How Not To Blaspheme

Here’s a perfect example of how not to participate in the Blasphemy Challenge:

That was David Mills, author of Atheist Universe. Picking up dog shit with Bible pages.

(And is that a little girl laughing in the background?! What is up with that? Why is she being told to take part in this, even if she is offscreen? If the roles were reversed and a little girl laughed as a Christian picked up dog shit with a Biology textbook, we’d claim that was mental child abuse.)

Here’s another video where a Bible is burned.

And all Christians who saw these videos saw the error of their ways and became atheists…

No. Of course they didn’t. They became upset and angry. I did as well. And I’m not the only atheist who was offended by Mills, either.

Bligbi, however, is defending Mills and videos similar to his:

Burning, destroying and otherwise “disrespecting” a symbol is a longtime tool of rebellion. People burn flags. They blow up statues. They destroy all manner of things from the mythological “bra burning” of the sixties to the burning of effigies of despised political leaders today.

And when it comes to the Bible, there is probably no greater symbol of terrorism, brutality and subjugation on the planet. Why should it be spared from destruction by those who see it this way? I think the various reasons fall apart under closer inspection.

Why should it be spared? It should be spared because it’s a book that has some very important stories about how to live life. It provides the background to much of human history (good and bad) in the past couple millennia. That alone gives it reason to be kept around. To be sure, I’m not mad at the act of burning. I’m mad because this was just plain offensive and didn’t make an effective statement.

Remember Michael Richards’ racist rant from a couple months ago? A lot of comedians were asked what they thought about it. One of the most frequent responses was that while they’re not defending him, Richards’ biggest crime was that he simply wasn’t funny. His job was to make jokes, and he strayed from that entirely.

That might be a weak analogy, but it’s what I’m trying to get at. The point the guys in the videos want to make (I presume) is that they don’t live their lives based on what the Bible says. The book has done a lot of harm. And they want nothing to do with it.

Those points are ignored completely. They end up looking like ignorant jerks who are just trying to be provocative.

If you want to make a point, ask yourself who your audience is. I’m not sure what atheists could get out of watching that video. I definitely don’t know what they expected Christians to think. Christians were riled up about the Blasphemy Challenge in itself partly because younger people were making articulate statements about why they were not religious. They were young, they were finally coming out about their atheism, they were denying beliefs they were raised with and that many people hold sacred, and they were exposing a side of atheism a lot of people had never seen before.

I doubt Christians were watching the Mills video thinking, “Wow… what rebellion!”

No. They probably spread the video around to other Christians with a message that says, “Look at how intolerant and disrespectful these atheists are. They all talk about logic and reason, but they won’t even open the book in the first place.” And while Mills doesn’t represent all atheists, we’re too often judged by the extremists in our midsts.

There are *so many* reasons to criticize the Bible. There are definitely more creative ways to do it than burning it or comparing it to dog shit. The mistake with Mills is that he made a symbolic gesture that completely evaded the whole point of the Blasphemy Challenge, which is to publicly admit you’re an atheist and explain why that is (While saying the catchphrase, “I deny the holy spirit”).

Back to Bligbi for a moment. She also had this to say:

[Those who oppose the video say] “If I show how nice and respectful I am, someday they’ll treat me nicely and respect me despite our differences”. But, the fact of the matter is that “someday” will never come because the point of this particular mind game is to create a situation where the oppressed group is too ashamed to act in a manner that will ensure that that “someday” arrives.

For example, Martin Luther King Jr was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama in April of 1963 for protesting segregation…

Please tell me David Mills was not just compared to Martin Luther King, Jr…

Please?

*sigh*


[tags]atheist, atheism, Blasphemy Challenge, David Mills, Atheist Universe, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Bligbi, rebellion. flag burning, Michael Richards, racism, I deny the holy spirit, Martin Luther King Jr., Birmingham, Alabama[/tags]

  • http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com Frank Walton

    I write about this controversy here.

  • CHR

    Wow, that´s kinda childish. I mean, David Mills is free to do whatever he wants to, but I think picking up dog shit with a bible or any other religious book is unnecessary because it won´t promote a reasonable atheist view. It´s just that kind of provocation that doesn´t really make a point.

  • http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com Frank Walton

    You know, David Mills always struck me as a level headed and mature person. I can say that even as a Christian. So when I saw him do this it really flabbergasted me. I think it hurt him more than helped him.

  • Patrick Craig

    My blood is freakin’ boiling tonight. I have just seen two YouTube videos that have set ALL Atheists back about a thousand years in terms of progress. I stupidly thought that we had a chance at beating Psalms 14:1 and verses like it in the bible, but it has just been reinstated full force by the likes of David Mills and metaknight419. Mr. Mills, Mr. knight, your contributions are SO appreciated. We really, really needed you guys to straighten us naive “nice guy” Atheists out and make us see the error of our ways.

    I cannot BELIEVE this. What is wrong with you???

  • Aerik

    Important stories about how to live life? You mean all that shit about stoning killing kids who talk back, stoning women who don’t cry out when being raped, killing non believers, god killing entire generations, 1st borns, and one time even the entire world, all the killing and rape and torture and hatred… all that’s supposed to be OK as long as there are a couple of “important stories on how to life life” ??

    Fuck that. That is a bad book. It’s, as David Mills put it, a piece of shit. No amount of sentimental giddyness about the few parts where somebody isn’t being killed or raped or discriminated against discounts what an evil fucker that god and all his most virulent followers are.

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

    Cut the not-holier than thou stuff, Hemant. David Mills was having some good clean-up fun.

    By the way, I’m not convinced that was a little girl’s laughter in the background. What evidence do you have to jump to that conclusion. Maybe it was a girlish adult?

    Anyway, why must all atheists act as a friendly bloc? Some of us find the ideas in the bible offensive. If Mills had cleaned up shit with a copy of Mein Kampf, would that be OK? Or would you be afraid that we’d offend some Nazis?

    I don’t see any reason why we need to look for acceptance from the godiots. That’s not to say that we have to go out of our way to be insulting. But, please, let’s not act offended if one of us states his or her case using strong language, verbal or symbolic. All our discourse doesn’t have to be effective in terms of getting “our message” across. Some of us don’t even have a message; we just want the godpushers to keep their voodoo out of public affairs. Sometimes, it’s just fun — or necessary — to blow off steam. Being nice may get you invited to parties, but it won’t convince any supernaturalists that their sky buddy makes no sense.

    So as of now, I’m going to start using a new term: an Uncle Jeez. That’s an atheist who kowtows to the religious.

    Don’t be one.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Exterminator– Whoa now. That was not “good, clean-up” fun. How does Mills’ video help atheists at all?

    Unless the girl in the background was Ned Flanders, I’ve never heard anyone older than 10 laughing like that…

    We don’t all have to be friendly; I just think we’d be better off that way. But forget for a second whether the video was offensive to Christians. Why would someone on the fence, or someone possibly considering atheism, be drawn to atheism based off of that? They wouldn’t want to be part of a group of people who do that type of thing! A teenager making a video just explaining why he no longer believes in God is a much more powerful statement than anything Mills did.

    And yes, I’m against burning/destroying Mein Kampf just because of what’s written in it. Destroying the book won’t change anything. Refuting what it says would. Same with the Bible.

    All our discourse doesn’t have to be effective in terms of getting “our message” across.

    But when we have so many people watching the videos in the Blasphemy Challenge, think of the opportunity we have to put an intelligent, smiling face on atheism to the world! This isn’t some throwaway video that no one will see. So to do something that just strengthens the stereotypes people have about us hurts all of us that much more.

    I’m not offended by strong language if it’s used in an effective way. If you’re doing it for shock value, it’s not helping. In fact, this video hurts us.

    There’s a *huge* difference in effect depending on how you present your message. You might be heard if you’re loud but it doesn’t mean people agree with you any more. The last thing we want is for people to stop listening to what we have to say because of one crazy guy.

    When was the last time you ever listened to someone who began a sentence with, “I agree with Ann Coulter because…”? I would think most liberal people just stop listening. But a well thought out, reasoned argument would make more headway.

    And you should know as well as anyone: not all atheists think alike. There are plenty of atheists who disliked Madalyn Murray O’Hair because of the image of atheism she presented. It doesn’t mean they’re kowtowing to the religious base.

    – Hemant

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    “it’s a book that has some very important stories about how to live life.”

    Hemant, I respect your writing, and like your blog, but I’m going to have to disagree with you here.

    The bible is worthless. That’s right WORTHLESS. It’s actually less than worthless, because worthless would be something like a tabloid magazine. The bible has had a divisive and destructive effect on humanity. I personally despise all scripture. Other than as a source for half the metaphors in our language, (unfortunately) there would be no reason to read the bible at all. In fact, I wish I could wipe my memory of every trace of it.

    I’m not claiming this is a reasonable position–reasonable would be that no work of fiction would have such hold on anyone’s mind that they would give a rat’s ass about what I did with my own personal copy of said book.

    Scripture may be sacred to someone else, but that doesn’t change how I may feel about it. And I wouldn’t give a flying f*ck what someone wanted to do with a biology textbook or a copy of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. It’s paper for crying out loud. My only question would be: does the person own the book? As long as a destroyer of books wasn’t destroying other people’s books, what’s the problem?

    This is Mills point and I agree with him. I don’t care how it appears to Christians. Their beliefs only deserve to be respected for their truth value or lack thereof, not because it’s a ‘Christian Country’ or some such tripe. After all, it’s the religious who have a long history of burning other people’s books.

    I’d like to see more scriptures being defiled. In fact, I’d love to see rolls of toilet paper being sold with scriptures printed on them. They could sell variety-packs: A person could alternate between the Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, and we could throw in the Celestine Prophecy and the Book of Urantia for good measure. I’d like to see all existing scriptures shredded to be used as cat litter or–better yet, recycled into biofuel.

  • Jennifer

    Hemant – I am certainly against “book burning” in the “This book is evil, let’s keep it out of the hands of the children” type. However, I think one copy of one book is a symbolic gesture- certainly no atheist actually thinks we can get rid of all Bibles, or would try to, or could. Its worth an amount of study, but it isn’t somehow more worthy than any other book.

    The Bible makes me angry. If I get angry and burn it, that does not make me a bad person. You have 1000s of people responding to this contest, and if a few get angry, well, that is to be understood. It is a response from the soul. If a few people see me burning that book, and can’t understand that its an emotional response and not representative of 1. everyone that shares certain characteristics as me or 2. even representative of me all the time.

  • Jim Henderson

    It’s kind of refreshing to see that Christians aren;t the only people who often don’t care what outsiders think of them. I guess we are all just human.

    My respect for Hemant continues to grow when I see his courage at taking at stand against pure meaness. Call it rebellion, civil rights or the divine right of kings – it is what it is- insecure people venting their insecurity in the name of free speech.

