Rational Response Squad Defends Its Aggressive Tactics

Brian Sapient has a response for anyone who thinks the “aggressive” tactics they use are doing more harm than good for atheism:

We wish we could be the passive atheist, and it’s only after many years of experience in this realm (and being the passive atheist for a while) that we decided a more blunt approach from a few intellectuals is necessary and vital.

… a passive atheist can spend compassionate dialogue time helping the theist overcome religion, and will have a more receptive candidate after the individual was “shaken up” a bit. However it is entirely possible that the passive atheist will have little chance to help a friend overcome theism if that friend never had the RRS “shake up.”

I know I’m the type of person Brian is referring to when he uses the term “passive atheist.” And I think that term is a complete misnomer. I chair the board of one atheist organization. I am a voting member in another. I frequently give talks promoting the atheist viewpoint. I write a freaking blog about atheism. I wrote a book for a Christian publisher about one atheist’s view of churches (though my goal wasn’t to condemn Christianity). I don’t think there’s anything “passive” about my non-religiosity.

When he says we need “passive atheists,” what he means is that we need atheists who don’t piss off religious people.

And I’d agree with that.

I encourage any theist to read Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. But I do this knowing they’re unlikely to be “de-converted.” Most Christians I know who have opened the books were turned off by the blunt language. If they want to learn about atheism, they need to have it happen in a more sensitive way.

That said, I also agree that it takes all kinds to promote atheism. You need the people who are in your face about it. And you need those who are much more approachable.

I should mention that some of the goals are different, too. Some atheists want to see a world without religion. Other atheists care more about being an accepted, respected view among others; If religion’s still around, that’s not the biggest problem. The latter group wants to see separation of church and state. The former group doesn’t want to see churches at all.

Sometimes, the groups overlap. They do service projects together, work on a lawsuit, or promote other groups’ work. I’d love to see that happen more often.

We’re still at a point when the “leaders” in both camps are on speaking terms and can work together. In the religious world, the two sides don’t ever seem to interact. (Can you envision Jim Wallis working alongside James Dobson on a frequent basis?)

So we atheists need to make the best of this opportunity. We can criticize the tactics the others use. But for now, we’re still in this together. We need the mutual support of each other.

And Brian should at least be commended for saying just that.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Vincent

    Nice how Brian considers himself to be “an intellectual”.

  • Tom

    You’re absolutely right Hemant, the goals are different. I find that the vocabulary we use must change in sensitivity depending on if we are trying to defend atheism or to persuade someone to take our position.

  • valhar2000

    I always thought that what the RRS did best was to galvanize people who are already atheists into some sort of action. I certainly do not expect the things they do to be well received by beleivers, so they will not have much success deconverting anyone. However, I don’t follow them closely, so I don’t know if that is their stated goal.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I don’t know about this one Hemant. I see you point, but on the other hand it strikes me that your argument about both being needed would be like saying that emergent Christians like me are needed to be friendly towards atheists so you’ll be more receptive when the fundamentalists come to you with with their blunt evangelistic pitch.

    If I were doing that then I really would be “providing cover” for fundamentalists; but I’m not. I’m not trying to soften you up so the fundies can do their thing. I’d rather that there weren’t any fundies at all. I think what they do detracts from and undermines what I’m trying to do – because our ultimate goals are so very different.

    And just speaking as an outsider, it seems to me that the same is true of these atheist camps too. It’s great to work together on whatever shared common goals you have, but at the same time a lot of what the other side is doing is actually undermining what you are trying to do.

  • Vincent

    Mike,
    There is a flaw in your analogy. A fundamentalist doesn’t have to “come out.” There is stigma to being fundamentalist, but it is not nearly so harmful as the stigma of being an atheist. I don’t think too highly of RRS, though I think what they do is beneficial to society in that they help people be willing to discuss the question openly.

  • monkeymind

    What evidence does Mr. Sapient provide that people who feel threatened or “shaken up” are more able to think rationally? This contradicts most of what I have learned about psychology and pedagogy.

  • monkeymind

    Also, Hemant – you, a “passive” atheist? I hope he gets your message that that’s not a good description of you!

    As a new teacher, maybe you’ve encountered already older teachers who do a lot of yelling, ridiculing, and shaming in the classroom. In my experience, these teachers can sometimes be effective at enforcing certain standards of behavior, but they fail to create a real community of learners.

  • AJ

    Hemant,

    I encourage any theist to read Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. But I do this knowing they’re unlikely to be “de-converted.” Most Christians I know who have opened the books were turned off by the blunt language. If they want to learn about atheism, they need to have it happen in a more sensitive way.

    What blunt language? You can’t think that the End of Faith and the God Delusion are “blunt” compared to anything else out there. I don’t think we’ll get anywhere until religion can be talked about like anything else. It’s one thing to say that the RRS are “in your face”, they definitely break taboos of the older generation, but that doesn’t apply to the “Four Horsemen”. The only crime commited by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins in their books is that they talk about religion the same way people talk about anything else.

    Religionists and atheist appeasers around here and elsewhere that demand that we all give religion special status. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, it might not seem too bad now to appease them, but blasphemy laws and religious dogma are a thing of the recent past, and it’s not entirely resolved, even in Europe.

    I should mention that some of the goals are different, too. Some atheists want to see a world without religion. Other atheists care more about being an accepted, respected view among others; If religion’s still around, that’s not the biggest problem. The latter group wants to see separation of church and state. The former group doesn’t want to see churches at all.

    I don’t think that’s a true representation. While some Atheists world prefer a world without religion, and think such a world would be better, they’re interested in separation of church and state as a primary goal as much as any other group. The issues tend to be whether we should discuss religion openly, indoctrination of children, and whether people need religion at all. Even then the differences are subtle, both think indoctrination can be harmless (many of them were raised Christian), but “aggressive Atheists” tend to think it’s inherently dangerous, and can easily lead to more harmful beliefs.

  • Richard Wade

    Some people think that there are only two modes in life, aggressive or passive. Modes like assertive, constructive, affirmative or cooperative are never considered by them and are all dismissed as passive. This is a childish bully’s view of the world.

    I’m very skeptical about Sapient’s portrayal of his “RRS ‘shakeup’” as some kind of tough love slap in the face where the person says, “Thanks, I needed that.” It smells like the arrogance, self-righteousness and immunity from doubt that we see in some of the worst fundies. So we’re playing “good atheist/bad atheist” and together we have a powerful effect in “helping a friend overcome theism?” Yeah right. Before you open up your Religion Recovery Clinic, show me the data. Where is the documentation that your treatment method works at all?

    Maybe I’m misjudging him. Maybe I don’t know enough about him. But so far from his actions I think Sapient would be a bully in any field. Promotion of atheism does not seem to be his primary goal, the indulgence in his aggression is. In business he’d be a ruthless and destructive company eater. In politics he’d be a petty dictator. In religion he’d be exactly like the bigots we face.

    If anyone wants to disagree, you’ll have a better chance of convincing me if you don’t try his tactics on me.

  • monkeymind

    Richard Wade said:

    So we’re playing “good atheist/bad atheist” and together we have a powerful effect in “helping a friend overcome theism?” Yeah right. Before you open up your Religion Recovery Clinic, show me the data.

    I had the same thought that this sounds like a good cop/bad cop dynamic. You expressed it very well.

    Also, yes, show me the data. Good cop/bad cop games may be good at extracting confessions, but for promoting critical thinking – not so much.

  • http://www.drzach.net Zachary Moore

    I don’t think that Brian intends to play “Bad Atheist” to anyone else’s “Good Atheist.” From my exchanges with him, I’d say that his approach is simply different in terms of style and breadth. He sees religion as a bad stain job on a nice wood deck, sun-baked and cracking, and without any hope of repair. The best approach, as he sees it, is just to power-wash the damned stuff right off. Other people might not take this approach- they might take a little more care to address only those boards which are really ugly, and maybe patch up some of the better ones. Theists, of course, insist that all that’s needed is another coat of varnish.

    In the end, what we’re all aiming for (atheists and theists alike) is a really nice deck that we can all enjoy. The only question is how do we make the optimal use of our tools (power-washer, sandpaper, varnish)?

  • Siamang

    …we decided a more blunt approach from a few intellectuals is necessary and vital.

    Yeah, here’s that blunt, intellectual approach from David Mills (The Poo-poo Guy) of the RRS and his Blasphemy Challenge.

    I agree with Richard Wade. It’s not bluntness that turns me off. More than anything it’s the clattering ham-fisted pro-wrestling asthetic of his tactics. No wonder they’re best buddies with Cameron and Comfort, they’re cut from the same cloth.

    The RRS gives us atheism-as-Frat-Party, strippers and jello-shots and all. But not even the cool frat, like the Revenge of the Nerds frat. Nope, this is the mean, stupid bullying frat that the nerds had to teach a lesson.

  • http://www.friendlychristian.com Bill Cecchini

    Better watch out or you’ll end up like us Christians: gunning each other down every attempt we’re given (or taken).

    :-)

  • ash

    Richard, get bent…

    w00t!!!yeah!!11!!!11!1!pwned!!1!!

