The View Ladies Discuss Atheism… It’ll Make Your Head Hurt

Because of The New York Times article on atheism the other day, the ladies of The View were discussing religion on Monday.

You know this will be entertaining. Or painful. Maybe both.

The question to open up the discussion: “What if your child married an atheist?”

To recap:

Sherri Shepherd says marrying an atheist would make life “chaotic.” Because you have to deal with finances and shit and you apparently can’t do this with atheists…

Elisabeth Hasselbeck thinks marrying an atheist means (religious) you would be giving up the values with which you were raised. (Because atheists can’t share similar values outside of God?)

Whoopi Goldberg — a voice of reason here — says she’d be fine with a religious son or daughter marrying an atheist. You would just teach the future grandkids that there are different schools of thought on religion and mommy and daddy don’t agree. Religion is not always black and white.

Hasselbeck thinks that’s confusing. Thinking about religion will hurt the child’s brain, she seems to imply.

Joy Behar says neither position seems right to her because “an atheist is against theism, meaning there is no God. I don’t know that. Just like I don’t know that there is a God either…”

*sigh*

Why is Behar speaking as if she knows what atheism is all about when she misses the most basic principle of it?

Atheists do not proclaim “there is no God.” That’s foolish. We say we don’t believe in one. The evidence doesn’t point to one. It’s unlikely there is one. That’s it. Even the atheist buses said “There’s Probably No God.”

(By the way, did anyone else hear Shepherd saying in the background, “I once went on a date with an atheist…” around the 3:00 mark? I *so* want to hear the end of that story… but from the atheist’s perspective.)

(via Atheist Media Blog)

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Atheists do not proclaim “there is no God.” That’s foolish.

    Um, I do proclaim that.

    We say we don’t believe in one. The evidence doesn’t point to one. It’s unlikely there is one.

    Well, yes, I say that as well.

    I don’t believe in dragons. I also feel comfortable saying that there are no dragons, without qualifying it each time with “Well, that’s what I believe, because I haven’t seen any evidence for dragons, but admittedly, I don’t know with 100% certainty that there are no dragons anywhere.” Sure, maybe some atheists feel the need to make that qualification, but many don’t.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-4275-DC-Secularism-Examiner Paul Fidalgo

    After Steve Harvey, I can’t watch.

    But interesting point you raise:

    Atheists do not proclaim “there is no God.” That’s foolish. We say we don’t believe in one. The evidence doesn’t point to one. It’s unlikely there is one. That’s it.

    See, I do say there is no god, the same way I say there are no unicorns. We do the qualifier “believe” because God and unicorns are non-falsifiable. But as sure as I am that there is gravity and that unicorns do not frolic in the mists, I am sure there is no god. If I met a unicorn or there was a big discovery of unicorn fossils, I would change my mind, but saying “I don’t believe in…” and “there’s no such thing as…” are essentially the same.

    No, we can never be 100% certain (non-falsifiability again), but for all intents and purposes it’s the same to assert god’s non-existence, for me anyway.

    So, thanks, View ladies. :)

  • Aj

    People on TV and in general use a different definition of atheist. In the context the statement “there is no god” meant a claim of nonexistance. It’s very rare to find an atheist that is certain of the non-existance of a god like a theist is certain of the existance of at least one.

    I think Behar’s “I don’t know” is a good answer, and doubting that others do is even better. Goldberg’s approach of teaching that there are different schools of thought is more about corruptive relativism than reason. Not that children shouldn’t be educated in religions, I think that’s a good thing, but there’s nothing wrong with selling values like skepticism, educating and raising children is not valueless. Hasselbeck went with a utilitarian argument concerning comfort and an argument from tradition which shows her insecurities and ignorance. Is Shepherd retarded?

  • zoo

    Whoopi seems to be the right one a lot of the time (well, on the approximately three occasions I’ve seen more than a couple seconds of the show).

    And I’m not against theism, I just don’t accept it and prefer others don’t try to make me.

  • http://www.beginningwithi.com/comments/ Deirdré Straughan

    Umm… who are these people and why does anyone care what they think? I remember Whoopi – didn’t she used to date Frank Langella?