    You can exercise all the free speech you want and people will pay as much attention to it as it cost you to produce – zero

    Maybe some consider him a sell out to the cause but if I wasnt such a devoted follower of Jesus and was looking for something real to join- Hemants friendly atheist movement would be pretty tempting to me.

    The bible /dog shit guy – well – not much there to follow

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I agree with Jim. And thank you Hemant for courageously standing on principle rather than just rubbing stamping your fellow atheist’s childish behavior.

    I want to reassure you though, that immature displays like this do not diminish my respect for all the intelligent and thoughtful atheists I have encountered in the last year thanks to you – people like yourself, and Siamang, and Karen, and Helen, and others. It doesn’t even really offend me. Frankly I just feel pity for this dumb bloke that is either so bitter towards Christians, or else so insecure in his own beliefs that he has to resort to hate and intolerance to make his point.

    And frankly I feel the same way about some of the commenters here who have chosen to handle the sacred beliefs of others in the same disrespectful and intolerant manner – only this time with verbal shit instead of literal. I don’t care which ideology is perpetrating it, I think the world has seen just about enough of intolerant, vitriolic fundamentalism. It’s time for something better.

    Love wins.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    “it is what it is- insecure people venting their insecurity in the name of free speech.”

    Your opinion, which actually represents an ad hominem attack on the speaker. If you have an argument, please make it now.

    “You can exercise all the free speech you want and people will pay as much attention to it as it cost you to produce – zero”

    Actually, I think Sapient, Mills, et al have got quite a lot of attention for their zero dollars. You see, I work in marketing, and this is not a marketing problem. No one is trying to out-market religion. That would be impossible unless you had the budget of a small government.

    This is about truth-telling. And smearing shit on the bible is showing the document for the worthless nonsense that it is. It’s also showing that we don’t have fear of divine retribution, which is what the whole blasphemy challenge was about. That’s why it’s called BLASPHEMY, folks, it’s MEANT to offend. People used to get killed for it. We now live in a society that is sufficiently tolerant that you can smear shit on the bible and no one kills you for it. I think that’s progress.

    Atheists are already the most hated group in America. Being nice Atheists isn’t going to ‘convert’ anyone. In fact, the idea is not to convert anyone. The idea is to insist laws on separation of church and state be followed and to insist people stop abusing their children by teaching them patent falsehoods.

    “I think the world has seen just about enough of intolerant, vitriolic fundamentalism. It’s time for something better. Love wins.”

    I’m sorry. Love doesn’t win. Take a look around you. That argument is just more relativist ‘both-sides-are-equally-bad” nonsense. Poor naif.

  • http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com Tom Foss

    I think the biggest problem with burning the Bible is that you’re burning a book. Burning flags and bras unites you with revolutionaries and protesters from the last hundred years or so. Burning books unites you with fundamentalists and fascists from time immemorial. Yes, it makes a statement, but it’s not a statement of protest, it’s a statement of suppression.

    And there’s quite a bit of good stuff in the Bible, and it’s silly to say otherwise. You can get all the same stuff in other books, without the baggage of all the bad stuff, but there is good stuff in the Bible nonetheless. No book is worthless; even bad books at least offer us examples of what not to do. “The Bell Curve” teaches a lesson about poorly-conducted science, “Mein Kampf” teaches a lesson about intolerant politics, and the Bible teaches us about the drive in ancient cultures to ascribe their laws to and rationalize the universe with a higher being, among other things.

    Using the Bible to wipe up dogshit isn’t rebellious, it’s childish and petty. It’s an adolescent’s idea of rebellion. It’s not even about respect, it’s about intent. If your intent is to piss off a bunch of Christians, then sure, you’re going to succeed. But if your intent is to express your opinion that their beliefs are not special, then you fail, unless you routinely use other books to clean up dogshit. You’ve singled out one book from one religion, and you’ve made it unique, even in such a vulgar way. In a backwards fashion, you’ve given the book the same sort of prestige that they do. And if your intent was to deconvert theists, I imagine you failed miserably. Burning and destroying books doesn’t change people’s minds, it unites them against the censors.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    it’s a statement of suppression.

    If you were trying to burn ALL the bibles, I might agree with you. But given the penetration of that book, it would be well nigh impossible.

    Burning flags and bras unites you with revolutionaries and protesters from the last hundred years or so. Burning books unites you with fundamentalists and fascists from time immemorial.

    Except what do you burn if you want to protest religion? They don’t have flags. Burning a bible is a symbolic act. It is most definitely an act of protest. People who don’t like it simply don’t agree with the message.


    No his mind is not for rent. To any God or government. –Tom Sawyer/Neil Peart

    If you want to protest the state, burn a flag. If you want to protest sexual repression of women, burn a bra or burqua. If you want to protest religion, burn or defile scripture. Simple as that.

    Call it juvenile or insecure, or bad P.R. value. I have yet to hear one logical reason for not doing it, other than “someone might be offended.” That’s unfortunately not an argument. This whole thread is one big case of special pleading: We’ve all been brainwashed that we must respect people’s beliefs–no matter what their truth value.

    Enough of that. No more sacred cows.

  • http://killtheafterlife.blogspot.com Aaron Kinney

    Friendly Atheist said:

    Whoa now. That was not “good, clean-up” fun. How does Mills’ video help atheists at all?

    This entire blasphemy challenge was a publicity stunt for RRS and Brian Flemming’s documentary. It is also likely his own personal way of showing what the Bible repesents to him Atheist often argue that the Bible is an evil and inhuman book. Arguably, the pages of the Bible could have more utility as toilet paper than what it claims to be useful for.

    And have you read David Mills book? I have. He pulls no punches in it, and it was a huge seller. I think that this video of his is consistent with the way he characterizes fundamentalist Christianity in his book.

    David Mills book has even been mentionted twicein Dawkins topseller, The God Delusion.

    When comparing Christian conduct to Mills conduct, I dont think Mills did anything too extraordinary. He doesnt think that Christians are going to hell for one thing. His video is crude, perhaps deliberately, but it isnt as bad as the content of the pompus televangelist’s messages, who blame gays and partiers for the Katrina disaster. The difference is that they present this message in a suit, not in a shitcleaningup video.

    David Mills video, for example, is a far cry from the offensiveness of broadcasts of Ted Haggard and Jerry Falwell calling for an amendment to ban gays from getting married.

    Mills is insulting a book and an idea. He isnt trying to persecute anybody, nor threaten persecution in the afterlife for not agreeing with him.

    Finally, I think BlackSun nailed it when he said:

    Call it juvenile or insecure, or bad P.R. value. I have yet to hear one logical reason for not doing it, other than “someone might be offended.” That’s unfortunately not an argument. This whole thread is one big case of special pleading: We’ve all been brainwashed that we must respect people’s beliefs–no matter what their truth value.

    Enough of that. No more sacred cows.

  • Richard Wade

    The comments here seem to be falling into two groups: Those who are pissed off at religion and applaud people who publicly vent their similar anger, and those who want atheism to become stronger, more respected and accepted by promoting intelligent public debate, and by challenging negative stereotypes against atheists.

    The angry group doesn’t really care about atheism as a movement or a cause; they’re individualists who only care about their own needs and their own pain. They emphasize freedom of speech. The other group is embarrassed by the offensive videos and worries that they will galvanize anti-atheist bigotry even worse than it is, and set back any gains made by respectful discourse. They emphasize civility and tact.

    So you should ask yourselves do you want to fight on your own or work as a group? Do you want only to defend your own freedom from intrusive religious influences, or do you want our society to become more open-minded and tolerant of non-believers in general? Little pond, or big pond?

    Bligbi’s evoking of Martin Luther King Jr. is asinine, but he does come up in another way here: The civil rights movement had the Black Panthers and it had King. One was about rage and one was about change. In the long run, which made things better?

    Every movement or group has its embarrassing extremists. Christians have to put up with the likes of Fred Phelps. Now atheists have to put up with the likes of Mills.

  • Andrew

    First, I’d just like to compliment Hemant for this great blog and providing a useful forum for discussions like this. Many thanks.

    Now,

    I agree with Hemant and some of the commenters that this basically childish video serves no useful function, and that it certainly won’t be giving any christians cause to reconsider their beliefs. It also strikes me that too much atheist ‘campaigning’ is negative. Think about it, would you vote for a party that based it’s entire campaigning strategy on telling you how crap the other parties are without telling you about what they would actually do that makes them worth voting for? Maybe you would. I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, negative campaigning has its place, and we should certainly continue to point out the negative aspects of religion, but I just feel we out to being doing more to show the positive sides of atheism. I personally find it to be a highly liberating and satisfying way to view the world.

    However, I’m not going to stand here and say that people like Mills shouldn’t be allowed to do this sort of thing, that they should be stopped for the good of the greater atheist movement. Everyone needs to have a bit of a senseless rant every now and then.

    Also, it strikes me as a bit silly to say that we should treat the bible with respect just because there’s some good stuff in there. Hitler was a vegetarian and liked dogs so he couldn’t have been all bad, right? As far as I’m concerned, any good messages in the bible are drowning in a sea of nonsense. We can have those messages without all the baggage. However, as a historical artefact, yeah, it’s worth keeping around, if only so future generations can look back and ask “Seriously? We used to believe that?”

    Also, the attitude of some commenters bothers me. Not wanting to single anyone out……but Richard Wade (sorry) said

    “….. worries that they will galvanize anti-atheist bigotry even worse than it is……”.

    This strikes me as being somewhat similar to “women who dress provocatively deserved to get raped”. That somehow anti-atheist bigotry is the fault of too-loud atheists. Please remember, whatever the woman/atheist did, the only person guilty of a transgression here is the rapist/bigot.

    Furthermore:

    So you should ask yourselves do you want to fight on your own or work as a group? Do you want only to defend your own freedom from intrusive religious influences, or do you want our society to become more open-minded and tolerant of non-believers in general? Little pond, or big pond?

    I don’t see that there’s a sharp dividing line between these two goals. If I defend my freedom from intrusive religions influences, I may very well increase the freedom of others from said intrusive religious influences, particularly if I have done so via changes to laws etc, etc. And if I want society to become more open-minded and tolerant of non-believers, isn’t that at least partly because am one such individual?

    Just a few thoughts.

  • Richard Wade

    Andrew,
    To say that I am implying that atheists create and deserve the bigotry and abuse they suffer at the hands of righteous religious folk is a leap to a conclusion worthy of the Olympic Games. That’s not it at all. I’m not interested in changing Christians’ beliefs about God. That’s beyond my abilities. I’m interested in changing their beliefs about atheists, and that it is an acceptable expression of their faith to slander, abuse, beat and even kill us. I’m concerned that adolescent, self-indulgent rants like these videos will inspire self-appointed defenders of the faith across small town America to go beat the crap out of the town atheist. We don’t deserve it, and we aren’t responsible, but that is the only kind of result I can foresee coming from stuff like this.