    If anyone wants to disagree, you’ll have a better chance of convincing me if you don’t try his tactics on me.

    do you mean to say you didn’t find the above persuasive? how very odd…

  • Richard Wade

    I’m sorry ash, I don’t understand a single sentence of what you just said, and I would like to.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    Does he offer any actual evidence that his tactics work in acheiving the goal of deconverting theists? I haven’t seen him do anything but reinforce the stereotype about atheists who like to swear and make fun of believers. I’ve never seen anyone deconvert because of that. As a deconvert myself, I only used relatively scholarly materials to investigate my doubts and would have been really turned off by RRS’s tactics if I had encountered them at that time.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Bill, good to see you.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Some people think that there are only two modes in life, aggressive or passive. Modes like assertive, constructive, affirmative or cooperative are never considered by them and are all dismissed as passive. This is a childish bully’s view of the world.

    Thanks for saying this Richard. I actually had exactly the same thought when I first read it, and I’m glad that Hemant pointed out that “passive” is an unfair characterization.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mike,
    There is a flaw in your analogy. A fundamentalist doesn’t have to “come out.” There is stigma to being fundamentalist, but it is not nearly so harmful as the stigma of being an atheist. I don’t think too highly of RRS, though I think what they do is beneficial to society in that they help people be willing to discuss the question openly.

    I didn’t think the issue addressed here was helping atheists “come out”. Sapient seemed pretty clear that his goal was to help theists “overcome religion” – i.e. conversion. That was the basis of my comparison.

    Though I personally haven’t found that aggressive, mocking, in-your-face approaches are all that useful for fostering “open discussion of questions” either.

  • Claire

    Is there any reason that atheists should hope to be the one group on the planet that doesn’t have a fringe element? If nothing else, they give us something to disown.

    There’s a lot of people under the non-theist umbrella, and we are never going to act all alike. It’s the balance that’s important – we need a lot more Hemants than Brians. A couple is plenty.

  • Maria

    Some people think that there are only two modes in life, aggressive or passive. Modes like assertive, constructive, affirmative or cooperative are never considered by them and are all dismissed as passive. This is a childish bully’s view of the world.

    I’m very skeptical about Sapient’s portrayal of his “RRS ’shakeup’” as some kind of tough love slap in the face where the person says, “Thanks, I needed that.” It smells like the arrogance, self-righteousness and immunity from doubt that we see in some of the worst fundies. So we’re playing “good atheist/bad atheist” and together we have a powerful effect in “helping a friend overcome theism?” Yeah right. Before you open up your Religion Recovery Clinic, show me the data. Where is the documentation that your treatment method works at all?

    Maybe I’m misjudging him. Maybe I don’t know enough about him. But so far from his actions I think Sapient would be a bully in any field. Promotion of atheism does not seem to be his primary goal, the indulgence in his aggression is. In business he’d be a ruthless and destructive company eater. In politics he’d be a petty dictator. In religion he’d be exactly like the bigots we face.

    If anyone wants to disagree, you’ll have a better chance of convincing me if you don’t try his tactics on me.

    Richard, you’re right. I’ve been to the website a few times with some friends. That’s a very accurate description. And to say that Hemant is a “passive atheist” is ridiculous. I bet Hemant’s reached more people (i.e. giving them a more positive image of atheists and helping them realize atheists are good, moral people) than RRS has.

  • Karen

    I don’t think being nasty and rude helps anyone’s cause, and frankly I’ve seen it on both sides – atheists have no monopoly on childish, idiotic behavior that only turns people off.

    But people will be people and I have no delusions that my objection will control the behavior of any other atheist. We don’t have anywhere near that kind of congruity in our ranks, nor should we. I had enough to do with conformists for 30 years. ;-) All I can do is say that the poo-poo atheist doesn’t represent me or the atheists that I know and like.

    However, I do think we need “out there” atheists like the folks who seem to be putting up non-religious holiday displays around the country this year, and people like Harris, Dawkins et. al who are debating theists and writing books whose theses are critical of religion.

    They have made a HUGE impact in terms of raising the awareness of atheists in this country in the early years of this new century, and that’s a great thing. For every religious person who’s offended by the very fact that his/her belief system is being openly questioned, there’s a closet agnostic or atheist who is empowered by the realization that they’re not alone.

  • http://thewayward1.blogspot.com/ Brett

    Hemant, I agree withyour analysis. I’ve said as much in one of my posts. We are all going to have different ideas and approaches to our varying goals.

  • http://blueshifted.org Andy

    Siamang wins the thread with

    The RRS gives us atheism-as-Frat-Party, strippers and jello-shots and all.

    Right–it’s more the flavor than the angle that’s unpalatable. Open, frank, and uncompromising criticism of religion is a Good Thing, but if I had a nickel for every time they bring liquor or boobs into it…

  • Richard Wade

    Karen, you said:

    But people will be people and I have no delusions that my objection will control the behavior of any other atheist.

    It’s not about control, it’s about influence. I used to be vicious, carnivorous and rabid when I first started commenting on other sites about religion. I delighted in eviscerating people with ridicule. Then I noticed a person responding to incessant abuse from others with patience, equanimity, respect and integrity. She was a Muslim woman. You can imagine the relentless pummeling she faced, but never once did she react with aggression nor was she ever passive, submissive or obsequious. I stopped right in my tracks. It didn’t matter whether she was “convincing” anybody of anything. Her method was honorable and admirable, and most of all it was true to her principles and that was more important than her effectiveness. It certainly had an effect on me, and I ceased my wicked ways. She didn’t win me over to her religion but to her way of interacting. Fortunately I had never attacked her or I would have had a lot of guilt to work out. We became friends for a while and now she has moved on.

    In talking about our tactics I’m saying there are two reasons to clean up our act. One is that the bloody nose method simply does not work. The other is that it does not help us as individuals to mature and grow beyond our present level of emotional development. Both are important.

    Karen, I agree with you that conformity or homogeneity is not possible in our ranks as non-believers and it is not necessarily desirable. We will find myriad ways to express ourselves, some with good outcomes some with bad. Our dialogue among ourselves and our ability to influence each other can enrich our general ability to make things better in the rest of the world, and make things better in our inner world. Or we can make both realms worse. Both inner and outer tend to correlate. If a person’s habitual way of interacting with others is keeping him at a negative, self-centered level, it’s likely that he’s having the same kind of influence on people and situations around him. Conversely the outside effect indicates what is happening inside as well.

  • Karen

    Karen, I agree with you that conformity or homogeneity is not possible in our ranks as non-believers and it is not necessarily desirable. We will find myriad ways to express ourselves, some with good outcomes some with bad. Our dialogue among ourselves and our ability to influence each other can enrich our general ability to make things better in the rest of the world, and make things better in our inner world. Or we can make both realms worse. Both inner and outer tend to correlate. If a person’s habitual way of interacting with others is keeping him at a negative, self-centered level, it’s likely that he’s having the same kind of influence on people and situations around him. Conversely the outside effect indicates what is happening inside as well.

    Yes, absolutely. I agree that we can and should influence for the good, even as we acknowledge and perhaps applaud the fact that we do not “control” anyone else.

    My feeling has always been that setting a good example – as you so admirably and consistently do – is by far the best way to influence others. There are times when outright condemnation is necessary, such as the poo-poo example which I think all/most of us regulars here denounced immediately and forthrightly.

    Other situations, where people are simply being childish or whatever, tend to provoke a “meh, so what? they’ll grow up eventually” reaction from me. Maybe this comes from 30 years of being told what to do, and what not to do, and being in a place where conformity was an extremely high priority. I have no desire to get back to that situation, as you can probably imagine.

  • http://www.friendlychristian.com Bill Cecchini

    @Richard Wade…

    Hey! Good to see you as well, sir. I’ve been enjoying your ‘Friendly’ side. Keep up the good work.

  • TXatheist

    When I first came to this board I definitely wore the title blunt and several people asked me why. I think I’m selectively blunt. If a Christian is cool with me being an atheist I’m not going to argue with them about why they are wrong to believe. I will be honest and I thought Helen and Hemant were passive, heck, I even called them that I think if memory serves me right but what I see is they don’t want to be argumentative if it’s a losing battle whereas I will. If someone says to Helen/Hemant that I’m going to hell or immoral they seem to take the high road but not me, I get right now in the mud with the Christian and start the verbal exchanges. I’ve gotten better?, but in my state I just see so much favoritism for Christianity that I think if I don’t speak out then my view never gets heard and the atheist(heck even secular) position is just run over by christianity. No, I don’t agree with poo-poo guy’s actions though he wrote a great book, Atheist Universe.

    Where do I fit on the line about churches being completely gone? I don’t care if you believe but when you try to influence schools and government to favor Christianity I’m enraged. Example. We just hired a creationist as the Chair for the Texas board of education, Don McLeary. We just had the Director for the Science Texas Teacher’s Association resign, Chris Comer, because she forewarned some people there was going to be an ID lecture coming up by some group. And now the Creation Institute wants Texas to allow biblical creation to be taught at a private online institution where students will earn a masters in science education and be accredited so new teachers can teach this in public and private Texas schools. I guess for me just letting people know about atheism and getting infuriated about this type of stuff is not even a simple matter of indifference. Why am I blunt about this? Because the three recent events are common and it’s bullxxxx.