  • dvsrat

    I liked Whoopie Goldberg. She was the only one who put some thought into what she was saying. Does Whoopie Goldberg have any children? I noticed that she was speaking hypothetically when talking about “her children.”

  • Richard Wade

    I take the weak atheist position, “I have no belief in gods,” basically for a strategic reason: Make the other guy do the work. Make the claimant come up with his silly, flimsy arguments and then knock them down with two or three sentences. Why should I put myself into the position of having to back up a claim of the non-existence of something that is described and defined by somebody else? Proof is his problem. After a journey of a thousand miles to meet an enemy, make sure that the journey was his, not yours.

    I might venture a stronger stance on unicorns and dragons simply because I’m not surrounded by millions of people who are constantly trying to convince me that they exist, so there’s not much work in that.

  • Bill McElree

    What is frightening is that at least half that table is deluded AND represents the mainstream opinion. Superstition somehow carries more weight simply because we call it a religion and to prevent any ‘faiths’ being questioned none may be questioned. This leads to the idiocy displayed on the right side of that table as they pretend that having religion is morally superior.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean SeanG

    I didn’t even make it a minute in. 5 seconds of Elizabeth and all I can hear is “weeeooooeooooeeeeeooo.”

    I like having discussions with religious people but I would not engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

  • Richard Wade

    Why is there this new norm on television of everybody talking all at once? I was taught, (admittedly it was a few centuries ago) to take turns and listen carefully before responding. Half the stuff they said I couldn’t hear because they talked over each other. Just as well I guess, since what I heard was mostly crap.

  • http://innumerableworlds.wordpress.com CosmicThespian

    What I found at least partly encouraging is that each time the audience applauded was after Whoopi said something which implies that her position seemed the most reasonable to, or resonated with, the people there.

    It’s not much, but it’s something.

  • GullWatcher

    Why is there this new norm on television of everybody talking all at once?

    Civility, another victim of short attention spans. The producer has alloted 10 minutes to topic X, then turns 4 women loose on it, each of whom has a good 15 minutes worth of opinion on topic X. Then everyone talks over everyone else to have their say before the segment ends, and they are cut off and sent on to another subject. If the whole hour was devoted to topic X, they would all have time to both speak and be polite, but all the viewers would have changed the channel after the first 10 minutes. Which is why the producer only alloted 10 minutes in the first place….

    For reasoned, thoughtful debate, morning shows are not the place to look. It’s just some circus to go with our bread-like food substances.

  • geru

    What is it with these “strong in faith” Christians who have a “clear view” of the entire world just because they see it through the light of god, that makes their world crumble to pieces the second they encounter someone who holds even slightly different views?

    I think that if I knew the creator of the universe on a personal level, and he was my best pal, then I probably couldn’t care less what others think, no matter how wrong they were. Would you get mad if someone somewhere said that he didn’t believe in your best friend, and would you have a need to defend the existence of your friend to a total stranger? Of course not.

    And why does it always seem so stupid when you try to apply logic to religious questions like this?

  • Bleatmop

    I would laugh if these people didn’t have so much influence. How many people hardened their stance against those without faith because of the words spoken there? How many relationships were harmed because of this?

    Thankfully, atheists are on the rise, not the decline. That’s why the fundamentalists are stepping up the attack. They know they are losing ground and they’re pissed off.

  • http://sinnersaintshiksa.blogspot.com/ Modern Girl

    I don’t think Joy’s comment was way off the mark. A few commenters have already said that they are atheists and they proclaim there is no God. Joy probably knows atheists that think the same way.

    Sure it’s not the exact definition that atheism experts want – but is atheism becoming a dogma? Who sets these rules? Sure, the semantic definition is not “proclaim there is no God” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t being included in a group identity definition experienced culturally.

  • http://proudatheists.wordpress.com/ Mark Pogue

    Sadly, the comments made by the women (except Whoopi) on The View were typical of most Americans.
    The American public still view atheism as bad or evil. That’s how indoctrinated Americans are by religious leaders.
    It would help us if more “closeted” public figures would come out, especially ones known for charity drives and humanitarian causes.