    I’m also not condemning an individual’s personal fight in favor of a group’s efforts. I’m saying there are methods that clearly make things better and methods that clearly don’t. If you are saying that your personal battle will result in greater freedom for the rest of us, I hope so, but I doubt it, especially if your tactics are antagonizing, insulting gestures instead of intelligent persuasion. You must be pretty formidable if you think that entirely on your own you are going to change objectionable laws and widespread negative attitudes against us. More likely things will improve as the result of teamwork. Teams need strategies, not individuals recklessly doing their own thing.

  • Jim Henderson

    Atheists are already the most hated group in America

    Sounds like fundamental christians I know

  • TXatheist

    Jim,
    I don’t see the analogy.

  • Andrew

    Richard,
    Sorry if I misinterpreted your view in any way. Perhaps some conlusion-jumping was involved.

    Of course, you’re correct that individuals generally do not have the power to effect that kind of change (partcularly not me). I guess my last bit wasn’t well worded – I wasn’t implying that I was going to go on some personal crusade and save the world. And I certainly agree with you that the kind of infantile stunts pulled off by Mills and his ilk are not the kind that will lead to any kind of productive change. I said as much at the beginning of my comment. I simply meant that if carried out in a constructive way, efforts with the goal of improving things for individual atheists might ultimately benefit atheists as a group.

    I see your points and I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong. Did I not say that more positive campaigning was needed? I realise that this kind of thing might conceivably lead to nastiness towards atheists, but only from the kind of narrow-minded cretins that are apt to do that kind of thing anyway. I just guess I’m not comfortable with the argument, however seeminlgy pragmatic, that we should be nice to them just because they might beat us up. The only way to avoid such treatment would be to deny you’re an atheist in the first place.

  • http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com Tom Foss

    BlackSun:

    If you were trying to burn ALL the bibles, I might agree with you. But given the penetration of that book, it would be well nigh impossible.

    So we shouldn’t denounce the Nazis, because they were only burning the books that offended them as a party, and then were only burning the copies that existed in their territories? We shouldn’t look down upon the religious nuts who burn copies of Harry Potter or Beatles albums or books they don’t like, because they’re not going around stealing everyone else’s copies for the bonfire? I’m not sure I follow.

    Except what do you burn if you want to protest religion? They don’t have flags. Burning a bible is a symbolic act. It is most definitely an act of protest. People who don’t like it simply don’t agree with the message.

    You’re speaking as though burning something is the only way to protest an institution. There are other ways to express disapproval. I seem to recall a historical example of nailing theses to the door of the church.

    But look at the fundamental differences between your examples and the Bible: flags, bras, and burquas are all symbols, either of a nation or an oppressive system. The Bible is a doctrine. If you want to protest the United States government, you burn the flag, the symbol of that government; it changes your message substantially if you burn a copy of the Constitution.

    If you really must burn something, and since burning crosses has other connotations, burn an effigy. Burn the church’s flag (since quite a few do have them). Burn a symbol to protest what that symbol represents. But when you burn a book, regardless of what the book says, all you’re going to recall are fascists and thought controllers.

    We’ve all been brainwashed that we must respect people’s beliefs–no matter what their truth value.

    I don’t think these beliefs are deserving of respect. I think that if you’re going to make a symbolic statement (protesting X by burning a symbol of X), such a statement only works if it is unambiguous. Some symbols, whether they are emblems or actions, are tied to specific messages, and when you try to use those symbols to present other messages, you run into the problem of conflicting connotations. I may want to use the swastika to show good luck, but observers are going to see it as a Nazi emblem. I may want to protest Christianity by burning a cross, but observers are going to be reminded of the KKK. Symbolic actions only work if everyone perceives the same message.

    Andrew:

    Also, it strikes me as a bit silly to say that we should treat the bible with respect just because there’s some good stuff in there.

    I wouldn’t advocate respecting it because there’s good stuff in there. I just think it’s foolish and demonstrably false to say that there is no such good stuff in there. Furthermore, and maybe this is my own bias as a Lit geek, I don’t think we can reasonably say that any book is worthless and has nothing to offer.

    This strikes me as being somewhat similar to “women who dress provocatively deserved to get raped”. That somehow anti-atheist bigotry is the fault of too-loud atheists. Please remember, whatever the woman/atheist did, the only person guilty of a transgression here is the rapist/bigot.

    I don’t think that’s quite the same situation. Richard Wade got it right, I think, with the cotnrast of Dr. King and the Black Panthers; one group is actively trying to dismantle the stereotypes, the other is inadvertently reinforcing them. It’s not about actions (like rape) it’s about attitudes. Burning Bibles just reinforces theists’ belief that we are evil and want to ban/take away their precious Holy Book (and that ties back into the matter of muddled symbols, because when Christians get together to burn books, that is precisely their intent).

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

    I want to begin by saying to Hemant that I enjoy your blog, even when I disagree with you. But I think you’re being too literal about the Blasphemy Challenge and too literal about what Mills did. You ask:

    How does Mills’ video help atheists at all?

    I guess you didn’t read what I said in my comment. Not everything atheists do is intended specifically to help the cause of atheism. Some of us do not eat, drink, breathe, and sleep Atheism, with a capital “A.” The Blasphemy Challenge was a sophomoric stunt, but fun. If it got the theocrats ticked off, too damn bad. It wasn’t intended to be an exercise in educating them. If anything, it was intended to show other atheists that there was a large, diverse community of people who did not believe in god and the holy spirit. There are plenty of good books out there available for any religio who is truly interested in what atheists do not believe.

    You also wrote:

    And yes, I’m against burning/destroying Mein Kampf just because of what’s written in it. Destroying the book won’t change anything. Refuting what it says would. Same with the Bible.

    Listen. There is no one more against book-burning, in principle, than I am. When you say “book-burning,” you’re really using shorthand for “an attempt to obliterate ideas.” You’re not talking about destroying just one individual copy of something stupid. To compare what Mills did to organized book-burnings is ridiculous. If I draw a mustache on a child in a poster advertising suntan lotion, am I making a statement worthy of rebuttal about either suntan lotion or children?

    Richard Wade says:

    The comments here seem to be falling into two groups: Those who are pissed off at religion and applaud people who publicly vent their similar anger, and those who want atheism to become stronger, more respected and accepted by promoting intelligent public debate, and by challenging negative stereotypes against atheists.

    Richard, there are two types of people: those who classify people into two types and those who don’t.

    I can’t speak for other atheists, but please do not stereotype me. I fall into neither of your arbitrary groups. I am not pissed off at religion; I am merely pissed off that it holds such sway in the government. I have no objection to what people do in their private lives–as long as they don’t intrudeinto mine. If my next-door neighbor is a Jehovah’s Witness, I don’t care. If he rings my doorbell to talk about his silly beliefs at seven a.m. on a Sunday morning, I get pissed off.

    And dream on about atheism becoming “stronger and more respected.” The godpushers don’t listen to our rational arguments. Atheists have been appealing to human reason for more than two and a half millennia, going back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Why are so many of us interested in proselytizing?

  • Andrew

    I don’t think we can reasonably say that any book is worthless and has nothing to offer.

    Have you read “Ice Station” by Matthew Reilly?

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    would you vote for a party that based it’s entire campaigning strategy on telling you how crap the other parties are without telling you about what they would actually do that makes them worth voting for?

    But Andrew, that’s just it, Atheism is not a political party. It is a philosophical position. We cannot argue from popularity, which is what a political contest is. Either someone agrees with the position or they can mount a reasonable defense against it, or they are being intellectually dishonest. There are not too many other choices. Last time I checked, Atheists weren’t running for anything.

    Do you want only to defend your own freedom from intrusive religious influences, or do you want our society to become more open-minded and tolerant of non-believers in general?

    I want society to become more intellectually honest. I want to stop having to point out simple logical fallacies in common arguments. I want people to think for themselves and question their own beliefs instead of repeating what they have been told.

    I’m concerned that adolescent, self-indulgent rants like these videos will inspire self-appointed defenders of the faith across small town America to go beat the crap out of the town atheist.

    Maybe someone might even murder an atheist over scriptural desecration! Then we’d be right where the Islamic societies are today. Great justification. We should keep our mouths shut because we might be harassed, injured or killed by religious zealots. Nice.

    So we shouldn’t denounce the Nazis, because they were only burning the books that offended them as a party, and then were only burning the copies that existed in their territories? We shouldn’t look down upon the religious nuts who burn copies of Harry Potter or Beatles albums or books they don’t like, because they’re not going around stealing everyone else’s copies for the bonfire? I’m not sure I follow.

    I think it comes down to a matter of degree. If an organized movement is trying to eliminate a text from existence, it has to be treated differently than when individuals burn copies in protest. I don’t see the harm if a religious nut wants to burn their own personal copy of Harry Potter. I would support their right to do it even if I disagreed with it. If they start stealing them out of libraries, then that’s a problem. I think it’s an important distinction.

    The Bible is a doctrine. If you want to protest the United States government, you burn the flag, the symbol of that government; it changes your message substantially if you burn a copy of the Constitution.

    But in this case, the protest IS against a doctrine. If I was an Islamic radical, I might burn the constitution. But in any case, I don’t see the substantive difference. If someone burns a U.S. flag, they pretty much ARE burning the constitution, since the state (nation) as an abstract entity created the constitution and is defined by it.

    I could say the same thing back to you. If you wanted to protest, say, the Bush administration, burn an effigy of Bush, not a flag. But in this case, atheists are protesting all religions that stem from ‘sacred scripture.’ It’s as if we were protesting all governments by burning copies of constitutions from all over the world.

    Therefore, I think scripture burning is appropriate. If I was to do it, I would make sure I had multiple founding texts from multiple religions so that people wouldn’t think I was discriminating against any particular religion.

    Symbolic actions only work if everyone perceives the same message.

    I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think there is confusion here between intellectual rigor and political strategy. There is no unity of meaning. Every individual perceives things differently. There is no way to control perception. I think we have been spoiled by democracy into thinking that popularity = legitimacy. We have seen how many time majorities have been wrong. But somehow, we cling to this idea that popularity is everything.

    Now, I will agree that under our current system, persuasion is what carries the day. But most of the time politicians persuade through careful framing of arguments, which often borders on outright deception. If we want to insist on intellectual rigor, we are going to have to do a lot better than paying attention to how masses of people respond.

    And dream on about atheism becoming “stronger and more respected.” The godpushers don’t listen to our rational arguments. Atheists have been appealing to human reason for more than two and a half millennia, going back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Why are so many of us interested in proselytizing?

    Good point. Sometimes I’m not sure what difference it makes. But other times, I think it makes a big difference. If people are more motivated to come forward and express themselves, that’s an important step. For example: think of a primitive tribe who has an altar to the volcano god. If an outsider comes in and pisses on the altar, and the volcano doesn’t erupt, the outsider has just shown the tribe’s superstition for the nonsense that it is.

    I think scripture defilement accomplishes this same goal. It will embolden people who may be on the fence to question the unearned power these sacred texts have over their minds.

  • Raghu Mani

    Just my $0.02.