  • TXatheist

    When I first came to this board I definitely wore the title blunt and several people asked me why. I think I’m selectively blunt. If a Christian is cool with me being an atheist I’m not going to argue with them about why they are wrong to believe. I will be honest and I thought Helen and Hemant were passive, heck, I even called them that I think if memory serves me right but what I see is they don’t want to be argumentative if it’s a losing battle whereas I will. If someone says to Helen/Hemant that I’m going to hell or immoral they seem to take the high road but not me, I get right now in the mud with the Christian and start the verbal exchanges. I’ve gotten better?, but in my state I just see so much favoritism for Christianity that I think if I don’t speak out then my view never gets heard and the atheist(heck even secular) position is just run over by christianity. No, I don’t agree with poo-poo guy’s actions though he wrote a great book, Atheist Universe.

  • TXatheist

    Sorry Hemant, got a funky message the first time so I thought it was rejected.

  • Scott

    I should mention that some of the goals are different, too. Some atheists want to see a world without religion. Other atheists care more about being an accepted, respected view among others; If religion’s still around, that’s not the biggest problem. The latter group wants to see separation of church and state. The former group doesn’t want to see churches at all.

    Interesting, just change a couple words and you have a description of a moderate theist vs a fundie.

    In my opinion the whole thing is silly anyway. I have no desire to persuade any theist to become an atheist. That kind of behaviour is what makes me dislike religion as much as I do. I want nothing to do with any atheist group that has that as their stated goal. The RSS appears to be such a group.

  • Claire

    Maybe we should be less worried about the ‘wrong’ messages getting out and more worried about getting the right messages to the right audience.

    Telling fundamentalists “come on in, the water’s fine” , telling politicians “bugger off”, and telling closeted non-theists “we believe in separation of church and state, and we vote” is really a waste of time. They are all fine messages, but all useless to the wrong ears.

  • ash

    Richard Wade said,

    December 20, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I’m sorry ash, I don’t understand a single sentence of what you just said, and I would like to.

    once again my sense of humour misses its target and falls straight in the gutter…oh the shame…

    (btw, in case you were serious, parody of the high-brow, giant intellectualism of some of the RSS tactics. ‘get bent’ = marvellous english slang equivalent to ‘get lost/get stuffed’. works exceptionally well with ‘fuckwit’ added on the end if you want to be specially obnoxious.)

  • Richard Wade

    ash, thanks for your, uh, explanation. So you were giving a parody of how RRS would come back at me with a devastating answer like “get bent,” and then crow in triumph that I had been “pwned”………right? Oh I’m never going to keep up with these whippersnappers and their lingo from the internets. I just recently learned what “meh” means.

    Meh.

    Well I’m glad that so far I haven’t been assaulted by such a withering blast of relentless rapid-fire rational retort from the ravaging ruthless raptors of the Squad. I mean what could I possibly say in my defense after “get bent” especially if they put “fuckwit” on top of it like my gravestone? I must run and hide.

    The name “Squad” is kind of telling. Like some kind of paramilitary misfit hero gang blasting through fortifications with their think-tank. The Atheist A-team. Uh huh. Where can I get the action figure?

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    Mr. “Sapient” has since gone on about “appeaser atheists” in a comment he left to this post. I’m not exactly sure what he means by this or whether he considers you to be one.

  • Karen

    TX:

    We just hired a creationist as the Chair for the Texas board of education, Don McLeary. We just had the Director for the Science Texas Teacher’s Association resign, Chris Comer, because she forewarned some people there was going to be an ID lecture coming up by some group. And now the Creation Institute wants Texas to allow biblical creation to be taught at a private online institution where students will earn a masters in science education and be accredited so new teachers can teach this in public and private Texas schools.

    I’ve been following this and I’m pretty outraged too, Tx. Then there was this story in the LA Times about an Orange County history teacher who’s being sued for making negative remarks about Christianity during his lectures. Because, you know, no one’s allowed to criticize Christianity! Here’s what a local pastor said:

    “I’m tired of being criticized and ostracized for being a Christian. I’m glad Chad filed his suit. It’s time we Christians fought back,” Drake said.

    Sigh …

  • Karen

    Mr. “Sapient” has since gone on about “appeaser atheists” in a comment he left to this post.

    I heard him talk about “chicken-shit atheists” in a podcast I recently listened to. Nice.

  • Jen

    When I think of many of RRS’s tactics, I think of this quote:

    ” I know many mere apostates, people who are for this or that reason very mad at religion and want to destroy it. Ironically, they retain many of the disadvantages of being a religious zealot. They are still burdened by an urge to save the world. They still divide the human race into the good guys and the bad guys, only they have just switched from whom they put in which group. They still mark themselves out from their fellow men and women by means of bumper stickers, buttons, and T-shirts. I hope they are having fun. But the meaning of their lives seems to me parasitic upon that which they reject. If all religion were to vanish tomorrow, what would they do? If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?-Robert M. Price, p. 18, The Reason Driven Life

  • The Unbrainwashed

    I first came across the RRS when I heard about the Blasphemy Challenge, which I loved. Then after listening to Sapient and his cohorts, I realized they’re the punk kids in high school who use cursing and fake bravado to get attention. They’re simply a disgrace to the atheist community, a community based on reason, science, and intellectual acuity. Dawkins and Sapient might have similar aggression but that’s their only commensurate quality.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    We’re still at a point when the “leaders” in both camps are on speaking terms and can work together. In the religious world, the two sides don’t ever seem to interact. (Can you envision Jim Wallis working alongside James Dobson on a frequent basis?)

    I know you want Wallis and Dobson to be the same, but they’re not and that’s why they don’t work together. Wallis has some fundamental problems with Dobson’s theology as well as his methodology and his attitude towards human beings. He makes the division for reasons of ~integrity of character.~

    There’s something you can learn from him in that. I think Karen said it well, except I would phrase it that Christians don’t have a monopoly on childishness. In taking the position of a fellow traveler of a pack of boors, you become like those prison guards who won’t beat prisoners up themselves but will happily let others do it for them.

    Passive atheist, my ass. If you don’t like the tactics, you should be fighting them. If you reap their fruits, you are one with them.

  • Mriana

    When he says we need “passive atheists,” what he means is that we need atheists who don’t piss off religious people.

    That probably wouldn’t be me. I’ve ticked off my fair share of theists.

    I think what they do detracts from and undermines what I’m trying to do – because our ultimate goals are so very different.

    I think it works that way on both sides. I think UnRRS alianates both non-theists and theists, thus what they do backfires and doesn’t help anything. It gives non-theists a bad name too, IMO.

    Granted, my approach with civil religious people (mostly liberals and progressives) is much different than those who are not civil, but imposing instead (fundies).

    Religionists and atheist appeasers around here and elsewhere that demand that we all give religion special status.

    AJ, I don’t give religion any special status. I see no reason for it.

    Richard Wade said,

    December 20, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Some people think that there are only two modes in life, aggressive or passive. Modes like assertive, constructive, affirmative or cooperative are never considered by them and are all dismissed as passive. This is a childish bully’s view of the world.

    I agree and it seems to me that the UnRRS are bullies and I’m a non-theists. Most of the time, they don’t have a clue what they are talking about and call themselves experts- yet they don’t have a degree or credentials in the area they are professing expertices.

    It smells like the arrogance, self-righteousness and immunity from doubt that we see in some of the worst fundies.

    Oh yes and I said something similar to Rook once.

    In religion he’d be exactly like the bigots we face.

    Amen, brother! I made reference similar to that to Rook about that too.

    The best approach, as he sees it, is just to power-wash the damned stuff right off.

    Zachary, you cannot put a square peg in a round hole. It just does not work. It’s better to take a page out of Robert Price’s book and say, “Let’s sit down and reason together.”

    Secular Planet said,

    December 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Does he offer any actual evidence that his tactics work in acheiving the goal of deconverting theists? I haven’t seen him do anything but reinforce the stereotype about atheists who like to swear and make fun of believers. I’ve never seen anyone deconvert because of that. As a deconvert myself, I only used relatively scholarly materials to investigate my doubts and would have been really turned off by RRS’s tactics if I had encountered them at that time.

    Same here. Scholarly, REAL scholarly materials, not the ones Rook uses and probably not the ones Brian uses either.

    Jen said,

    December 20, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    When I think of many of RRS’s tactics, I think of this quote:

    ” I know many mere apostates, people who are for this or that reason very mad at religion and want to destroy it. Ironically, they retain many of the disadvantages of being a religious zealot. They are still burdened by an urge to save the world. They still divide the human race into the good guys and the bad guys, only they have just switched from whom they put in which group. They still mark themselves out from their fellow men and women by means of bumper stickers, buttons, and T-shirts. I hope they are having fun. But the meaning of their lives seems to me parasitic upon that which they reject. If all religion were to vanish tomorrow, what would they do? If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?-Robert M. Price, p. 18, The Reason Driven Life

    YES! And just as I say about religious zealots, “IF that’s Christianity, I want no part of it!” Just change one word for atheist zealots, “IF that is atheism, I want no part of it!” I’m sorry, but I prefer Bob’s methods far better as a non-theist. I admire Bob, but I do not admire the UnRRS. They make me feel ashamed that I am a non-theist, just as the Religious Reich made me feel ashamed to be a theist. Bob’s approach is more tolerable, tactful, and tasteful. I’m not perfect, nor have I reached his quality of tactics, but I hope to one day achieve his finesse.