  • Kiera

    Actually it wasn’t too painful, mostly because of Whoopi being that voice of reason. If all four had just reinforced the others beliefs and nattered on about how evil atheists are, then it would have been painful.

    Really, the painful part was Whoopi giving the blonde the total verbal smackdown. Then Elisabeth tries to rebut (and is drowned out) by saying that it would be too confusing for a three year old to decide on something like that. Oh noes! Critical thinking in my children!?

  • Matto the Hun

    @Cosmic Thespian

    What I found at least partly encouraging is that each time the audience applauded was after Whoopi said something which implies that her position seemed the most reasonable to, or resonated with, the people there.

    Don’t get too warm an fuzzy. When they were discussing the plane that landed in the Hudson, I distinctly recall Sherry Shepard gushing about people on the plane praying and then throwing her hands in the air and proclaiming “Prayer works!”

    Huge gushing applause from the audience of morons.

    On the question of not believing in a god or gods and saying there is no god or gods; isn’t this simply the difference between hard atheism and soft atheism.

    @Richard Wade

    After a journey of a thousand miles to meet an enemy, make sure that the journey was his, not yours.

    That’s some kick-ass wisdom.

    So you say you take the weak atheism response for strategic reasons, which makes a lot of sense.

    I was just wondering if that reflected what you actually think, or do think hard atheism but argue soft atheism for strategic reasons.

    Myself, I think there is no god or gods, but for the reasons you mentioned, in a discussion with a theist I would argue from the soft atheist standpoint.

  • BlackMeTaL

    The blonde woman said: “Let’s ask god for more courage” after that she basically says that she doesn’t know how atheists would protect their children against the big bad world.

    Yeah, letting your children believe in a delusion is a really good way to protect them…

  • Matto the Hun

    One would have thought that an all knowing and all caring god would have given her all the courage she needed to begin with.

  • http://pinkprozac.typepad.com/theaword/ Kristi

    I’m so happy you posted about this. I watched the view that day.
    Basically Elizabeth does not want her children to grow up and think for themselves.

  • AnonyMouse

    I loved Joy Behar’s comment on the child’s bedtime prayer. I can’t speak for religion in general, but teaching your child that they need God to keep them from dying in the night is psychological abuse.

  • Kate

    After a journey of a thousand miles to meet an enemy, make sure that the journey was his, not yours.

    Genius!

  • Justin jm

    Why is there this new norm on television of everybody talking all at once? I was taught, (admittedly it was a few centuries ago) to take turns and listen carefully before responding. Half the stuff they said I couldn’t hear because they talked over each other. Just as well I guess, since what I heard was mostly crap.

    Perhaps shows like the View should have some sort of “hot potato” that they need to pass to another person before that person can talk, thus avoiding crosstalk. Maybe it would have helped this segment of the View be intelligible. Although, firing Sherri Shepherd from the show would have helped as well.

  • Brooks

    Whoopi has always been the voice of reason when it comes to religion on the View. I remember one time one of the ladies (I can’t remember who) was a creationist and Whoopi kept tearing her to shreds and Whoopi kept asking her if she believed the Earth was flat but the lady kept dodging the question, so one of those ladies is not only a creationist but a flat-earther. I agree with Whoopi that it’s important to teach both sides of an issue instead of indoctrinating children with religion, but I think whether a marriage between a theist or atheist will work depends on the situation and can’t be answered with an absolute stance. Like if it’s a marriage between a hardcore anti-theistic atheist who thinks all religious people are stupid and a fundamentalist Christian who thinks atheism is the bane of society, I don’t see how that marriage can work. But I think a marriage between an atheist and a moderate Christian could work and Whoopi has great advice as usual. It’s all in the matter of how crazy you think the other side is and how open you are to different ideas.