    Looks like the Blasphemy challenge, which started as a way of getting atheists to come out of the closet, is ‘devolving’ into people trying to come up with assorted ways of yanking believers’ chains. In hindsight, one might have predicted that it would come to this. The choice of Mark 3:29 was, in itself, something of a provocative move – making it appear specifically anti-Christian rather than a criticism of religion in general.

    Frankly, I don’t see the point in all of this. Of course people have the right to do any and all of this and no, destroying one copy of the Bible is in no way comparable to large scale book burning – however, I am fundamentally against actions that achieve nothing other than pissing people off. I have no problem with criticizing religion – even the hard-hitting, pull no punches criticism of Dawkins et al – so long as it offers arguments. Mindless insults have always irritated me – regardless of which side they are from.

    As an atheist myself, I personally see no value in any holy book – however, I have far too many relatives and friends who do and they are not fundamentalist atheist-hating types. I suspect that every atheist on this board knows such people. I’d like to ask all the atheists who defended Mills’ actions one question – would you do something like this knowing full well that it would greatly upset religious friends of yours. And if you wouldn’t, why defend Mills?

    Thanks

    Raghu

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    However, I’m not going to stand here and say that people like Mills shouldn’t be allowed to do this sort of thing, that they should be stopped for the good of the greater atheist movement. Everyone needs to have a bit of a senseless rant every now and then.

    I don’t think anyone else here is suggesting that either. Mills has every right to act offensively and immature if he wants to. No one is suggesting that he should be prevented from doing this kind of thing if he chooses to.

    Just as the rest of us have a right to freely point out just how immature and unhelpful his actions are.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “I think the world has seen just about enough of intolerant, vitriolic fundamentalism. It’s time for something better. Love wins.”

    I’m sorry. Love doesn’t win. Take a look around you. That argument is just more relativist ‘both-sides-are-equally-bad” nonsense. Poor naif.

    I think this comment, far more than any differences in our metaphysical beliefs, illustrates the true difference between our worldviews.

  • Siamang

    Yuck.

    If David Mills is a member of the Rational Response squad, I’m glad I didn’t make a video. I want nothing to do with this kind of stupidity.

    I guess what offends me most about this is its utter lack of creativity. I know he’s trying to be offensive, but what comes through LOUD AND CLEAR is the utter failure of imagination this represents.

    Scooping up dogshit with the bible. Bra-fucking-vo, Einstein. Wow. You’ve got Ingersoll beat with that one.

  • http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com Tom Foss

    If someone burns a U.S. flag, they pretty much ARE burning the constitution, since the state (nation) as an abstract entity created the constitution and is defined by it.

    I guess I make a distinction there, too. I would absolutely burn the flag, and I would understand and expect others to understand it as a protest against the country or government at the moment. Burning the Constitution, however, seems to be a protest of the ideas and ideals on which the government was founded. You don’t see cartoonists drawing Bush (etc.) pissing on the flag; you often see them drawing him doing the same to the Constitution. I think most would recognize such a distinction.

    Therefore, I think scripture burning is appropriate. If I was to do it, I would make sure I had multiple founding texts from multiple religions so that people wouldn’t think I was discriminating against any particular religion.

    And I think that would help make the message more clear. One of the few problems I have with the Blasphemy Challenge is that it frames the debate as Atheists vs. Christians. I understand that the film (which I greatly enjoyed, by the way) is about Jesus, which marks it as a Christian-centric enterprise, but I wish there were/could be similar high-profile events for Islam and Judaism and the other major religions.

    We have seen how many time majorities have been wrong. But somehow, we cling to this idea that popularity is everything.

    Well, I think popularity is worth quite a bit when the fight is against discrimination. We’re not neighbors and family members and friends to the people who promote this discrimination, we’re “other,” we’re a caricature and a scapegoat, and part of the path toward recognition as human beings has to be getting others to perceive us as such. The more theists that think “hey, my neighbor/teacher/friend is an atheist, and he doesn’t hate god/want to ban the Bible/engage in immoral bestiality drug orgies,” the less effective the rhetoric will be.

    Now, I will agree that under our current system, persuasion is what carries the day. But most of the time politicians persuade through careful framing of arguments, which often borders on outright deception. If we want to insist on intellectual rigor, we are going to have to do a lot better than paying attention to how masses of people respond.

    You’re right, the wrong people are absolutely framing the arguments. And the problem with burning Bibles and using them to wipe up dogshit is that it fits oh-so-perfectly within that frame. “See?” is all a theist has to say, accompanied with a gesture at such a video, to reinvigorate his parishoners’ hatred against nontheists.

    The problem with folks like Dawkins and Harris and Dennet and Johnson (from the theists’ perspective) is that they don’t easily fit into that frame. They can call Dawkins “angry” and “militant” all they want, but the more he appears and speaks, the more apparent it becomes that he’s actually just straight-talking, calm, and amiable. He is outside their paradigm, and their attempts to characterize him as just another example of their angry atheist caricature falls apart once you actually see him in action.

    Your example about the volcano god is good, and would work if more theists thought rationally. However, their emotional attachment to the book is going to override any inkling of “hey, he did that and didn’t get struck by lightning” which may occur to them. That, and they already believe more that you’ll get yours in Hell, than they do in immediate divine punishment.

    I don’t think anyone else here is suggesting that either. Mills has every right to act offensively and immature if he wants to. No one is suggesting that he should be prevented from doing this kind of thing if he chooses to.

    Just as the rest of us have a right to freely point out just how immature and unhelpful his actions are.

    My thoughts precisely.

  • Karen

    Excellent discussion, everybody. I like the respectful tone of the debate and I think both sides have made some good points.

    My .02:
    I dislike angry vitriol and immature rudeness on either side of the Christian/atheist divide, mostly for practical reasons: It gets us nowhere except further entrenched in our respective war camps.

    Like Michael Shermer, I admire Dawkins’ rational arguments and his scientific expertise, but I cringe when he insults and belittles believers. There is something powerful about compassion and understanding that always trumps nastiness.

    I accidentally clicked on a Blasphemy video a few weeks ago where it looked like some guy was getting ready to piss on a Christ icon and I had to turn it off before he did the deed. I have no particular attachment to Catholic iconography (and didn’t when I was an evangelical, either) but I couldn’t stomach something so pointless and disgusting.

    As a writer I do not agree with burning any books, but I also would never want to restrict someone’s right to protest by burning a book, or a flag, or any other symbol. In other words, I may not like your ideas, but as a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I will defend to the death your right to express them. (As long as you’re not directly inciting violence of course.)

    I’m frankly not so up-in-arms about this topic. People will be people, and human nature being what it is, some atheists (as well as some Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc) will be arrogant, irresponsible a**holes that I don’t want anything to do with. I’m not in the “atheist club,” so I thankfully don’t need to defend their stupid actions or feel embarrassed by them, like I used to feel embarrassed about idiot Christians (because I was supposed to be in their “club”).

    I have enough confidence in thinking Christians like Mike C. and Jim Henderson and others to know that they are savvy enough to understand that one jerk’s behavior does not define every atheist’s ethical character, or lack thereof. The non-thinking Christians have already concluded that atheists have no ethics or morals, and so pranks like this only confirm what they already “know.” It’s a pity, but their prejudices are pretty hardened anyway, so I don’t think it’s a huge loss.

  • Karen

    One more thing, from way up in the OP from Hemant:

    Please tell me David Mills was not just compared to Martin Luther King, Jr…

    Please?

    *sigh*

    This reminded me of an hilarious essay by Sarah Vowell on This American Life a couple months back. She documented about half a dozen times recently where people compared themselves and their petty little crusades to Rosa Parks’ and her refusal to go to the back of the bus. It was pretty illuminating. ;-)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    This reminded me of an hilarious essay by Sarah Vowell on This American Life a couple months back. She documented about half a dozen times recently where people compared themselves and their petty little crusades to Rosa Parks’ and her refusal to go to the back of the bus. It was pretty illuminating. ;-)

    Karen– I believe she said people who compared themselves to Rosa Parks had “delusions of grandeur” and “couldn’t tell the difference between a paper cut and a decapitation.”

    I love that show :)

    – Hemant

  • miller

    It seems to me that the style and attitude with which people present their arguments is largely superfluous. Sure, some people are turned off by the attitude Dawkins has, but others would be completely uninterested in anything less inflamatory. Myself, I rather dislike it when people cuss every other word, but I have no problem with style used by Dawkins, or PZ.

    So on one level, I think it is important that the arguments are presented in a variety of styles. On another level, I do not like these particular styles, and I imagine few people do. I think it would be best if we made it clear that the atheists who enjoy this sort of video are in the minority, because that’s the truth. Mills does not represent me, and I don’t want anyone to think he does.

  • http://randomneuronsfiring.blogspot.com Bill Snedden

    I love that show as well (This American Life)…

    Hemant, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here and this is exactly the sort of thing I find so frustrating with the “Blasphemy Challenge” in general. There are certainly times when offense is justified, even unavoidable. But this (David Mills video) seems to me to be no more than offense for offense’ sake. What’s the point being made here? That David sees little or no value in the Bible? But can’t that point be made just as forcefully without stooping to the video equivalent of scat jokes?

    Besides which, David, among others, is demonstrably wrong in the assertion that the Bible is without value. Quite to the contrary, a knowledge of the Bible is absolutely indispensable for understanding Western literary history and culture. You simply can’t read Shakespeare, Milton, Dostoevsky, or a host of others, nor can you really understand the motivating factors behind seminal events in the history of Western civilization without having at least some knowledge of the Bible.

    That much wrong has been done by its proponents is surely important to know as well, but that simply doesn’t extinguish its great literary and cultural value. I certainly support David’s right to express himself however he sees fit, but at the same time, it seems to me that in reality, his expression will serve to do little except to further polarize and already polarized debate. Don’t we suppose ourselves to have logic and reason on our “side?” Wouldn’t it be a far better idea to use them instead of crude emotional appeals?

  • Logos

    The poo-poo guy’s daughter has her own video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am-2M9Mb2jY

  • TXatheist

    If the daughter did it that would at least we could call it a juvenile stunt, she’s a juvenile.

  • Siamang

    I say we just call him the Poo-poo guy from now on. He seems to think that civil discourse has a place for throwing poop around. Perhaps he saw the chimps do it at the zoo and thought, “wow, that’s stunningly salient criticism, maybe I can throw poop too!”

    They say it’s tough to come to a battle of wits as an unarmed man. But poop is far more abundant, and stinkier too. So for the man who literally brought poop to a battle of ideas, I think he should be forever honored.

    He is now and forever, the “Poo-Poo Guy.”

  • Simon

    This discussion seems to endorse the view that mobilizing atheists is like herding cats. We certainly can’t be divided into two groups.