    The Unbrainwashed said,

    December 20, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    I first came across the RRS when I heard about the Blasphemy Challenge, which I loved. Then after listening to Sapient and his cohorts, I realized they’re the punk kids in high school who use cursing and fake bravado to get attention. They’re simply a disgrace to the atheist community, a community based on reason, science, and intellectual acuity.

    They certainly are, thus why I refer to them as the UnRRS. I see no rationality in their tactics and they certainly don’t educate anyone about anything- esp not religion. Their egos are far too big and one day they will take a fall. Hopefully they don’t hit the ground too hard.

  • Darryl

    The world takes all kinds, and it seems to work somehow. There is no right and wrong way to do it.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?

    That’s a great question! I’d love to hear more discussion on it sometime. Maybe I should post it as a “Question for Atheists”.

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=gUgF_zq5Vpo Tao Jones

    My problem with the RRS is that their tactics don’t sync with what appears to be their goals.

    The Blasphemy Challenge was completely ridiculous. See my response ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=gUgF_zq5Vpo ) for my thoughts on it.

    If anyone wants to advocate atheism, they must take a strategic approach to it. This means understanding the situation, identifying reasonable goals and objectives, devising tactics to achieve those goals and finally executing the tactics.

    Hate to say it, but most atheists (and atheist authors) fail at the very first step. They don’t understand the power of the IDEA of religion and they underestimate how all-encompassing theology can really be. They will never be able to identify the proper goals and ultimately the appropriate tactics. Dawkins’ high brow intellectualism probably doesn’t help much more than Sapient’s wedgies.

    When I think of the RRS and other “angry atheists,” I’m reminded of the stages of grief.

    * 1. Denial and Isolation. (The Agnostic stage.. “I’m not sure what I believe”)
    * 2. Anger. (The Sapient stage.. “I’m superior to you because I don’t believe in God”)
    * 3. Bargaining. (The Exploration stage (reading atheist literature) “Maybe we can all get along” )
    * 4. Depression. ( “I still have some holes in my world view.”)
    * 5. Acceptance. ( “I’m confident in my world view and I’m not threatened by your world view” )

    Maybe steps 3 and 4 should be switched but I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

    (Sorry if this is a repost, I got an error)

  • Mriana

    Um… Mike, I wonder if you should read Bob’s book “The Reason Driven Life” first. That book is a response to the author of “The Purpose Driven Life”. Bob is a professed atheist and a Humanist who attends the Episcopal Church. Spong commented on the book jacket of his book:

    In his own inimitable style, Robert Price in this volume challenges Rick Warren’s best selling book: A Purpose-Driven Life. With the rapier’s sword of Price’s insight wrapped in a devastating sense of humor, he leaves not just Warren but all similar fundamentalistic religious leaders bleeding and exposed for what they are: anxiety-driven, survival-seeking, power-hungry people masquerading under the banner of piety or hiding behind the sounds of the sacred.”~ John Shelby Spong

    Don Cupitt said:

    The wittiest, most thorough, and most devastating critique of the religion of the Evangelicals that I have ever read. It left me wondering how the religion of great Protestant heroes of faith like Luther and Bunyan can have turned into the inane religion of Ned Flander, Homer Simpson’s neighbor. ~ Don Cupitt

    I’m not saying it’s not a good question, but there was a reason for the question. I do not purpose that I am free of anything, except maybe dogmatism. Thing is, I know why I hold the beliefs I do and I claim them as my own, even with all the influence I have had. Mind you, though, everything I have learned is from Episcopalians/Anglicans like Spong, Price, and Cupitt. They never once told me what to believe though. I came to those conclusion myself after studying all the information they offered me in regards to my questions. However, there is more than one reason as to why I describe myself as a non-theist though, but I am more than that, thus why I a say I am a Humanist. Non-theism is my belief, but Humanism is my philosophy, my way of life.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    MikeClawson asked:

    If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?

    I’m very interested to know the answer to this question also. As my definition of religion is a little broader than how most people view religion, I have been finding that many atheists adhere to religious thought also without actually calling it that.

    If you’re strictly following a moral code and obsessed over dong the “right thing” all the time, isn’t that also following religion?

    And as far as trying to influence people and change their views… I’m beginning to think it’s a hopeless fight. No one will change unless they want to change. As long as the person is set in his/her beliefs, they probably will not be shaken. If the desire to change is not there, neither in-your-face approach nor a passive approach will not do one bit of good on either side. I think the biggest misconception on the fundies’ part on both sides is the belief that they can change someone else’s beliefs.

    That’s what evangelism is all about. The religion tries to make people believe that we are in control of other people. I no longer buy the idea that I can go out and “convince” anyone into anything. Sure, we can go through the motions and play the big game of pretend, because, after all, we all want to be loved; but the changing of the heart has to start from within.

  • Claire

    Tao Jones said:

    Hate to say it, but most atheists (and atheist authors) fail at the very first step. They don’t understand the power of the IDEA of religion and they underestimate how all-encompassing theology can really be. They will never be able to identify the proper goals and ultimately the appropriate tactics.

    I wonder how much of a difference there is between atheists who get there after having been religious and those who have never believed – or rather, how profound and exactly what the differences are. Has anyone ever seen anything about this, any thoughtful article or survey?

    I do know that I don’t get it at all. I understand the emotional appeal, sure, but it has always seemed intellectually bogus. I admit it – I can’t even begin to understand the very religious and how they think.

    Fortunately, there are many here who do understand, who have been there and can explain it to the rest of us.

  • Pingback: Pax Nortona - A Blog by Joel Sax » Wise Divides, Foolish Unities

  • Mriana

    When I think of the RRS and other “angry atheists,” I’m reminded of the stages of grief.

    * 1. Denial and Isolation. (The Agnostic stage.. “I’m not sure what I believe”)
    * 2. Anger. (The Sapient stage.. “I’m superior to you because I don’t believe in God”)
    * 3. Bargaining. (The Exploration stage (reading atheist literature) “Maybe we can all get along” )
    * 4. Depression. ( “I still have some holes in my world view.”)
    * 5. Acceptance. ( “I’m confident in my world view and I’m not threatened by your world view” )

    I can whole-heartedly agree with you, Tao, except for one thing… I think I skipped the anger part.

    Yes, I know, but I’ve always had issues about people telling me what the Bible says and alike- ever since I could read it for myself. See, I was told this and that growing up, but when I was able to read it, it did not say that and when anyone didn’t tell the way it is, it bugged the hell out me- still does. So that is nothing new.

    Now I did have some sadness when I came to the conclusion that god didn’t exist or least not the god of religion. In that respect I would say I’m a Gnostic non-theist. Here: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/websermons/agnosticgnostic.htm This is one of Bob Price’s articles. Maybe that will clarify just a little. I’m still seeking answers to the questions I have acquired after my originals questions have been answered. It’s not that I’m not sure what I believe because I know the god of religion doesn’t exist, but maybe there is something about the human condition that points us to that idea or maybe there is something about us that our still growing minds assume is a deity or something- if that makes any sense at all. However, I will not profoundly say there is absolutely no god at all. It’s just not what we think it is. Sounds like a double-think, but it leaves room for new information.

    I know what I believe, but I do not know what it is actually called. I can’t say I am an agnostic, for I don’t believe in the god of religion, but I can’t say I’m a card toting atheist either. I’m definitely a Humanist though, because my worldview does fit that description.

    So, I either skipped #2 or I went through it all in a different order or did some at the same time or I did not realize when I went through them what I was experiencing.

  • Richard Wade

    If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?

    Well, the first thing that comes to mind is I’m free for brunch every Sunday morning. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Um… Mike, I wonder if you should read Bob’s book “The Reason Driven Life” first.

    Yeah… honestly, I don’t have time to read one more book right now, but I’d love to read what people here have to say about the question. I’m always interested in hearing more about the positive side of atheism, what they’re for, not just what they’re against.

    Also, just speaking honestly, the extreme snarkiness of that endorsement by Spong made me actually less inclined to want to read Bob Price’s book. He went way beyond simply disagreeing with Warren’s beliefs to outright character assassination in only two sentences.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Well, the first thing that comes to mind is I’m free for brunch every Sunday morning. :)

    Excellent point! Some of my favorite memories as a kid were the times we skipped church and went out for Sunday brunch at the restaurant my dad managed. Of course, I think the rarity of it lent to the excitement. I suppose even brunch would get old after a while if you did it every Sunday. :)

  • http://youtube.com/watch?v=gUgF_zq5Vpo Tao Jones

    Claire said:

    I wonder how much of a difference there is between atheists who get there after having been religious and those who have never believed – or rather, how profound and exactly what the differences are. Has anyone ever seen anything about this, any thoughtful article or survey?