    Speaking as an atheist myself, I don’t think I could be married to an ultra religious person or somebody who doesn’t want you to ever blaspheme religion, but I would be open to a relationship with an open minded liberal Christian. My problem with Behar is not so much her comment about how atheists think there is no God because nobody bothers to make the distinction between “there is no Santa Claus” and “I don’t think there is any evidence for the belief in Santa Claus.” The only reason why people bother to make this distinction for God is because believing in God is popular and believing in Santa Claus isn’t and we’ve been conditioned in society to give religious beliefs extra politeness more than we would other differences in opinions. I was annoyed though that they kept referring to atheism as a belief when it’s no such thing and Behar acted like the burden of proof rested with atheists. It just annoys me that there’s this double standard that religious believers can say there is a God all they want without any criticism, but if an atheist says there is no God, then we’re treated as if we’re the ones that are closed minded. And why is it that whenever people talk about atheism on these talk shows, it seems like they never interview any actual atheists for what they think?

  • http://www.jimloomis.deviantart.com Jimmy

    Gah. Elisabeth Hasselbeck scares me almost as much as Sarah Palin. Ignorance can be bliss, but its still ignorance.

  • Lambert

    @ Bill McElree: “What is frightening is that at least half that table is deluded AND represents the mainstream opinion.”

    Welcome to the USA. A deluded country, founded by xtian puritans.

  • Richard Wade

    Matto the Hun,

    I was just wondering if that reflected what you actually think, or do think hard atheism but argue soft atheism for strategic reasons.

    I am a skeptic first, and atheism is only a by-product of that. It is a mental discipline I work hard to maintain; to not persist in the assumption of the truth of something, anything, in the absence of evidence. I consider that a very bad habit that leads to very unhappy consequences, from buying a crappy used car to flying planes into buildings. It sometimes can be tempting for me to assert that there is no god, but that would be letting one of those unsupportable assumptions take root in my mind, and I would be practicing the same foolishness that I disapprove of in others. Persistent beliefs without evidence are like weeds in a garden. Let one remain, and you’ll soon have hundreds. Keep the weeds out of your mind and you’ll have much more room for intelligent thoughts.

  • Matto the Hun

    Hey Richard,

    I get what you are saying, but I think there is a difference in believing in something that you cannot prove (gods, fairies, Big Feet, vampires, the invisible dragon in my garage, etc.) and believing there is no ‘X’ because there is no evidence for ‘X’.

    In short, my belief that there is no god is not analogous to belief in a god.

    Further, my assertion that there is no god because there is no evidence for one (or any indication that evidence is forthcoming) explicitly implies that once evidence comes to light, I will believe that there is a god.

    I will tell you that there is no Santa Clause, or no Easter Bunny. Would my belief that these characters do not exist be “weeds in my mind”?

    Why should the deity du jour be treated any different than things even modern day theists would accept as myth and folklore?

  • Ryan

    I always liked Whoopi. Isn’t she a pro-Same Sex marriage too?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Isn’t she a pro-Same Sex marriage too?

    Don’t say “same sex,” make them do the work. It is a-opposite marriage.

  • tnprimate

    I like Whoopi also Ryan…I found this about her “Her approach to religion is flippant, saying that she changed her name to Whoopi “after encountering a burning bush in the desert.””
    :)

  • Thilina

    I’m usually quite happy to say “there is no god”, even just for the sake of argument.

    but i usuall just state that “i’m not saying there’s absolutly no possibility of a god existing. I’m just saying that your god doesn’t exist”.

    and even if a god existed it would never have had any work to do. it didn’t create anything (the universe, life, etc.). its in no way affecting our life by listning to a bunch of morons whinge about how they want more things. and its not punnishing us for doing bad things (by the total lack of people being smitted on a day to day basis). so even if a supream being did exist why would we call it god.

    Its more of a joke theroy but it usually gets the point across in an argument.

    ————-

    The more you look at religion, the more it seems like stories about (comicbook) superheros from 2000 years ago.

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew S.

    I like Richard Wade’s posts in these comments.

    I say, “I do not believe in God/gods.” I do not say, “there is no god/there are no gods.” Like Richard said, it immediately changes the tone of discussion and who has to be on the attack vs. who has to be on the defense.