    For instance this angry atheist is sometimes not angry at all, but then I hear Jay Leno deliver a horrible and lame joke about atheists last night* and I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to pelt him with baked beans, and hours later I’m still annoyed and can’t get to sleep. I find David Mills’ stunt uncomfortable and in fact I couldn’t watch the whole thing, and yet I don’t lament for one moment that he did it (other than the fact it wasn’t terribly original). I think that we should give people respect only if they earn it, and that beliefs should also face the same requirement (therefore I conclude that religion or religious beliefs deserve no respect from me – tolerance, fine, but not respect). I think that I think that “friendly” atheists have good intentions but are ultimately incapable of having any curative impact on “the problem” (which we all probably define differently). I think that some level of confrontation is necessary in order to truly, er, confront the issues. Brilliant, clear-thinking people like Dawkins or PZ Myers initiate an intellectual confrontation but then most people complain that they are mean jerks, at which point I feel like throwing up my hands and just giving up for good.

    Obviously no solution that will be satisfactory to all parties is is ever forthcoming. Most people on this planet will continue to believe in a magic, vindictive but oh-so-loving sky god, will continue to hate and/or fear atheists no matter how friendly the bulk of them appear to be, will demand that atheists like Dawkins shut up, and will use the behaviour of atheists like David Mills as an excuse for their already-present bigotry. In my opinion there is no reason for big-picture optimism. Of course I hope to be proven wrong!

    * the Leno ‘joke’:

    It’s been discovered that atheism is on the decline worldwide.
    Of course atheists refuse to believe it. [laughter].

    Get it? Atheists don’t believe! ha ha ha. Yes Jay, very funny. Because atheists are the ones who don’t believe evidence. Oh no, wait, that would be religious people. Whatever.

  • Logos

    It’s been discovered that atheism is on the decline worldwide. Is that true???

  • Simon

    I hope not. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s baseless propaganda. He didn’t say it was from a study or anything. He was probably too giddy to get to the punchline to worry about providing references. I guess a punchline of “atheists are skeptical” isn’t funny enough. :)

    There’s also the possiblility that it is on the incline in some parts of the world (e.g. North America) and on the decline in more populated parts of the world (the Middle East perhaps?) for an overall decline. I’d be very surprised if lack of belief is on the decline in every major culture.

  • Karen

    I say we just call him the Poo-poo guy from now on. He seems to think that civil discourse has a place for throwing poop around. Perhaps he saw the chimps do it at the zoo and thought, “wow, that’s stunningly salient criticism, maybe I can throw poop too!”

    You know those atheists, always trying to prove we came from monkeys. This guy is just making the argument more literally than most are willing to do. ;-)

    They say it’s tough to come to a battle of wits as an unarmed man. But poop is far more abundant, and stinkier too. So for the man who literally brought poop to a battle of ideas, I think he should be forever honored.

    Love live Poo-Poo Guy!

    For instance this angry atheist is sometimes not angry at all, but then I hear Jay Leno deliver a horrible and lame joke about atheists last night* and I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to pelt him with baked beans, and hours later I’m still annoyed and can’t get to sleep.

    The one that kept me up the other night was a news report about an Indonesian man whose wife and three daughters were all drowned in the tsunami. Since then, he’s remarried and this week his new wife gave birth to triplets – all female. “Allah has given me back my girls!” he exclaims, triumphantly, as the newscaster beams.

    Um, excuse me? We’re supposed to rejoice in a god who DROWNS three little kids and then “replaces” them with new ones? No one thinks of how twisted is that logic? Ugh…

  • txatheist

    atheism is not on the decline.
    http://www.adherents.com
    will give you all the info you need.

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  • Richard Wade

    Exterminator,

    Richard, there are two types of people: those who classify people into two types and those who don’t.

    Oh. Like that?

    I can’t speak for other atheists, but please do not stereotype me. I fall into neither of your arbitrary groups. I am not pissed off at religion; I am merely pissed off that it holds such sway in the government.

    I wasn’t stereotyping you. I was observing that up to the time I posted, the comments seemed to be falling into two groups. No stereotypes about anybody implied. We all are capable of, and do make comments that reflect our personal frustrations as well as other comments that reflect our identity with a larger group. I am exactly with you at being angry about religious infiltration of government. Fighting that effectively will take diligence and perseverance. Poo Poo Boy isn’t going to be much help there. Fundamentalist-courting politicians can posture their outrage over his video to justify their resisting our demands for positive change.

    And dream on about atheism becoming “stronger and more respected.” The godpushers don’t listen to our rational arguments. Atheists have been appealing to human reason for more than two and a half millennia, going back at least as far as the ancient Greeks.

    Thank you, I will continue to dream, but I’m doing it wide awake. It’s not as unlikely as you may think. The fact that we’re all out here talking about it and not huddling fearfully inside our closets is a reason for encouragement. We are in greater numbers and greater percentages than ever before, and we’re not going away. You’re right that “godpushers” won’t listen to our arguments about God, but they will eventually listen to reason about abandoning their bigotry against us. It just takes a long time of persistent and consistent effort. I don’t expect to see widespread improvement in my lifetime, but I’m determined to be a positive part of the effort. Millions of effective debaters will be more effective than millions of childish poop slingers.

    BlackSun,

    In response to my concern that atheists might get beaten up as a result of these videos, you said,

    Maybe someone might even murder an atheist over scriptural desecration! Then we’d be right where the Islamic societies are today. Great justification. We should keep our mouths shut because we might be harassed, injured or killed by religious zealots. Nice.

    That argument has enough straw in it to feed a horse. I’m not saying we should cower and say “yassuh” to the radical religious right. If the defenders of the faith come to my door to do me harm, I’ll kick their pious asses. I’m saying let’s use the thing we’re best at: Reason. No, not to argue endlessly about God; I already said that’s a waste of time. But to argue persuasively that open season on atheists is no longer acceptable. Mr. Doggie Wipe’s videos are not acts of defiant courage in the face of oppression. Give me a break. They’re stupid at best, and counter-productive at worst, because they’re selfish. If we want respect we won’t get it by behaving like that. We’ll get it by living by the principles we talk about, and by making demands based on rationality, intellectual honesty and tolerance.

  • Richard Wade

    Karen,

    Um, excuse me? We’re supposed to rejoice in a god who DROWNS three little kids and then “replaces” them with new ones? No one thinks of how twisted is that logic? Ugh…

    In that man’s situation, the quality of his logic is not important. What’s important is his relief from unspeakable pain. Let’s remember to at least some extent that should be important to us too.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The one that kept me up the other night was a news report about an Indonesian man whose wife and three daughters were all drowned in the tsunami. Since then, he’s remarried and this week his new wife gave birth to triplets – all female. “Allah has given me back my girls!” he exclaims, triumphantly, as the newscaster beams.

    Um, excuse me? We’re supposed to rejoice in a god who DROWNS three little kids and then “replaces” them with new ones? No one thinks of how twisted is that logic? Ugh…

    I agree with Richard… let’s not be too quick to judge. Is it possible that this man is not actually making a literal claim? I suspect he realizes that these new children will never directly replace his lost daughters or completely end the grief he feels for them. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suspect he was simply speaking metaphorically and rejoicing that Allah had blessed him in a way similar to what he had lost.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Richard Wade,

    That argument has enough straw in it to feed a horse. I’m not saying we should cower and say “yassuh” to the radical religious right. If the defenders of the faith come to my door to do me harm, I’ll kick their pious asses.

    Then why did you say:

    I’m concerned that adolescent, self-indulgent rants like these videos will inspire self-appointed defenders of the faith across small town America to go beat the crap out of the town atheist.

    The two statements are inconsistent. Either you’re concerned about theocratic bullying or you’re not. If you’re not going to cower, then what’s the difference? Either way, it’s not a reason to change your behavior in a free society.

    …because they’re selfish. If we want respect we won’t get it by behaving like that.

    Honestly, I really don’t care about popular respect. That’s why I’m not a politician. Truth is good enough for me, and commands respect on its own–sometimes long after the holders of the wisdom are dead.

    “Selfish??” That word is about the biggest red-herring you could throw down in a moral or intellectual debate. People are creatures of self-interest–yes, even when they are being altruistic. It’s not up to Mills or anyone else to uphold some imagined Atheist ‘movement.’ Call him selfish all you want, he’s written a popular and pretty damn good book on atheism, which was quoted by Dawkins in “The God Delusion.” We should thank him.

    My prediction is this little stunt won’t hurt his career (or the cause of reason, critical thought, and atheism) one bit.

    All the posters who moan about the juvenile, infantile, scatological aspect of Mills should think about someone else who uses the exact same kind of humor and made about a billion dollars doing it: Howard Stern. Oh yes, and there’s also “South Park,” which regularly stoops even lower and is completely hilarious–and don’t anybody here try to deny it.

    Scriptures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. How one disposes of that paper is completely irrelevant. Make it into a kite, bury it, burn it, use it for kindling, burn it on TV, clean up after your dog with it, keep it in the loo, whatever.

    Why a bunch of atheists are taking issue with someone they basically agree with doing something to a book they also despise is beyond me. I say let’s own it, shit and all. He may not have destroyed the book the way others here would have. But let’s be honest: most of us here have probably defiled scripture in some way ourselves–even if it’s putting those stickers on Gideon’s bibles in hotel rooms.

    You want disgusting? You want juvenile? How about people who ruin young minds. Teaching even ONE child to deny evolution and science is far more selfish, delusional, immature, insecure, and hateful than a million David Mills.

    Which would you rather have: An educated, well-adjusted child who thinks it’s OK and even funny to smear poo on a book of destructive fiction (like David Mills funny and articulate daughter)–versus a child of the same age who thinks the earth is 6,000 years old but respects their ‘holy books.’

    Think about it.

  • Brett Keller

    Which would you rather have: An educated, well-adjusted child who thinks it’s OK and even funny to smear poo on a book of destructive fiction (like David Mills funny and articulate daughter)–versus a child of the same age who thinks the earth is 6,000 years old but respects their ‘holy books.’

    False dichotomy. Are these really the only two possibilities? Imagine a world full of educated, well-adjusted children and adults who have a good knowledge of science, and use that to persuade their peers of the untruth of certain worldviews without having to resort to “smear tactics” (pun intended) that make people mad (somewhat disconcerting) and are not effective in getting people to think rationally (which is very disconcerting). That’s the sort of world I want to live in, and it seems to me that Hemant’s approach will get us closer than Mills’.

  • Jim Henderson

    TX atheist

    How are you – long time no talk

    My point is that all fundamentalist types feel they are the most hated ones in the world

  • txatheist

    Jim,
    I’m well. I look forward to being in Dallas and hope to thank you for this.

  • Richard Wade

    BlackSun,

    The two statements are inconsistent. Either you’re concerned about theocratic bullying or you’re not. If you’re not going to cower, then what’s the difference? Either way, it’s not a reason to change your behavior in a free society.

    Okay, one last time I’ll try to clarify myself against your characterizing of my remarks. If those two statements are inconsistent to you, I’ll spell it out:

    A. I am concerned that inflammatory, antagonistic gestures may result in violence by misguided extremists against innocent people because they’re associated with the person making the gesture.