    In my limited experience, I’ve found that converts tend to be the most “enthusiastic,” for better or for worse. It is a pretty drastic change to go from believer to non believer. For a child brought up with religion, the three most trusted adults in my life were my parents, teachers and priests… and.. they all lied to me. ;-) That alone can’t not have an effect.

    Too many people trivialize various aspects of religion dismissing it as irrational, quaint, and all about power and control. It isn’t that people who think this way are necessarily wrong, but that they need to dig deeper. Religion has worked (prospered even) for thousands of years, there have to be tangible benefits for a society to have religious beliefs as natural selection seems to have favoured such societies. We have to be able to understand why if we are to be advocates of atheism, because our approach has to work better than the entrenched theist approach. It has to work better at the level of the society and of the individual, as such, I believe, there has to be an emotional component as well. Historical figures like Bertrand Russel, Voltaire and many others tried the logical approach that we’re seeing variations of today — IPU and FSM.

    What no one has been able to come up with (yet) is a systemic approach with the breadth and depth that matches the full power of religion. Actually I think Daniel Quinn (“Ishmael”, “The Story of B”, “Beyond Civilization”) has come the closest to this lofty goal of anyone I’ve ever read.

    Has anyone here actually read any Quinn? He’s not the typical atheist writer, considering he considers himself an Animist and writes mostly fiction, but the concepts and theoretical background should appeal to most atheists.

  • Tao Jones

    Mriana,

    I was tempted to suggest you’re in the Bargaining stage (“Ok, I don’t believe in this, exactly, but maybe if I believe in something else…”) but I respect you far too much to really believe that. :-)

    I’m sure we can all relate to some of the stages, but Sapient and others like him just scream Anger Stage to me.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Darryl: “There is no right and wrong way to do it.”

    Just because it helps to have multiple approaches doesn’t mean there aren’t wrong ones. One additional catch is that there are approaches that are partially right, and the credit for the success of these partially right approach can go to the part of the approach that is wrong.

    Take Dawkins (please). On the one hand, the assertiveness is refreshing, and at times his criticism is actually lucid. On the other hand, for example, he coins the word “faith-head.” Not only is this mean, but it doesn’t even have the benefit of a derogatory term that says something even halfway concrete about someone, like “wingnut” or “Bliar.” Rather, it ends up a shorthand way of conveying religious stereotypes, much in the way that “towelhead” ends up a shorthand way of conveying stereotypes about Arabs. It is useful for ridicule and abuse, but to the extent that the term has any descriptive content, the description is a caricature. It is intellectual dirty pool. Trouble is, there are those that confuse the assertiveness with the aggressive dirty pool.

  • AJ

    Hemant and others overreacted and misinterpretated Brian and Kelly on an earlier post, and many of you have shown extraodinary contempt for them. I don’t think it’s anything to do with their “aggressiveness”, the complaints can usually be reduced to, you don’t like their personalities and the youth/internet culture they express. They say things that shouldn’t be taken seriously, shouldn’t be interpreted literally, and break taboos that their culture doesn’t have.

    I was never a member of a religion, never (to my memory) believed in supernatural entities. It’s just a part of society and culture that never shaped me. I don’t feel betrayed that I was “taught” certain things that turned out to be unjustified or illogical, the people responsible thought they were true, I wasn’t manipulated. I am perhaps disappointed that I had wasted a lot of time thinking that they were true. I imagine that former religious people think the same way about religion.

  • http://www.rationalresponders.com Brian Sapient
  • Mriana

    Also, just speaking honestly, the extreme snarkiness of that endorsement by Spong made me actually less inclined to want to read Bob Price’s book. He went way beyond simply disagreeing with Warren’s beliefs to outright character assassination in only two sentences.

    Well, MikeC, that is Bishop Spong. He can be as bad, if not worse than I am when it comes to fanatics. Bob Price isn’t as strong in wording as that though.

    Tao Jones said,

    December 21, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Mriana,

    I was tempted to suggest you’re in the Bargaining stage (”Ok, I don’t believe in this, exactly, but maybe if I believe in something else…”) but I respect you far too much to really believe that.

    I’m sure we can all relate to some of the stages, but Sapient and others like him just scream Anger Stage to me.

    Thanks, I think. :lol: We could be in all of them at any given moment and I would not begin to surmise which one I’m in either. Who knows, but yes, I sometimes even think Sapient et al are stuck in the anger stage. I’m not sure what there is to be angry about. Like you said in your video, religion isn’t going to go away, but it might not hurt us to study it so that we know what we are talking about when we say we don’t agree with it. From your video, it’s obvious that you have done your own fair share. I’m not so certain the UnRRS has and sometimes they sound an awful lot like Fundies. That sort of anger doesn’t jive and it’s not condusive to anything, except a big turn off.

    AJ said,

    December 21, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Hemant and others overreacted and misinterpretated Brian and Kelly on an earlier post, and many of you have shown extraodinary contempt for them. I don’t think it’s anything to do with their “aggressiveness”, the complaints can usually be reduced to, you don’t like their personalities and the youth/internet culture they express.

    No. It’s not their personalities. It is indeed their behaviour I do not like. I’m sure they can be very fine young people, but their behaviour has little to be desired and is indeed a big turn off to me.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    you don’t like their personalities and the youth/internet culture they express.

    Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.

  • AJ

    MikeClawson,

    Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.

    So what’s your excuse?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So what’s your excuse?

    Deeply ingrained character flaws.

  • http://www.rationalresponders.com Brian Sapient

    “Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.”

    You’re right. But fighting against the most dangerous and violent conspiracy to ever grace our planet that would destroy all of civilization or at least revert us back to dark age thinking is worthy of being an asshole if that’s what it takes to get attention.

    Keep hating on us Mike, we’ll keep saving the world for you anyway.

  • Mriana

    MikeClawson said,

    December 21, 2007 at 11:23 am

    you don’t like their personalities and the youth/internet culture they express.

    Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.

    :lol: You got that right.

    AJ said,

    December 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    MikeClawson,

    Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.

    So what’s your excuse?

    AJ, I don’t think Mike acts like an asshole at all. There is a big difference in his behaviour and the UnRRS’s.

  • monkeymind

    I guess I would put more store by the RRS’s claim to rationality if they hadn’t bought into the dominant “meme” that aggression and punitive measures are the only way to achieve desirable social outcomes. Unfortunately, this is the post-Reagan, post-Thatcher “war on ______” generation.
    Is there any evidence at all that feeling “shaken up” – i.e. under attack – helps people to think more rationally or be open to new ideas? Everything I have ever learned about psychology and pedagogy points to the opposite conclusion.

  • Mriana

    Brian Sapient said,

    December 21, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    “Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.”

    You’re right. But fighting against the most dangerous and violent conspiracy to ever grace our planet that would destroy all of civilization or at least revert us back to dark age thinking is worthy of being an asshole if that’s what it takes to get attention.

    Brian, I’m a non-theist- a Humanist to be exact, however, I know not all Christians are dangerous and violent nor do they want to destroy civilization or send us back to the Darkages. I seriously feel you are lumping and stereotyping people in one group. This is not possible. You might as well say all Black men are violent and dangerous. This is not true either, for I know this from experience and have also raised two sons who are both 1/2 Black.

    From what I can see, there is a strong prejudice among the RRS people. It doesn’t matter what group you put in place of religion/religious, it still comes out very much the same. IMHO, the RRS is perpetuating hatred, prejudice, bigotry, and alike. There is no excuse for it because not everyone, regardless of the label is the same.

    I favour Robert Price’s form of atheism than yours. If my only two choices were your form of atheism or the Religious Reich’s form of Christianity- I’d choose neither. I want nothing to do with either. I far much perfer Robert Price’s atheism and John Shelby Spong’s form of Xianity that your form of atheism and the Religious Reich’s brand of Xianity.

    I can tell you right now, Bishop Spong nor MikeC wish to do you any harm. IF anything, from what I can see, you’d rather do them harm, which is distasteful and hateful. Nor does my older son, who is 18 and a Buddhist wish to do you any harm either. I admire atheists like Robert Price and Hemant, but I do not admire the behaviours of the young people like those in the RRS display.

    As a Humanist, I choose to get along with peaceful people- even Christians like Spong and MikeC or even Buddhists like my son. This does not make me a Chicken-shit atheist either. I will call anyone- atheist and theist alike on their behaviours without one bit of fear. IMHO, your behaviour is wrong and there is a lot of maturity needed to be acheived when such behaviours are displayed. I have more respect for people like Spong, MikeC, and even Bob Price, then I do young people with an attitude. You catch more bees with honey, dear.

    I do not hate anyone in the RRS, but I do not appreciate the behaviour because it gives atheism a bad name. Here I stand.

  • monkeymind

    Take Dawkins (please). On the one hand, the assertiveness is refreshing, and at times his criticism is actually lucid. On the other hand, for example, he coins the word “faith-head.”

    Is this true? I thought it was someone else.

