told him that if evangelized to me, I’d do it right back.

  • Jim C.

    Many thoughtful responses, even when they espouse differing views. I’ve taken the tack that I’ll respond on public comments equating atheism with a lack of morals. Below is my latest missive, responding to a letter to the editor in the local newspaper. For all the letters I’ve had published I’ve only had one negative response. I’ve had many positives responses from friends, neighbors, and people I hardly know. The problem is, they don;t write to publicly support the position the commend me for. Whether my writing has any significant effects or not, I feel better for having written them>

    To the Editor:

    Disgusted

    Writing of those who commit greed and corruption in government and big business, John Pizzi says, “If you are a Christian person, I don’t understand. If you are an atheist, I understand.” I don’t understand how one can make such a statement without evidence (yes, it is an “opinion”, but neither a christian nor an atheist should denigrate others egregiously). The statement disgusts me, as does the fact The Post-Standard allowed its publication. Mr. Pizzi and the P-S need to ask themselves would they say it or use it if black, woman, Muslim, or Jew or others were substituted for atheist?
    Mr. Pizzi, look around the world and examine the root causes of the violent hot spots. A fair examination will reveal they are very largely religious. Look at the make up of the American Congress, where fraud and corruption are endemic. There is only one known non-believer among the members, and I know of no time he has been linked to fraud or corruption. I’ve never seen data on the religion of business leaders but I’d bet you they largely profess some religious belief.
    Please Mr. Pizzi, as a christian, but more as a human, judge people on the basis of evidence, and more, on the basis of their character and integrity rather than on a label. These are the standards of the atheists, skeptics, and secular humanists I know and study.

    Jim C.

  • Polly

    Thanks Steven Bowen,
    I felt positively giddy afterwards.

    Thanks Erika,
    I thought of that only later. I was reluctant to “come out” due to guilt about how it would stress the hyper-religious people in my life.

  • Polly

    @nfpendleton,

    He’s not spoken to me since.

    That sucks! I’m really sorry to hear that. He’ll get over it, I hope.

    I admit I drove home that night with “The Case for Faith” in hand. That will be my 3rd Lee Strobel book! I told her I’d already read the “Case for a Creator” and “…Christ” before and the arguments were superficial.

    Oh well, maybe I’ll use that as an opening to recommend a few choice books to her. :)

  • Dave K Welch

    You know how it is when the right book comes along at the right time and the things being presented just seem to shine a brighter light upon the many different notions you’ve been having, notions that you pretty much agree with but if you were to get into a debate about them you’d probably be less than spectacular at putting them forward in a convincing fashion? I’ve read Harris and Dawkins and Hitchens (fun) and lately Scott Atran. I’ve been what has been coined an ‘Atheist’ all my life, and I find many common ideas and ideals put to word and even decent prose by these authors (though Atran is a decidedly harder read). I’m reading David Eller’s Atheism Advanced now. It may even be here that I came across the book. This book has come along at the right time for me. I no longer call myself an Atheist. As he points out, atheism is really not broad enough for how most of us here probably think anyways. And it seems using the word atheism is actually giving the theists a soap box to stand on that gives them a sense of value, however delusional. I am now simply ‘not superstitious’. Not only does this position not elevate those who believe in a god or gods to something “equal to me but on the other side of the debate”, it in fact lumps theistic belief with all religious beliefs (of which there are many that don’t cater to a god), and indeed right along side such beliefs as faeries, santa, astrology, and any other belief held in the ‘supernatural’. I believe in what is natural. There is enough beauty and wonder in the natural world to keep me in awe for all my life without having to invest in make-belief. And I’m getting tired of the god debate anyways. As Eller points out, not only do WE not know what their god is, neither do they. That being said, there is still much value to a blog like this one for several reasons, two of which; it gives a place for like minds to communicate and realize that our disbelief is commonly (and enthusiastically) shared, and it’s an intellectual resource to help battle the stupidities of creationism and it’s ilk that are always looking to slither into the darker recesses of our communities to spoil the minds of our sons and daughters.