    B. My concern does not in any way imply that I advocate a stance of passive appeasement or timid avoidance of intelligent forms of confrontation with religious people and institutions who are doing objectionable things in government.

    C. If such violence comes my way, if I have no alternative I will turn the perpetrators inside out, even though I didn’t want it to come to that.

    You may be confused by what you think is inconsistent in the two separate remarks you cherry picked, because you left out the most important part of my second statement. I will quote myself more fully, putting in bold the part you left out:

    “That argument has enough straw in it to feed a horse. I’m not saying we should cower and say “yassuh” to the radical religious right. If the defenders of the faith come to my door to do me harm, I’ll kick their pious asses. I’m saying let’s use the thing we’re best at: Reason. No, not to argue endlessly about God; I already said that’s a waste of time. But to argue persuasively that open season on atheists is no longer acceptable.”

    Now if you still want to belabor this admittedly unlikely scenario about violence, go ahead but I’m done on that.

    You said, “Why a bunch of atheists are taking issue with someone they basically agree with doing something to a book they also despise is beyond me.”

    Okay, it’s beyond you. Others here have spoken more eloquently than I about the importance of appropriate tactics and methods, so I guess there’s no point in my continuing to try.

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    You seem to have a great blog, Friendly Atheist. I’ll definitely add you to my long list of reading.

    At any rate, I thought I’d make a couple of points about this particular video.

    Many are criticizing this as being unhelpful to the spread of atheism because it can be offensive to Christians. However, I think that this criticism really misses the point of the video and of these “Blasphemy Challenges” in general. The videos are directed at other atheists and are meant to show that “coming out” as an atheist in the public sphere is okay–one needn’t be afraid to hide it. It is comparable to the early days of the gay rights movement, in that sense. (And, to be fair, some probably criticized all the flamboyant “Gay rights parades”, but anyone who thinks they were unsuccessful is very foolish. Even though gays still face a lot of hardships, the movement was largely successful and gays now get a lot more positive media attention and support from the public.)

    In other words, the video isn’t really meant to convert Christians to atheism. It is directed at other atheists who feel the same way about the Bible. Sure, he could have chosen a more respectful way to go about it, but I find it silly that people are criticizing him because he is sending theists the wrong message. The problem, of course, is that this isn’t supposed to be a message for theists, but message for like-minded atheists who may find it humorous. (I DO agree with you that the video largely fails at being humorous, though!)

    Again, I think it is important to look at this from the perspective of a gay rights movement. Many may argue that throngs of gay people writhing around half-nude on floats for all to see may not be the best and least offensive image that should be presented to conservatives and others who oppose gays–but that misses the point of the parades. The parades are for other gays, not for the opposition. They were meant to show that it is okay to be openly homosexual, in whatever way one wants–even if others found it offensive.

    David Mills has every right to express his distaste for Christianity in whatever manner he wishes. Perhaps you think this sort of act will prove a hinderance to atheists, but I disagree, if only because the gay rights movement has been very successful with similar tactics. In the end, most people aren’t convinced by rational arguments, and getting social approval and recognition is 90% of the battle for both atheists and homosexuals alike!

  • Richard Wade

    Saint Gasoline,
    You think that “In the end, most people aren’t convinced by rational arguments, and getting social approval and recognition is 90% of the battle for both atheists and homoseluals alike!”

    Well then, what does convince them?

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    To put it rather metaphorically, “the herd” convinces them.

    In other words, people are convinced by the bandwagon. Why are people so convinced of Christianity in America, and yet so convinced by Islam in the MidEast? It isn’t that one is somehow more rationally defensible than the other–it’s just that each one has more social support than the other in that particular area.

    If atheism were to ever gain widespread social acceptance, then we’d quickly find that atheism would become a lot more common–and it would be a lot more effective than handing down rational edicts against theism from an ivory tower.

    This is sad but unfortunately true. People are less rational than they’d like to believe, for the most part.

  • Richard Wade

    Saint Gasoline,
    I can see your point about the herd; I’m just confused by your remarks about the more sensationalist or radical behaviors of the Gay Rights movement actually having helped it along, because they gave other gays permission to “come out of the closet” and no longer be shame based. To apply that to atheists, I don’t want to jump to a straw man conclusion by asking if then you think we atheists should parade down main street defiling various scriptures in a “godless pride day.” From your point of view, how are we to become at least more visible without discrediting the rationality that we tout?

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  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Thanks Mike C.

    Saint Gasoline wrote: (emphasis mine)

    Many are criticizing this as being unhelpful to the spread of atheism because it can be offensive to Christians. However, I think that this criticism really misses the point of the video and of these “Blasphemy Challenges” in general. The videos are directed at other atheists and are meant to show that “coming out” as an atheist in the public sphere is okay–one needn’t be afraid to hide it.

    …and some other atheists, like Hemant, are objecting (quite reasonably, imo) to the implication that picking up dog poop with a Bible is a particularly good way to symbolize what atheists are all about.

    Maybe atheists and Christians can come to a mutual agreement with one another, to the effect:

    “When you say this or that person who self-professes to belong to your group doesn’t represent what your belief system/non-beliefs/label is all about; we will listen. We will not take advantage of the behavior of particular self-professed members of your group – which you yourself have issues with – to try to show that your whole group or group’s beliefs/non-beliefs are ridiculous.”

    I think atheists and Christians would both benefit from that since – evidently – both have self-professed group members who say and do things they claim is ‘in the spirit of what the group stands for’ which we strongly disagree is really what we are all about.

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  • Richard Wade

    Saint Gasoline,
    If I understand your posts here and on your own blog, you think that to be concerned about the potential reaction of Christians to these videos is to miss the point because Mills’ intention was not to have any effect on Christians one way or another, but to encourage other atheists to make bolder statements or protests of their own.

    Trying my best to be open to that possibility I watched the dog poop video again. Somehow it didn’t leave me feeling more liberated, more validated or more encouraged to make daring declarations of my views in the face of my religious oppressors. Instead, I just feel embarrassed, annoyed and sad. That’s my reaction. It’s just a visceral thing. Rationalizing that it’s about empowerment or free speech isn’t going to change my initial reaction. So at least for me it not only didn’t work, it backfired.

    Unless I missed it, none of those here who are defending the video have said that they personally have gained a sense of freedom or empowerment from it. Their arguments are in principle only, not from a positive reaction of their own.

    Of course all the arguments that refer to Mills’ intention are speculative, since I haven’t seen or heard of any follow-up statement by him about the video or the various reactions to it. If anyone knows that he has made any such statements, please point me in that direction.

  • Karen

    In that man’s situation, the quality of his logic is not important. What’s important is his relief from unspeakable pain. Let’s remember to at least some extent that should be important to us too.

    Let me clarify: That the man has found some measure of happiness after that hideous tragedy is a wonderful thing. I do not wish to deny him whatever comfort he’s found, by any means.

    What boggled my mind in this case was the news reporter framing the story such that “god was so good” to replace these kids but not questioning that he apparently also wiped a quarter million people out in an instant.

    But as Mr. Deity would say, “Good things happen and I get all the credit; bad things happen and I never get any blame.” He’s got a pretty sweet deal going there.

  • Richard Wade

    Karen,
    I didn’t mean to sound reproachful; I agree with you entirely. Thanks for the link to Mr. Deity. It’s hilarious. Now there is an example of good satire.

  • Karen

    Richard Wade:

    Thank you, I will continue to dream, but I’m doing it wide awake. It’s not as unlikely as you may think. The fact that we’re all out here talking about it and not huddling fearfully inside our closets is a reason for encouragement. We are in greater numbers and greater percentages than ever before, and we’re not going away. You’re right that “godpushers” won’t listen to our arguments about God, but they will eventually listen to reason about abandoning their bigotry against us. It just takes a long time of persistent and consistent effort. I don’t expect to see widespread improvement in my lifetime, but I’m determined to be a positive part of the effort. Millions of effective debaters will be more effective than millions of childish poop slingers.

    Well-stated, Richard, and I completely agree with you.

    BlackSun:

    You want disgusting? You want juvenile? How about people who ruin young minds. Teaching even ONE child to deny evolution and science is far more selfish, delusional, immature, insecure, and hateful than a million David Mills.

    Hey, BlackSun – are you Sean Prophet, or affiliated with his group? If so, may I say I disagree with your stance on this issue, but I heartily congratulate you on your life’s journey and very much admire your survival skills. I met Elizabeth as a college student (I was a Christian fundy who went to one of her meetings with an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group trying to debate her in the late 70s) and you are unbelievably strong to have come out of that environment as a thinking, sane person.

    I understand where you’re coming from with your criticism of people who ruin young minds – as someone so heavily indoctrinated myself that it took me 30 years to see my way clear.

    Here’s where I object, however: The whole “hey, they started it!” or “they’re worse than us!” seems to me to be so much finger-pointing, and I would hope we could rise above that level.

    The Humanist Manifesto states in part, “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

    Key words here: “responsibility, ethical, aspire, greater good” just don’t jive with Poo Poo Boy’s offensive stunt, and that much seems obvious. Maybe he’s not a humanist, and isn’t interested in living up to those standards? I dunno.

    St. Gasoline:

    Many may argue that throngs of gay people writhing around half-nude on floats for all to see may not be the best and least offensive image that should be presented to conservatives and others who oppose gays–but that misses the point of the parades. The parades are for other gays, not for the opposition. They were meant to show that it is okay to be openly homosexual, in whatever way one wants–even if others found it offensive.

    In Bruce Bawer’s excellent book, “A Place at the Table,” he argues that the most outrageous gay rights parades a) do not even remotely represent the majority of gay people or their values and b) were undoubtedly liberating for some, but did far more harm than good overall to the cause of greater acceptance of homosexuality, which has actually been fueled by medical discoveries about homosexuality not being a “choice” and by the psychiatric association’s decision to declassify it as a “mental illness.”

    Bawer’s a gay man, and he shows in the book how the religious right seized on the images of leather-clad, half-nude gay parades and has used them for 25 years to scare their constituency half to death. They still use those images to promote the idea that unrestrained, promiscuous gays will “recruit” their children if not stopped. It’s unfortunately played into the worst fears of the people in the pews.

    Helen:

    Maybe atheists and Christians can come to a mutual agreement with one another, to the effect:

    “When you say this or that person who self-professes to belong to your group doesn’t represent what your belief system/non-beliefs/label is all about; we will listen. We will not take advantage of the behavior of particular self-professed members of your group – which you yourself have issues with – to try to show that your whole group or group’s beliefs/non-beliefs are ridiculous.”

    I think atheists and Christians would both benefit from that since – evidently – both have self-professed group members who say and do things they claim is ‘in the spirit of what the group stands for’ which we strongly disagree is really what we are all about.