  • AJ

    Mriana,

    AJ, I don’t think Mike acts like an asshole at all. There is a big difference in his behaviour and the UnRRS’s.

    I actually look down upon dishonesty and manipulation, I find that to be much more like an “asshole” than anything else. I know you have no trouble with that.

  • Mriana

    AJ said,

    December 21, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Mriana,

    AJ, I don’t think Mike acts like an asshole at all. There is a big difference in his behaviour and the UnRRS’s.

    I actually look down upon dishonesty and manipulation, I find that to be much more like an “asshole” than anything else. I know you have no trouble with that.

    OK I’ll bite- How has MikeC been dishonest and manipulative?

    Personally, I don’t think you can name one instance in which he has been either or both, much less show us how he has. IF you can tell us and show us, then by all means do throw the first stone, BUT I would take a good look at yourself before you throw it.

  • monkeymind

    The other thing I want to express is that all the heat generated by the RRS is exactly the opposite of the kind of sustained, assertive, savvy and courageous campaign needed to oppose the religious right politically. They use the wrong means, and in so far as they concentrate on simply proving that religious claims are false and stupid, they also have an objective that is politically meaningless.

    All the arguments against the existence of god and for the falsity of religious claims are of no use in the political arena. Because in our current political system, decisions about the truth and falsity of religious claims are not decided legislatively or judicially.

  • AJ

    Brian gives a good read on Mike’s first paragraph in his first comment in this thread:

    This is the meme that I talked about in my post which Hemant referred to. Of course theists are going to object to groups that are highly effective at ending religion! And like the delusional fantasy beliefs of invisible men in the sky they are not above lying to themselves and to you about their feelings. In this case the theist tells us that RRS is undermining what Hemant is trying to do even though Hemant and I agree this is untrue. Even though Hemant and I have a collective 15 years of experience running, promoting, and assisting atheist organizations. Even though Hemant and I understand the dichotomy of religious dialogue from exceptional amounts of experience, there are still people who think we will be convinced by arguments such as the above with absolutely no evidence.(see how MikeClawson provided none)

    Ironically some atheists will buy into this, and become theistic pawns. Like they were when they were still religious, only now they’re atheist pawns for theism. It’s highly ironic (coming up) when they buy into the dishonest meme with no evidence and ask me for evidence of mine. My case would be that our actions lead to people abandoning religion, a simple search through our website would prove so.

    Who Does Antony Flew Belong To?

    Deliberately misrepresenting the complaints of Atheists, by representing them as accusing “a brilliant thinker of senility simply for changing his mind”, when changing his mind includes having his name on a book with arguments he neither understands or knew anything about, and that’s only the start.

    Brian McLaren on Christianity as a Global Threat,

    Disingenuous appeals to pragmaticism, as if a neutral uninterested party, but is clearly subterfuge. Mriana, I thought you would have remembered, since you quoted some of my comments that highlight this. The arguments for this “pragmaticism” spit in the face of reason, but they’re designed to appeal to pessimism and appeasement.

  • Vincent

    What am I free for?

    I’m free to focus my attention on building my family relations, to think about the world I live in instead of filling my mind with supplicant thoughts that go unheard and unheeded, to work to protect the freedoms of citizens to control their own bodies. It goes on and on.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    fighting against the most dangerous and violent conspiracy to ever grace our planet that would destroy all of civilization or at least revert us back to dark age thinking is worthy of being an asshole if that’s what it takes to get attention.

    Keep hating on us Mike, we’ll keep saving the world for you anyway.

    My, how melodramatic! Shall I just call you Hiro Nakamura?

    (As an aside, are atheists allowed to have “Messiah” complexes? ;) )

  • monkeymind

    AJ, I get such a kick out of you! You accuse Mike C. of:

    Disingenuous appeals to pragmaticism, as if a neutral uninterested party, but is clearly subterfuge.

    Here’s how Mike begins the article where you accuse him of pretending to be a neutral party:

    Pastor Mike here again:

    Many of you may already know that I consider myself part of the “emerging church” – a movement within Christianity that is fed up with many of the same problems that you all have often pointed out regarding religion, and that wants to re-imagine “a new kind of Christianity”.

    Seems like he’s being pretty up-front about where he’s coming from. You may disagree with his premises and conclusions – but to accuse him of subterfuge – get real.

  • Mriana

    monkeymind said,

    December 21, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    The other thing I want to express is that all the heat generated by the RRS is exactly the opposite of the kind of sustained, assertive, savvy and courageous campaign needed to oppose the religious right politically.

    I agree, monkeymind.

    Mriana, I thought you would have remembered, since you quoted some of my comments that highlight this.

    RJ, this does not mean I have to agree with such tactics- regardless if I did agree with you or not. I refuse to start hating my friends and family because they are religious. I refuse to fall for such paranoia- because my mother happens to be an Evangelical Fundie and I would never dream of treating her in such a manner- even IF she is delusional.

    My mother, would never in her life do me bodily harm. When such talk as Brian’s BS goes on, I have five words, “You’re talking about my mama!” If anyone would treat a 62 y.o. woman in such a manner, they are being abusive. Not even Dawkins would disabuse a woman of that age or older of her beliefs nor would he have done so to my 94 y.o. grandmother. Such behaviour is just plain wrong and it is also delusional. I see no reason to be so militant either- not to my own Evangelical mother, not to MikeC, or even someone like Spong.

    I have no respect for any adult child who would dare think about talking to their mama in such a way- even if their mama is extremely religious. That is just plain abusive. I happen to love my mother, even if she is delusionally religious, but beating it out of her is not going to work and if anyone approached her with the tactics the RRS uses, I’d tell them to back off.

    This by Brian:

    Ironically some atheists will buy into this, and become theistic pawns. Like they were when they were still religious, only now they’re atheist pawns for theism.

    Is pure delusional bullshit. IMHO it is just as delusional as the right-wing religious extremists. Their behaviour REEKS of extremism as a matter of fact.

    My case would be that our actions lead to people abandoning religion, a simple search through our website would prove so.

    Or drive them further into insanity. You just can’t yank the security blanket away from some people without facing a psychological breakdown. It just does not work.

    However, RJ, this does not answer my question as to how and when MikeC has ever been dishonest or manipulative. You’re going to have to do better than that and specify when and where he was dishonest and manipulative.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    AJ, if you are going to accuse MikeClawson of deliberately misrepresenting the concerns of atheists on the matter of Antony Flew, you should provide evidence that mere oversight is inadequate to explain his error. And as monkeymind, pointed out, your claim that Mike was trying present himself as a neutral party is utterly laughable.

    This is your brain. This is your brain on the RRS mindset. Any questions?

    I do have a bone to pick with Mike though …

    My, how melodramatic! Shall I just call you Hiro Nakamura?

    Hrrumph! That’s an insult to Hiro, and I like the guy. :)

  • Maria

    AJ said,

    December 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    MikeClawson,

    Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.

    So what’s your excuse?

    what’s YOURS AJ? The only reason you don’t like Mike is b/c he’s a Christian. Yeah, that’s rational.

    Keep hating on us Mike, we’ll keep saving the world for you anyway.

    So now, anyone who disagrees with you is a hater? Guess that makes you a major hater then, by that criteria, as you make it a point to disagree with so many people.

    What’s with the “saving the world” complex? How exactly are you saving it by putting up rants whenever someone disagrees with you? The only thing you are saving is your pride, by putting up rants whenever someone criticizes you. Your response on your site proves that you just can’t tolerate any criticism of any kind. Your immaturity shows real well by saying things like “fuck you Richard Wade”. You come across as the “intellectual” you must be when you do that. I suppose next you’re going to tell people like Richard Wade they’re not “atheist enough” like you did that one guy who challenged David Mills’s “poo poo video” and was an atheist. But then again, they’re just “pawns” so they don’t know better anyway? Only the great Brian Sapient can decide who is a “proper atheist”, and who is smart enough.

    How about YOU keep on hating, and stirring up all the negative stereotypes, and the rest of us will try to do something positive.

    I’d bet big money that RRS has led more people away from religion than any other atheist org in the US in the last two years.

    considering around here most people I’ve talked to have never even heard of you, I doubt it.

  • Siamang

    Whoo hoo!!!!

    *siamang pops some popcorn*

  • AJ

    monkeymind, I see you still have reading problems:

    MikeClawson,

    … that the best remedy for bad faith is not no faith but good faith. I offer this not as an argument for or against the truth of religion in general, but simply as a pragmatic reality.

    So if we really are concerned about making this world a better place, and putting an end to all the evils and injustices caused by religion (a goal which Brian and I both share with many atheist friends) then we must seek to transform the world’s religions into forces for good….

    …almost every emerging faith community I know of is extremely active in works of compassion, justice, and peacemaking.

    Most emerging folk I know would rather convert people to a way of life that includes practices of justice, compassion and love than to a religion

    Perhaps you won’t believe me, but my own religious beliefs have everything to do with those sorts of things. Part of the point Brian [McLaren] was making (and fleshes out in far greater detail in his book) is that being loving, thoughtful, and good citizens of the planet is precisely what the Christian religion is and ought to be about.