    Regards
    Dave

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

    The “atheism” in these situations isn’t really about factual claims… but about putting a Them Label on the Bad Guys.

    Well said, chancelikely. “Atheist” in these contexts isn’t meant to be a descriptive term about what the person does or doesn’t believe; it’s just a tribal marker, a way to signify that the target of the speaker’s ire is the Other.

    I’ve wasted all the above text to make the obvious point that no matter how we conduct ourselves certain believers are only going to see evil in us as soon as the label ATHEIST is attached. All the good we do will be ignored and any slip-ups will be noted, exaggerated, and trumpeted.

    By the way, mikespeir, I love “A nose right in the middle of his face!” I’m going to remember that one next time we get stereotyped like this. :)

    Although I don’t advocate deception, I wonder if keeping quiet about one’s atheism – at least for a short time – might not be the most effective strategy here. If you think a person may stereotype you, let them get to know you first – let them think of you as an ordinary, decent person – and then, at the opportune moment, you can calmly say that you’re an atheist. The moment of cognitive whiplash that’s inevitable to result might be a more effective means of changing people’s perceptions than if you start out by announcing your atheism, which warns them to be on their guard and to pigeonhole everything you say or do in advance.

    When the tears started flowing I began to feel like I was being selfish for not lying. But then I thought: People who believe irrational and hateful things deserve to be confronted with the natural discomfort those beliefs bring. By lying, I had been shielding her from the full negative effects of believing (racist and bigoted) fairytales all this time.

    I’m sorry for your situation, Polly, but I think you did the right thing with your mother. To someone inculcated with prejudice, as she evidently is, the initial discovery of atheism in a loved one is bound to be a shock. What’s more important is how she reacts in the long run, once she’s calmed down. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who cling to their bigotry all the harder, but it’s also possible that, once she realizes she can’t convert you, your presence in her life will serve as an enlightening influence and persuade her to be more tolerant or even to relent about some of her more hateful beliefs. As you said, I think forcing people to confront the consequences of their own intolerance is a better policy than letting them fester in comfortable ignorance.

  • Christopher

    She even asked, rhetorically of course, “How can you be happy without god?!?”

    How can anyone be happy worshipping a monster?

    I only recently came out to my family as a non-believer myself (now they think I’m coo-koo bats for not seeing the results of the last election as being “the judgement of ‘god’”) and I’ll tell you, with them “god” is an addiction: my parents spend hours in prayer and Bible “study,” you can rarely walk in the house without seeing/hearing a message from some damn tele-evangelist playing and even my brother admits to being a “‘god’ junkie!” They can’t imagine being happy without this thing because it’s been assimilated into most parts of their daily lives!

    They don’t see this monster as being one because they have come to trust its every whim as being part of some “higher plan” – never bothering to check behind the proverbial curtain to see if there’s any substance to this beast. I see no reason to try and point out how ridiculous their belief system is because their so firmly planted in them that they can’t be moved by any rational arguement.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I am now simply ‘not superstitious’.

    Bingo! That’s actually the response I’ve used for years when asked my religion. It demotes the big faiths to the same intellectual level as not walking under ladders and crossing your fingers. Exactly where they belong.

  • InTheImageOfDNA

    David K,

    I feel the same way. On places like Facebook where I need to list my “religious views” I type “metaphysical naturalism” a la Richard Carrier for it only captures the entirety of rejection of the supernatural.

    Speaking of which – Adam / Ebon – I’ve tried to find you on Facebook and can’t. Is there a reason you aren’t on there? I think it may be a good way to spread your message. PZ, Dawkins, Harris, and others are on there.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Speaking of which – Adam / Ebon – I’ve tried to find you on Facebook and can’t.

    Heh! I tried to find Adam on facebook too. I can only assume he doesn’t like to be super-poked! :)

  • Stacey Melissa

    True but then you get accused of being ‘militant’ or ‘pushing your beliefs on people’, it’s a no-win situation!