    Excellent suggestion. I, for instance, don’t equate all Christians with Benny Hinn, or Pat Robertson. Hopefully they don’t put us all in the same basket with Poo Guy. (That would be a stinky basket!) ;-)

  • Jim Henderson

    I have learned alot from this conversation

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Maybe atheists and Christians can come to a mutual agreement with one another, to the effect:

    “When you say this or that person who self-professes to belong to your group doesn’t represent what your belief system/non-beliefs/label is all about; we will listen. We will not take advantage of the behavior of particular self-professed members of your group – which you yourself have issues with – to try to show that your whole group or group’s beliefs/non-beliefs are ridiculous.”

    I can definitely agree to this.

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  • valhar2000

    Well, sorry guys, but after having laughed that much, I just can’t bring myself to condemn this guy.

    Really, if you people did not live continuously under the threat of The Big Cross* you would not give a damn about this either way…

    * I live in Spain, were the threat is much less.

  • http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com Tom Foss

    Scriptures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. How one disposes of that paper is completely irrelevant. Make it into a kite…

    Actually, that’s the kind of desecration I can get behind. It’s so easy to make a symbolic point with that–”look, it’s full of air” or “the only way these beliefs seem to fly is with a lot of bluster and wind.” If you’re really dead-set on burning it, then why not conduct some science while you’re at it: recreate Ben Franklin’s lightning experiment. If you’re going to defile scripture, do it creatively and cleverly. Dog poop is just so…pedestrian.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Actually, that’s the kind of desecration I can get behind. It’s so easy to make a symbolic point with that–”look, it’s full of air” or “the only way these beliefs seem to fly is with a lot of bluster and wind.” If you’re really dead-set on burning it, then why not conduct some science while you’re at it: recreate Ben Franklin’s lightning experiment. If you’re going to defile scripture, do it creatively and cleverly. Dog poop is just so…pedestrian.

    Those are actually pretty good ideas. Even as a Christian myself, those would be the kind of creative and intelligent demonstrations that I could respect and engage with.

  • Jim Henderson

    “When you say this or that person who self-professes to belong to your group doesn’t represent what your belief system/non-beliefs/label is all about; we will listen. We will not take advantage of the behavior of particular self-professed members of your group – which you yourself have issues with – to try to show that your whole group or group’s beliefs/non-beliefs are ridiculous.”

    Mike C – I think we should work with this. I’ll ask Helen to post this on Conversation at the Edge and see if we can work to create some kind of statement of solidarity

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Jim I posted it on ebay atheist and mentioned it on CatE also.

  • Mriana

    No, you were not the only one who was offended by Mills. I was shocked and dismayed when I first saw this contest. I agree with you, Hemant, there are a lot better ways to criticize the Bible. IMHO, it is far better to point out the contradictions, the outdated morality and so called scienctific knowledge, the violence and alike in the Bible than to act like a total idiot who has no clue what they are talking about.

    There is nothing to back up such behaviour like David Mills’ because he puts no reason or knowledge behind it. It’s far better IMO to educate people than to act like an idiot. Sorry, but the Earth is not the center of the universe, like people once believed based on the Bible. Thanks to Coprenicus and Galileo, we no longer believe that. Nor is slavery moral anymore, like the Bible would lead us to believe. It’s far better to show people that fallibilty of the Bible than to waste words and say nothing at all. At the very least, it shows that one is knowledgable about the subject and say why they disagree. What Mills did had no basis in knowledge or reason.

    It’s probably the greatest blasphemy of all to point these things out to people and educate them on what the book really says, for the Bible is fallible because it was written by man, NOT by some deity.

    Humm… I think I just covered everything in the Bible, including the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with that one statement. I don’t need no stinkin’ video to do that. lol

  • stogoe

    I see the timid Braytonites still want their massah’s approval. (Sorry, FA, but Brayton was the first self-important chickenshit to catch my attention with this bravely timid stand of letting the Christianists win. It’s his name I anoint you with)

    I’m sorry. They’ll never give you respect until you demand it.

    Even ML King had his Malcolm X.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Sorry, but the Earth is not the center of the universe, like people once believed based on the Bible. Thanks to Coprenicus and Galileo, we no longer believe that.

    I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but this is actually an urban legend. The Bible doesn’t teach that the earth is the center of the universe – that belief is based primarily on Greek philosophy, not on the Hebrew or Christian scriptures. And it doesn’t have the significance that most people assume either. We tend to think center=important, when in the Greek conception center=evil and corrupt.

    Anyway, I know it’s not an important point, but this urban legend about Copernicus and Galileo resisting biblical teachings in the name of science is based on later Enlightenment propaganda, not on actual history. Just thought I’d clarify. :)

  • TXatheist

    Mike C,
    Are you saying also, in addition to, that Copernicus and Galileo didn’t suffer from the church for challenging the church’s view that the earth was the center of the universe? Please elaborate.

  • Mriana

    No, Mike, but those people at the time believed it did, just as they do today. Meanwhile, Galileo was excommunicated for not going by Church doctrine and stayed that way until recently- the Catholic church un-excommunicated him. Why bother now, the man is dead. He can’t hear your apology. *rolling eyes* In any case, he was stomped by the Church for supporting Copernicus. IF it were not actual history, why do colleges and universities still teach it? Somehow I doubt it was urban legend given the Church history of nailing people for not believing as they teach. Luther just got lucky.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The actual history of Copernicus and Galileo is much more complicated than the standard Enlightenment legend (which is still taught in colleges in universities because it supports the Enlightenment values that such institutions are based on – and simply because it has become so pervasive as an urban legend that few scholars beyond specialist historians even know the real story.)

    A few facts:
    1) Copernicus was never persecuted for his ideas. Galileo was persecuted, but more for personally insulting the Pope in his writings (and for seeming to support a more Protestant interpretation of scripture) than for his scientific ideas. His scientific ideas merely became the excuse the Pope used to retaliate for this perceived betrayal.

    2) Both Copernicus and Galileo were more concerned about a negative reaction from their fellow scientists than from the church. This is from Wikipedia:

    About this, historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers wrote:

    “If Copernicus had any genuine fear of publication, it was the reaction of scientists, not clerics, that worried him. Other churchmen before him — Nicole Oresme (a French bishop) in the fourteenth century and Nicolaus Cusanus (a German cardinal) in the fifteenth — had freely discussed the possible motion of the earth, and there was no reason to suppose that the reappearance of this idea in the sixteenth century would cause a religious stir.”

    3) Again, the people of that day believed in geocentrism not because it was officially taught by the church, but because it was taught by Aristotle and he was considered the paramount scientific authority. Galileo and Copernicus feared to contradict the dominant scientific paradigm, not Church doctrines.

    4) The Catholic Church has actually always had a very high view of science and sees no conflict between the discoveries of science and Christian doctrine. For instance, this statement can be found at the Catholic Answers website.

    The Catholic Church has always taught that “no real disagreement can exist between the theologian and the scientist provided each keeps within his own limits… If nevertheless there is a disagreement… it should be remembered that the sacred writers did not wish to teach men such truths (as the inner structure of visible objects) which do not help anyone to salvation’; and that, for this reason, rather than trying to provide a scientific exposition of nature, they sometimes describe and treat these matters either in a somewhat figurative language or as the common manner of speech those times required.” (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus 18).

    Anyhow, my only point is that the story is more complicated than usually assumed. Certainly the church is not faultless in the matter; but neither is it a simple of story of bigoted clerics versus enlightened scientists.

  • TXatheist

    Mike C,
    The official words of the Catholic Church are about as useful as the a post-it note in the trash can. People revolt and persecute what they perceive is an assault on their religion. Thomas Paine was sentenced to home arrest for his writing of the Age of Reason. Bruno was burnt at the stake. I guess the fact that Spong and Michael Newdow received death threats is because they are going against science? Hardly and we both know it.

    I visited the Museum of Torture and the devices the xians came up with for heretics was worse than anything I’d ever seen or imagined including when I was in the military. We can disagree on this but the real problem of history is the Christian church has outright lied, revised history and covered up how ignorant and bigoted they were and still are. What group focuses on shutting down abortion clinics? What group focuses on not supporting full stem cell research? What group is against homosexuals? I realize it’s not you and I still wonder to this day after all of this why you insist on hanging on to xianity but that is your choice.

  • TXatheist

    Mike C,
    Did you get this idea from Wheaton? That the church wasn’t the main force against Copernicus.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Mike C,
    Did you get this idea from Wheaton? That the church wasn’t the main force against Copernicus.

    LOL! Not at all. I got from reading history. I’m an amateur history buff and I’ve been especially interested in Renaissance and Early Modern European history at times.

    You can read the same thing just by following that Wikipedia link.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Karen,

    Hey, BlackSun – are you Sean Prophet, or affiliated with his group?

    Yes, that’s me. Thanks very much for the support. You can read my story in the “About” section of the Black Sun Journal site.

    Here’s where I object, however: The whole “hey, they started it!” or “they’re worse than us!” seems to me to be so much finger-pointing, and I would hope we could rise above that level.

    I wish we could rise above it, too. But the fact remains, the indoctrination continues, so I think actions with shock value can work to focus attention on both the religious fanatics and those of us who vehemently oppose their tactics.

  • Mriana

    OK Mike, I’m not going to argue with your amatuer history knowledge. The Bible was written by man, it is fallible, the morals are outdated, and so is the so called science in it. Education and showing people these things are the keys to getting out that message. Then again, there are so many people don’t want to see it even when they are shown it, but that is better than what people are doing on this blasphemy thing. *rolling eyes* It’s also more tasteful, tactful, and breaks a stereotype about people.

  • Kevin

    Hmn,

    What also hurts our image, moreso, is this guy has explicit pictures of him and his wife having sex on his website.

    No joke.

    He’s free to do so, but when this bible/feces nonsense AND the (tasteless) explicit pornography are hosted on his website and in his name… It really sucks to have Dawkins and Saga (Jr.) affiliated with this guy.

    - KS

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    What also hurts our image, moreso, is this guy has explicit pictures of him and his wife having sex on his website.

    Oh stop already!!!

    So now atheists aren’t allowed to be seen having sex?? Mills sex pix are not accessible until you send him an email stating you are 18 or over. If this is a problem for atheism, I don’t know why we don’t just call it a day and all become Puritans.

    This is the kind of hand-wringing I would expect to see on a Christian site.

    I thought the whole point of getting rid of gods and masters was so that you could become open minded, free to express yourself–sexually and otherwise….without religious guilt??!?

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    BTW, Kevin, Carl Sagan was a confirmed pot smoker. Most Atheists are Free Thinkers. That means we don’t subscribe to cultural constraints from the mainstream. If something is not hurting someone else, Atheists are (or should be) known for championing people’s right to do it. This includes things like:

    Exhibitionism, (in a protected area of a website)
    Recreational drug use
    Consuming pornography
    Sexual freedom (gay, lesbian, threesomes, swinging, BDSM, transgender, polyamory, whatever, so long as it’s consensual.)