    So yes, in that regard I am saying we should “quit”, if only so that we can then spend our collaborative energy on more significant matters.

    Why bring religion into it? Well, because, like it or not, religion is a motivating factor for many, many people. So if you want to motivate them to do all those good things, it makes sense to appeal to them by way of their core values and convictions. You will get a lot more accomplished if you can convince people that their religion actually has a lot to do with serving the poor, helping the oppressed, caring for the creation, etc. than if you think your first task has to be to get them to give up their core convictions and replace them with your own.

    Is this not disingenuous, subterfuge? Please explain why it isn’t, because I’m having a really hard time understanding how you could say otherwise.

    Does anyone else see some subjective, ambigious language applied to his religion and the greater good he talks about? I don’t care what he thinks Jesus wants him to do, or think that’s necessarily making a world a better place. I think what will make the world a better place is related to an honest attempt at finding truth through science, not Jesus,

    I doubt many fundamentalists believe they’re not compassionate, loving, good citizens for justice, they say they are those things, because they believe in a completely different world. How do I know this emergent church doesn’t believe some harmful things? It’s like any other religion.

    Mriana, falling back to your name calling I see. I already know you think people need to believe in things without evidence, and you already know I don’t. I’ve heard Dawkins say he wouldn’t try to persuade someone on their deathbed and I agree with him, a direct quote would be helpful because I don’t think he advocates exemptions from reason for the old. There’s some strong accusations without explanation of hating, paranoia, beating, and other random bullshit that you’re all too willing to write but not so willing to back up.

    J. J. Ramsey, read the freaking article and comments. Your insane comments earlier in this thread speak volumes to how warped you are. The suffix -head is commonly used to refer to addicts, which is what Dawkins is refering to when he uses faith-head, it is derogatory, and that’s because he doesn’t think faith is a good thing, but you should already know that. It has nothing to do with religious stereotypes, or a term like towelhead that refers to actual heads (i.e. headwear). Every time I have read your comments you have come up with the most ridiculous interpretations that clearly show no understanding whatsoever.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Aj,

    Although I may not agree with your points, I admire your energy and passion. Truly! At least you’re not passive. I like that.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade said:

    Meh.

    Richard, why are you suddenly talking like a goat? ;-)

  • monkeymind

    AJ, honey, Mike has a different vision than you of how to make the world a better place. You disagree on what is needed to ameliorate the harmful effects of religion. He laid out his position clearly in his post. Instead of simply saying where and how you disagree with him, you have to accuse him of lying and subterfuge.
    I sense that you are pretty young and dont have to much experience working with others in what is sometimes called the “real world.” I hope you can learn to channel your passion and obvious intelligence into some more productive outlet.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    The suffix -head is commonly used to refer to addicts, which is what Dawkins is refering to when he uses faith-head

    Like I said, “to the extent that the term has any descriptive content, the description is a caricature.” :)

    (From what I can tell, Dawkins is conveniently vague as to what the “-head” in “faith-head” means here, although the meaning that you have surmised certainly captures the connotation of “faith-head.”)

    It has nothing to do with religious stereotypes

    Like there isn’t a stereotype among atheists of the religious being stupid or crazy. Riiiight. (And if you really believe that vaguely implying a drug-induced addling of the head isn’t implying stupidity or craziness, you’ve fooled yourself.)

    Every time I have read your comments you have come up with the most ridiculous interpretations that clearly show no understanding whatsoever.

    There is so much unintended irony in that statement.

  • monkeymind

    I read Mr. Sapient’s response on his blog. He responds to my question about what is the evidence to support the effectiveness of “shaking up” believers by citing… personal testimonies. LOL! Pat Robertson has lots of testimonials about how effective his protein shake is, too. No, I actually meant real evidence, like oh, say, a double-blind study.
    My priority is figuring out how to stand up to the religious right’s domination of the political arena. But if you are more interested in creating a media sideshow, go for it.

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  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I read Mr. Sapient’s response on his blog.

    I also noticed he thought you were a dude monkeymind. :)

    I think it’s also important to point out that Sapient’s claims to “effectiveness” are only relevant if we all agree that converting the other side ought to be the goal in the first place. Personally, as I’ve said before, I think there far more important goals both atheists and Christians ought to be working together towards.

  • Mriana

    Mriana, falling back to your name calling I see.

    I didn’t call anyone any names.

    Is this not disingenuous, subterfuge?

    but now I am- you are delusional!

    What MikeC said was not subterfuge. Anything could be in good faith, even trust. It’s not just religion. Everytime I pet my cats on their heads while they are eating is in good faith. I have faith they won’t bite me. I trust them not bite me, even when I lie down beside them while they eat. I did the same with my dogs when I had them. Right now, between you and Mike- if you were dogs or cats, I’d have more faith in Mike not to bite me.

    but simply as a pragmatic reality.

    It is a pragmatic reality. Where is the subtrafuge there? In all honesty, any effort to make religion less dogmatic and idological has to be better than what it is.

    I’m not going to go through every single one of the things you highlighted because it’s just silliness and nickpicking (on your part) but I honestly think (and this time I am “name” calling as you say) you are paranoid and delusional, AJ.

    There’s some strong accusations without explanation of hating, paranoia, beating, and other random bullshit that you’re all too willing to write but not so willing to back up.

    I don’t have to back anything up. All people have to do is observe and they can see the answers. You and the UnRRS are the opposite side of the same coin as the Evangelical Fundies/Religious Reich. You’re all three are alike.

    Personally, I’d rather hang out with Dawkins, Spong, and Price, (the three of them have met and get along well). Read page 237 of the God Delusion and you will see Dawkins compliments Spong. Once you are done reading that page you can stop acting like a damn immature and paranoid fool.

    Now that was name calling, because it was direct and not describing behaviours, like before- except that last bit was describing your behaviour.

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  • Tao Jones

    Mriana said,

    Thanks, I think. :lol: We could be in all of them at any given moment and I would not begin to surmise which one I’m in either. Who knows, but yes, I sometimes even think Sapient et al are stuck in the anger stage. I’m not sure what there is to be angry about. Like you said in your video, religion isn’t going to go away, but it might not hurt us to study it so that we know what we are talking about when we say we don’t agree with it. From your video, it’s obvious that you have done your own fair share. I’m not so certain the UnRRS has and sometimes they sound an awful lot like Fundies. That sort of anger doesn’t jive and it’s not condusive to anything, except a big turn off.

    lol.. yes, that was intended as a humourous compliment. I don’t post comments very often so you may not know much of me from my posts but I usually appreciate your posts. And thank you for the kind words about my video. Obviously I completely agree with your sentiments.

    I’m not sure how I missed this, but….

    Brian Sapient said,

    “Being young (or on the internet) is no excuse for acting like an asshole.”

    You’re right. But fighting against the most dangerous and violent conspiracy to ever grace our planet that would destroy all of civilization or at least revert us back to dark age thinking is worthy of being an asshole if that’s what it takes to get attention.

    Keep hating on us Mike, we’ll keep saving the world for you anyway.

    Ok, I’ve been “shaken up.” Attitudes like this make me want to grab Brian by the shoulders and shake him violently for at least 20 minutes.

    THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY. You’re making atheists sound like the 9/11 Pod People. Whatever it was that actually happened on 9/11, there weren’t explosive pods attached to a small plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

    There is no conspiracy involving billions of people around the world no more than there was a conspiracy when early agriculturalists started personifying and glorifying nature, thus creating the earliest religions which EVOLVED into the religions we have today.

    How did these proto-religions and ideas of god(s) evolve? The same way anything evolves, through natural selection. To some degree, religion obviously works for its adherents. I agree there are long term problems with religion, but natural selection isn’t about perfection or an ideal, it is only about what works.

    (This is also why if we hope to advocate atheism, we must be prepared with something that works better than religion, not just for ourselves, but something that can work better for theists too, in all the ways that religion works for them.)

    Using words like “creation” to describe the world we live in implies a “creator.” Invoking an improbable entity as a solution to a perceived problem with our understanding of how the world works isn’t very rational at all. Similarly, words like “conspiracy” imply “conspirators.” Inventing such improbable entities is hardly a worthy tactic in a “rational” discussion. You have heard of Occam’s Razor right?

    I also find it rather ironic that an atheist like Sapient can have such a Messiah complex.

  • Mriana

    I don’t post comments very often so you may not know much of me from my posts but I usually appreciate your posts. And thank you for the kind words about my video. Obviously I completely agree with your sentiments.

    Thank you and you’re welcome.

    Ok, I’ve been “shaken up.” Attitudes like this make me want to grab Brian by the shoulders and shake him violently for at least 20 minutes.

    :lol: I’m not one for violence, but be my guest. I won’t stop you.

  • rob

    I have been reading up on alot of your arguments and all.
    I am not saying that you guys are wrong.
    but my question is why do some atheists need to “achieving the goal of de-converting Christians”
    I know im not an “intellectual” but I don’t why you philosophical beliefs are are superior then those of a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, or Spiritual person. Being the intellectuals as you are I don’t think atheists need to piece together the chaotic outcome of their final goal, and also being intellectuals I would assume you know that nothing can be proven or disproved when it come to religious theory. So finally why do you so firmly believe it is your obligation as godless people to tell other different from you that they are wrong? Why do you feel the obligation to rid the world of churches, faith, and for many the only hope they have. I know most of you are going to read this and jump at the chance with responding with a 1000 word essay of why I am a dumbass. But ask yourself why are my peers deliberately telling others they are living a lie, when they can’t prove it.