    I’ve not had any problems like that IRL, although I frequently run across such accusations on the internets. Oddly enough, most of the accusations are from fellow atheists who overuse the “shoving beliefs down people’s throats” phrase. They don’t want Xians “shoving Xianity down my throat”, so they return the favor. But what they really mean is that they don’t want Xians telling them about Xianity, and they’re willing to return the favor, and furthermore, they often look down on atheists who aren’t so bothered by evangelism. I don’t use the phrase in such cavalier fashion; I think “shoving…” requires either some sort of coercion or harassment. The vast majority of evangelism falls far short of that.

  • I.

    Only one other poster brought up Phillip Pullman‘s book. I’ve read the whole trilogy twice (though the first time was years ago, when they first came out), and I never saw that part in the way you explained it. – I see how you can make the analogy if you take that quote alone, without the rest of the book for context.

    Maybe that’s what you intended (to just use the quote on its own, independently of the rest of the book), but your post makes it sound like the whole trilogy is anti-atheist, which it certainly is not – just google Golden Compass atheism: I think that religious groups were making a bigger fuss about these books than about Harry Potter.

  • Dave K Welch

    I.

    You have mis-read his post.

    You managed to read the whole thing twice? I enjoyed the first book. Didn’t mind the 2nd. But with maybe 4 chapters left in the third, where you’d think a trilogy would have you firmly in it’s grip, I put it down months ago and haven’t finished it yet. Maybe sometime. My problem is I have 4 or 5 books on the go at anytime and just pick up the one that’s interesting me the most at any given moment. Probably not the best approach, but hey.

    Regards
    Dave

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

    InTheImageOfDNA: I don’t care for Facebook’s policies about privacy and user control of information. I think they’re far too intrusive, particularly their Beacon system, which collects information about what you do on third-party sites and links it to your Facebook account without asking for consent.

    Regarding Philip Pullman’s books: I agree, I could have been more clear about that. If I gave the wrong impression, I apologize. The series isn’t a condemnation of atheism – far from it! It’s actually a ringing allegory for secular humanism. I highly recommend it; the movie didn’t do it justice.

  • abusedbypenguins

    Many years ago while doing the best I could at the job I held at that time and in the normal course of business I took extra care of a woman customer after closing and she called me a good christian for helping her. I was insulted, thats the very last thing I want to be called. I strive to be a good person no matter the circumstances. Religion be dammed.

  • InTheImageOfDNA

    Ebon, thanks for telling why. I had no idea that Facebook did that. Shows how much I know about such matters.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    SPOILER ALERT!
    Yeah, His Dark Materials was described by my friend Jack as “Reverse-Narnia: it starts with a girl in a wardrobe, and at the end, they kill God.” My understanding is that it’s a condemnation of organized religion, as it tends to turn people into mindless obedience machines.

    To Polly and nfpendleton, my heart goes out to each of you. I was raised mainly by my father, who casually subscribes to Tenrikyo, which meshes pretty well with my own utilitarian ethics. My mother, on the other hand, is rather extremely religious, and our relationship has suffered for it in the past. I think I have the good fortune to be more important to her than her religion, though; I hope that you are able to make some worthwhile peace with your families, as well.

    Mikespeir, Ebonmuse has a Must-Read post called Firebrands which I think addresses the concern you raise about incorrigible prejudice. Coupled with this post, I think the takeaway points are “Live well” and “Fuck the haters.”

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    Abusedbypenguins (ew, how does THAT happen?) – A coworker of mine once recommended her friend as a cleaning lady. The friend came over, we interviewed her for a while, she seemed OK, until she uttered the phrase, “…and I’m Christian, so you know I’m honest.” Needless to say, she didn’t get the job. But I took it one step further and explained to her friend, my co-worker, exactly WHY she didn’t get the job, and suggested she pass it on as a way for her friend to avoid messing up future interviews. My co-worker, though also Christian, threw her head back and gasped, “Ugh! That idiot!” Hopefully someone learned a lesson, or at least was given pause for reflection on their bigotry.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    And to Paul Fidalgo…thank you, thank you, a thousand thank yous. I’ve been saying for years that we need a stronger voice on the airwaves. Well…see my comment to your excellent blogpost on Bloc Raisonneur.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X