    My argument isn’t to show that there is no god, but to show that there is no reason to believe in one. So, let’s say there was a deist god hiding in the corner of the universe, undetected by everyone (this would falsify the statement, “There is no God.”) However, my nonbelief isn’t broken. There is no reason for me to believe in such a god, regardless of if he might exist or not, because I have no evidence. But having no evidence does not create evidence of absence. No matter how much we use Invisible Pink Unicorn, FSMs, and celestial teapots, each argument seems to point out a simple conclusion: we are justified in *not believing* that these things exist, but that’s wholly different than believing that these things don’t exist.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Matto,

    The absence of evidence for X is just not enough for me to form a belief that there is no X. I prefer affirmative evidence for affirmative beliefs, rather than nothing but a lack of affirmative evidence for a negative belief. Andrew S puts it very clearly in his comment above; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    I know this point is getting kind of worn out and I don’t want to beat it to death, so just think of it as a personal preference. You don’t think that your belief in no god is analogous to belief in a god, but I see it as right next door because both beliefs are void of affirmative evidence. I just don’t want to even come close to anything resembling unsupported beliefs for, or against anything. I swore it off like a drug of abuse when the Twin Towers came down.

    The other reason to stay away from it is that when actively believing in the non-existence of gods we are entirely dependent on the descriptions and definitions of those gods by believers, and they are not consistent or uniform, and they are not at all shy about adding any caveat they want as we come up with our objections:

    I don’t see your god.
    Well, He’s invisible.
    Oh. I don’t hear your god either.
    Well, He’s inaudible too.
    Oh. I can’t seem to observe or measure your god any way at all.
    Well, He’s not subject to the laws of physics.
    Oookaay. So how does anyone know of your god?
    Oh, he can be seen or heard only when he wants to.

    …etc. etc. etc. ad futilitum.

    This puts us into a silly, demeaning and mind-numbing game that wastes our time and reinforces the believer’s determination to keep the game going. The more he plays it, the more real it becomes for him. Let’s not make things worse.

    Once upon a time, a strong atheist stance would have made sense, if you were talking to an ancient Greek. They believed that the gods existed physically on Earth, on Mount Olympus. So conceivably a brave mortal could climb the mountain for a peek, and finding nothing could actually prove the negative, prove that there ain’t no giant, scary wizards up there.

    But nobody believes in gods like that any more. No, they believe in shy, coy ghost-gods who can only be seen when they want, and that’s hardly ever, and are as slippery as the tongues of the believers who describe them. Life is too short to spend even a minute of it trying to disprove such nit wittery. Let them exhaust themselves on my simple, honest and sincere stance,

    “That is an interesting claim, please show me your evidence.”
    “That is an interesting claim, please show me your evidence.”
    “That is an interesting claim, please show me your evidence.”
    “That is an interesting claim, please show me your evidence.”
    “That is an interesting claim, please show me your evidence.”
    … etc. etc. etc. ad victorium.

  • Brooks

    I say, “I do not believe in God/gods.” I do not say, “there is no god/there are no gods.” Like Richard said, it immediately changes the tone of discussion and who has to be on the attack vs. who has to be on the defense.

    I think it depends on the type of gods you’re speaking of as well. If someone believes in a deistic god, then perhaps saying I don’t believe in a deist god would make more sense, but I think we can safely say there is no theist god because we can examine the claims of theists and determine whether or not their claims have a basis in reality like that whole experiment they did that showed people being prayed for had more complications than those not being prayed for.

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew S.

    Re Brooks,

    That is (with qualifications) where I think strong/positive atheism has some benefit. When a construction of a god proposed by someone has logical impossibilities or some other thing that definitely invalidates it, then I think that’s where I can see how some people move to the position, “This doesn’t exist.”

    That being said, as Richard elaborated, I think that many people have incredibly expansive ideas of their god even if they are theist. It’s like they want to have it both ways — their god can be theist and personal and influential or whatever selectively, but when it’s time to go to the proving grounds, they are deistic enough so that faith is the only answer.

    So, I still say, “I simply don’t believe in it, and I don’t find any reason to believe in it.” I’ll let the others exhaust themselves to come up with new and creative explanations.

  • http://thishumanist.wordpress.com Clare

    Go Whoopi!


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