  • rob

    and why are so many atheist so afraid to “come out” to the parents? but make others lifestyles a mockery, and a joke.

  • Mriana

    Rob asked:

    why do some atheists need to “achieving the goal of de-converting Christians”
    I know im not an “intellectual” but I don’t why you philosophical beliefs are are superior then those of a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, or Spiritual person.

    Not being one who wants to convert anyone, I can’t tell you why and honestly I don’t think your beliefs or anyone else’s are inferior. I just don’t agree. As for the rest of your questions, it’s quite the opposite with me. I happen to like the architeture of some churches.

    No, I do not think you are a dumbass, because I have often ask why are there extremes on both sides. It doesn’t make sense to me for people to live in such a way that they seem to be hateful of others. I don’t know how they can love themselves when they live like that.

    I think if you stick around long enough, you will see non-theists are individually different and none of them are the same as the other- just as most Christians are not all the same.

  • Tao Jones

    rob said:

    So finally why do you so firmly believe it is your obligation as godless people to tell other different from you that they are wrong? Why do you feel the obligation to rid the world of churches, faith, and for many the only hope they have. I know most of you are going to read this and jump at the chance with responding with a 1000 word essay of why I am a dumbass. But ask yourself why are my peers deliberately telling others they are living a lie, when they can’t prove it.

    When I was in high school (about 13 years ago) I wrote a short story about a business man who walked by a laughing child sitting in the shade. The man asked the child why he was laughing and the kid replied that he was giving his shadow a rest. The man laughed and proceeded to explain to the kid the science of shadows. The man was trying to be helpful and instructive, but with the new understanding of where his shadow came from, the child was no longer laughing. When I wrote this allegory, I suppose I was in the bargaining stage as described above.

    Very few atheists would go so far as you have suggested. Very few of us want to get rid of religion completely. Instead we’d be quite satisfied if religion was left to be a personal matter, and secularism ruled the day.

    We could give you countless examples of how religious beliefs have crept into public policy to the detriment of society as a whole. There’s the American Senator who said he didn’t care about environmental issues because good Christians like him will be raptured long before the environment will be a real problem. There was the Bishop in Africa who said that condoms were the source of the Aids virus. I really could go on.

    Your notion of proof is also misleading. Atheism doesn’t require proof because there are no extraordinary claims being made. In contrast, that the existence of a god cannot be disproven is not a virtue of theism. The burden of proof is solely on theists. This wouldn’t be a problem if religion was solely personal, but when theist mythology is shaping public policy, we have a big problem.

    My last comment is about religion being “for many, the only hope they have.”

    It disturbs me that so many theists have such a fatalistic attitude toward themselves and humanity in general. We humans have a tremendous capacity to adapt and we are quite capable of surviving through a great deal. I can’t think of any legitimate situation where religion would be a person’s only hope so I wonder who is feeding people these ideas. At worst it sounds like psychological abuse and at best an excuse for people to feel sorry for themselves.

    I hope I’ve answered some of your questions without placing myself into one of the stereotypes you were hoping to avoid.

  • Mriana

    Good answers, Tao, and I can agree with what you said too. :)

  • Maria

    Good answers, Tao, and I can agree with what you said too.

    I second that

  • Renee

    Hey guys. My name is Renee from Illinois. HI MIKE…yes it is me, renee from that coffee shop you worked at :-)
    I have been a subscriber of the RRS for about a year now. There are so MANY comments I read above that I don’t even know what to respond to! I have had a chance to work with Brian and other members of the squad from time to time on projects over the internet and have an understanding of their mission and would love to participate in some friendly banter through these blogs.
    Tell me what you all think about this: The first time I stumbled upon the RRS I was shocked and amazed at the same time. After months of reading their forums and getting involved in chat rooms I decided that if anything, they were only one of many different views of atheism. I fully support them. I fully support Margaret Downey. I fully support Hemant Mehta…all different views :-)

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  • 22

    I have lost all respect for RRS and ESPECIALLY ROOK. Having been banned for pointing out Rooks obvious intellectual dishonesty making libelous charges against a great mythicists’ work Rook has never actually read. I was a member of RRS almost from the very beginning. It is true, if you disagree with RRS or catch them being dishonest they will ban you. That’s what happened to me and my other friends there. Including Mriana. Brian is absolutely lying over at his blog when he pretends he didn’t ban Mriana or that it was just an accident. Whatever.

    The RRS is more like a pop radio show than any scholarly institute. And for Rook to consider himself a peer or “colleague” of Carrier, Price etc, is just fantasy. I’ve discussed Rook with them both and they are ready to distance themselves from him. He may have to find someone else to peer review his book. Maybe Rook wouldn’t have these issues if he weren’t just a juvenile punk with a high school education trying to pawn himself off as a “historian and ancient text expert.” He is anything but. Rook and the RRS have turned into an embarrassment to all Freethinkers everywhere.

  • Maria

    Yup, he’s now trying to claim banning Mriana had to do with a “lawsuit”, and he “can’t find her username” and that she was “banned over a month ago”. When yesterday he said she wasn’t banned. It’s such obvious lies and so petty. I hope Carrier and Price do distance themselves.

  • Mriana

    Maria is right. I have nothing to do with any lawsuit- what they did not like was that I disagreed with Rookie about there being no historical Jesus and that it was just re-written myth. That and I also called him a Fundie. :lol:

    No, I never did get a letter about it and the first I knew of it was when I wanted to rebuttle Brian on his blog and found I was not allowed to do so. They do not want anyone to disagree with them on anything, when they are just a bunch of young know-nothings. They never said one word to me about being actually banned. They threatened it and I quit posting for a while, then this crap and THAT’S how I found out I was banned. I really don’t care, because I can get my say in other ways.

    Bob hasn’t ever mentioned the RRS, so I have doubts about him being involved with them. Yes, he has them as friends on his MySpace deal, but I doubt he knows what they are about. He doesn’t have time to mess around with the net too much and add to that, Rookie had no knowledge that Bob writes about the relationship to Mithra and alike, as well as talked about the parallel myths on a Minnesota Atheist podcast. So, I doubt they know Bob or that Bob knows them. He may know of them, but I don’t think he knows them.

    22 said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Having been banned for pointing out Rooks obvious intellectual dishonesty making libelous charges against a great mythicists’ work Rook has never actually read.

    That’s exactly what I did. I pointed out his theological and mythological errors~ as well as refuted his idea of a historical Jesus. He didn’t want to believe it was rewritten myth, threw a tantrum, cussed me out, next thing I knew they editted posts to make him look like the good guy and me the bad guy. Oh, but I don’t need to convince you, 22 and probably not any others here who know me, as well as my posting style.

    Then they ban you and slander you. They do a lot of projecting, but that’s ok, even my Church of Christ friend agrees- those who know me will see it and know there is something completely wrong. That and she sees them as rebellious children too. She got that just by looking at what I showed her- Kelly’s juvenile poll, Brian’s childish blog, and the stint between Rookie and me- she’s not even a member, but she could still peek and see the raunchy mess and replied, “Don’t worry, time is on your side and those children will take a terrible fall unless they straighten up their act.” Of course, she encouraged me to get the word out about them too.

    That’s what happened to me and my other friends there. Including Mriana. Brian is absolutely lying over at his blog when he pretends he didn’t ban Mriana or that it was just an accident.

    I’m glad someone else knows and understands what is happening.

    It is true, if you disagree with RRS or catch them being dishonest they will ban you.

    Found that out the hard way, but I will not apologize for it. I think for myself and I will not allow anyone to do it for me. I’m too old not to think for myself and most definitely too old to allow a kid to tell me what to think.

    The RRS is more like a pop radio show than any scholarly institute. And for Rook to consider himself a peer or “colleague” of Carrier, Price etc, is just fantasy.

    ROFLMBO! Rookie’s not a scholar- none of them are. He doesn’t know anymore about religion than a lay fundie listening to their preacher. Everyone knows how I hate it when they don’t tell it the way it really is and well… Rookie missed the mark by a long long ways.

    Maybe Rook wouldn’t have these issues if he weren’t just a juvenile punk with a high school education trying to pawn himself off as a “historian and ancient text expert.” He is anything but.

    You are much stronger than I ever have been. Oh I’ll take that back… My latest was pretty strong. :lol:

    Rook and the RRS have turned into an embarrassment to all Freethinkers everywhere.

    Most definitely and this is one freethinker, as I said before, who will NOT apologize for thinking for myself.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Hey guys. My name is Renee from Illinois. HI MIKE…yes it is me, renee from that coffee shop you worked at

    Hey Renee! Good to hear from you. I didn’t know you were into these kind of conversations. You should have said something. I hope me being a pastor didn’t put you off bringing it up. :)

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