    And a lot of other things that may not be “socially acceptable.”

  • txatheist

    Blacksun,
    I agree with you. I’m also not against pre-marital sex if you want to add that to your list. It’s another taboo i’d like to break down.

  • Mriana

    You know, if it is in a protected and secluded part of his website and one has to state they are over 18, then I feel it is his wife and his business what they share with others. It’s no one elses business really, unless they really want to see what he and his wife do. Personally, I’m not interested.

  • Siamang

    Ewwwww.

    I never, ever want to picture the poo-poo guy having sex.

  • Diana

    This discussion is as good as the best book I’ve read on the subject of atheism. Thank you all for your intelligent contributions, plus the occasional laugh and all the great links. I won’t bother to look at the Poo-poo guy’s video, but I will read his book.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The Bible was written by man

    Agreed… I don’t know many Christians who say that it wasn’t.

    it is fallible

    I guess that depends on what kind of literature you think the Bible is and what it is for. If you want to read it as if it was intended to be a modern history or science textbook, then I’m sure one can find all kinds of failings. But of course, it’s doubtful that’s the kind of thing the biblical authors set out to write in the first place.

    the morals are outdated

    Indeed, many of them are (even within the Bible itself we see Jesus and the Apostles telling us that some of the old morals are outdated). On the other hand, I don’t think the command to love and accept others unconditionally, or to pursue justice for the poor and the oppressed will ever get outdated.

    and so is the so called science in it.

    I don’t think the Bible contains any science. That’s just not what it’s for. Many fundamentalists seem to think it does, and many atheists act as if the fundamentalists are correct in their interpretation; but IMHO they’re both wrong.

  • TXatheist

    Mike C,
    So why do you remain a xian? I’m not asking to mock but I can’t understand why a guy that realizes the bible is a book needs to hold it dearly. You admit that Jesus had some good ideas but the OT morals are absurd mostly.

  • Mriana

    Probably because of his defense of it. If you notice, he tries hard to defend it, but he has said nothing of the contradictions that are in the Bible too. At best, it has some interesting stories in it and at worst, it is a means of causing great disputes. Yes, this leaves vast room for a middle ground, but even that has had holes punched in that middle ground by Harris, Dawkins, and other scientists. It is no more valuable than the Hindu, the Buddhist, Islamic, and Confuscian books.

    Does this mean there is no value? No, I was not saying that, but as a friend of mine says, “all paths lead to centre”.

    Now I’m sure Mike will find something to defend with that too. It would not surprise me if he did.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    As I have said before, the bible (and all scripture) holds two completely inconsistent premises:

    1) It cannot be questioned because it is the word of god.

    2) It is open to interpretation, some of it is wrong, and the parts that are right are right because I say they are right.

    So it becomes nothing but a holy bludgeon for whatever anyone wants it to be.

    MikeC, you fell right into that trap. Unless you talk to god and get your information directly from ‘him’, I don’t know what you’re smoking if you think you’re any exception to the rule. As long as you’re cherry picking, you should become an atheist, or at least admit your scripture means nothing.

    Indeed, many of them are (even within the Bible itself we see Jesus and the Apostles telling us that some of the old morals are outdated). On the other hand, I don’t think the command to love and accept others unconditionally, or to pursue justice for the poor and the oppressed will ever get outdated.

    Those are the morals that YOU like. That’s how YOU want the world to be. How about taking a look at the world that IS. Hold your cherry-picked biblical morals up against human nature, evolutionary biology and game theory, and see how they stack up.

  • Freethnkr

    I feel like a spammer to which I am not. I posted this on the Haggerd thread but I think it also belongs here with some added thoughts.

    I was at the Washington Post website On Faith. This weeks topic is ..What does your faith lead you to believe about gay unions and gay clergy? Could you ever change your mind?

    It only has 90 posts. If you look at the Sam Harris’ threads some go into the thousands. I think it shows that there is more acceptance of the gay community these days compared to atheism.

    Certainly there is still those radical believers out there against homosexuality, but to me it obviously states that many more have grown in this area. Much of that has been due to awareness. When the first gay parades came about, I can recall how outspoken people were against such public displays. Over the years the shock value has depriciated, in my opinion. Has the acceptance come from the shock that many gays have decided to come out of the closet publicly in one way being the gay parades held year to year? I tend to think so. Just as time has brought the black americans more acceptance and civil rights. In my opinion, partly due to the Black Panthers of the 60′s radical behaviour, tempered by Martin Luther Kings soft spoken words of awareness to the black movement.

    My point being…while the Mills clip was offensive to a degree to myself as an atheist as i felt it crude and crass. I think that we need both the shock value tempered by the nice atheists to further the cause of awareness and acceptance. Being nice does not always force people to think and dialogue. It certainly is easier to ignore a nice person rather than an in your face type. Although, we need the nice atheists to explain to those believers that are offended by such things, that not all of us accept that kind of behaviour which may possibly lead to conversations on a more mature and intellectual level.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Mike C,
    So why do you remain a xian? I’m not asking to mock but I can’t understand why a guy that realizes the bible is a book needs to hold it dearly. You admit that Jesus had some good ideas but the OT morals are absurd mostly.

    It’s a good question TX. I’ll do my best to answer. (However, I’m not going to bother responding to the other comments here that purport to tell me what I believe rather than listen to what I’m actually saying.)

    I value the Bible for the kind of book that I think it actually is rather than the kind of book the fundamentalists (and anti-fundamentalist critics) want it to be. That is, I don’t believe the Bible to be a divinely dictated handbook of God’s absolute commands, presented to us in the form of a history or science textbook. Rather I believe it to be a complex, multifaceted story of humanity’s interactions with the Divine over the course of history – given to us in poetry, myth, biography, historical narrative (as opposed to our Modern conceptions of history), proverb, letter, and more. It is full of contradictions and appalling stories because it reflects the reality and rawness of human existence with all of its violence and injustice, not some idealized, sanitized version.

    And it reflects the understandings of people during the centuries in which it was written – how they thought of and interacted with the world and with the divine – and shows the progression of this understanding over time. So if it doesn’t match up with how we view the world (or God) today, so what? It’s not like the story stopped progressing the minute the words of the Bible were put to the page. The Bible shows us an upward trajectory of human understanding and moral development over the centuries, and I trust that this trajectory has continued (admittedly with some rather major setbacks) even beyond the closing of the canon.

    Another way I might answer your question (especially regarding why I’m still a Christian) is to clarify that my faith does not rest on a book. No matter how highly I regard it, the Bible is not the foundation of my faith. I think I would continue to believe in God and even follow the Way of Jesus, even if I thought the Bible was completely worthless. Jesus could be a completely fictional character, and yet I would still think that the Way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.

    I mean, BlackSun could be right. I could be completely naive to think that pursuing a way of love and justice and peace in this world could ever change anything; or to think that such virtues have any deeper connection to the underlying reality of the universe. But even if he’s right, I’m going to continue to live as if that other world is possible, because that’s the world that I think ought to exist, even if it doesn’t.

    And who knows, maybe if enough of us decide to live that way regardless, perhaps we might just bring it into existence ourselves. :)

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    I could be completely naive to think that pursuing a way of love and justice and peace in this world could ever change anything;

    MikeC, I don’t think that hoping for those things is bad. Avoiding facing human darkness and shadow through escape into religion or scripture is what I have a problem with.

    Love is never unconditional. All relationships are transactional. Justice is relative depending upon who is in power. The most important form of justice is non-coercion and the trader principle. Peace only comes about when justice is ensured for all parties. These can flourish only in societies of strong individuals who do not look outside of themselves for moral guidance.

    or to think that such virtues have any deeper connection to the underlying reality of the universe.

    The underlying reality of the universe is towering indifference. It is only our lives and actions which create any meaning at all. And that meaning is subjective to us as humans.

    One day our civilization and any trace of it will be gone. We only matter to ourselves, and those we love and who love us, and only while we and any descendants who may remember or be affected by our actions are alive.

    That is the sum total of meaning for human life in this starkly vast expanse. It is also undeniably true that no one alive today will ever understand more than a fraction of what we think we know about said universe. Which places the burden for supporting claims of so-called ‘meaning’ squarely on the shoulders of those making such claims.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Avoiding facing human darkness and shadow through escape into religion or scripture is what I have a problem with.

    Funny… usually it’s us Christians that are getting ragged on for dwelling too much on human sin & darkness… ;)

    And again, you’ve done an admirable job of illustrating the basic difference between our worldviews.

  • Mriana

    Yes, there is a lot of darkness, but Paul Kurtz is a very positive and optimistic man as well as many other Humanists. There are Christians who are very positive also. It’s not all doom and gloom on both sides of the fence.

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  • Mitch

    The best case I’ve seen for a supreme being is a book by Gerald Schroeder. If you truly want to understand why so many people believe in a God then his 3 books, “Hidden Face of God” (best case mentioned above), “Genesis and the Big Bang” and “The Science of God” do an amazing job of putting into words why. More and more scientists are turning to faith because of discoveries made in science that can’t be explained and I believe science will in fact be used to prove (one day) His existence. God uses science to create. Science and religion should not be kept seperate when they work so well together.
    These books in no way make an argument for or against Jesus being the Son of God. That will still have to be a personal choice but after reading the evidence brought forward in these books it’s hard to say that a supreme being isn’t orchestrating the universe.

  • Elise

    I am an Athiest, but am somewhat perplexed by this site. You talk about the Athiest movement, as if you trying to spread your belief, much like a religion sends missionaries to countries to promote their faith. The core beleif of an Athiest is that we beleive in no God or religion, so why are you acting in the same way as a religion does?

    It is fair that we have our own beliefs, but what is with this need to make everyone else agree wwith them? I would not particually appreciate someone of the Catholic faith trying to convert me into catholisism, and I am sure that Catholics feel the same about Atheism.

    What is the problem with allowing them to have their beliefs and us to have ours?

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Elise,
    I don’t understand how you have gotten the impression that this site is about “spreading our beliefs.” I don’t personally know any atheist who has any interest in “converting” others to atheism. If there is an “atheist movement” it’s a very loose and diverse one, and it seems mainly interested in protecting the rights of people who don’t want religion forced upon them in the form of public policy or bigoted mistreatment. Some, like myself were basically born to a secular/scientific world view, but many others went through very difficult struggles to free themselves from their early religious indoctrination. Not many of them would in a clear conscience do such a thing to others.

    There are a few outspoken authors whom others characterize as “evangelical” in their views, but whether that is fair is a matter of debate. There are a few rude and crude jerks, such as the guy in the video at the top of the page, but every group has some of those.

    If you have seen specific examples of an atheist aggressively trying to force, manipulate, browbeat or somehow without invitation to convert believers to non-belief, I would be very interested in hearing about it because I strongly oppose such tactics and behavior.

    Stick around and I think you will see that the majority of people here are primarily interested in improving communication between believers and non-believers, and in improving the overall quality of life of atheists and society in general.

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