Why Aren’t You More Outspoken?

Forgive the rant. I’m writing this late at night and I’m full of things to say.

I went out to dinner with a good friend last night — she happens to be religious, though not in any overt way — and at one point the conversation shifted to things I was doing concerning atheism. As I talked about some of the stories that got me all worked up over the past few months (Draw Muhammad Day, anti-gay seminars, etc.), she told me something I know a lot of us have heard before: I sounded as zealous as religious extremists.

Ok, I’m definitely passionate about atheism. Getting people to lose their faith is important to me. I’m not about to stand on a street corner and scream, “YOU’RE ALL WRONG” at random strangers, but if someone wants to discuss religion, I have no problem defending my views and arguing back. The difference between my “zealotry” and that of some religious extremist is besides the point here, though.

I asked her why she wasn’t as passionate about her beliefs. Forget religion. She’s a doctor. What did she think about people who refused to vaccinate their children?

“They’re crazy.”

So how do we change that?

“The crazies are never going to change. You just have to try and educate the others.”

That’s what the atheists are doing with things like science education and religious mythology.

“No, you’re ramming it over everybody’s heads and you won’t stop until they all agree with you.”

But they should agree with us. We’re right.

“See, this is why we don’t hang out more often.”

How are you not more frustrated when you know people are saying things that are obviously untrue?

“Because not everyone has to agree with me. And I’m ok with that. It’s not like everyone who disagrees is crazy.”

Not everybody… but I think there are a lot more crazies out there than you think.

It’s not like my friend lacks conviction. She knows Creationism isn’t real science, she believes that no one should be denied health care, she understands that Sarah Palin is a pathological liar… But she’s not about to write letters or blog posts to explain her positions. She’s not going to rallies defending her views or setting up booths to vaccinate people.

For some reason, that bothers me. Because if you’re not actively defending the truth, you’re allowing the lies to gain more traction.

I don’t think you have to get riled up over every single issue — I mean, I think being vegetarian is an ethical position to take, but I don’t really get worked up when people eat meat — but on certain ones, you should get upset or angry when people disagree, especially when you know you’re on the right side of the issue.

When the topic of gay marriage came up, my friend and I had a similar exchange. She believes GLBT people deserve equal rights. She thinks it’s absurd that anyone would oppose gay adoption, gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. But that’s about the extent of her activism.

I’m not gay but I understand the injustice that’s currently taking place in our society and I want to help fix the problem. For the life of me, I can’t understand how anyone could possibly say, “Yeah, gay people should be allowed to get married, but I’m not going to argue with someone who disagrees.”

So what, you’re just going to stand there and do nothing?!

How dare some Christians get away with thinking that their relationship is more meaningful than a gay couple’s? Or that their love is deeper? Or that it alone deserves official recognition?

How could anyone sit on the sideline while this debate gets played out and just shrug it off without saying anything?

This is especially true when it’s someone in your own “camp” who is being ridiculous.

One of the reasons I’ve become much more cynical lately about cooperating with Christians is because I so rarely hear them call out their pastors (or other Christians) on their bullshit.

God created us in His image! Women must submit to their husbands! I know what God wants for your life!

No, he didn’t. No, they shouldn’t. No, you don’t.

They might poke a bit of fun at it… but they rarely say that the pastor is Just. Plain. Wrong. Or that anyone who agrees with the pastor on that issue is wrong. Or that anyone who continues to give money to that pastor’s church is part of the problem.

When Draw Muhammad Day happened, I was expecting to read messages like this from moderate Muslims everywhere:

We don’t like the fact that Muhammad is being drawn on college campuses.

We don’t support the action and we are definitely not going to join hands with the atheists as they do this.

However, we fully support their right to draw what they want. Freedom of speech is a good idea and that includes the right to criticize religious ideas — including our own. Certainly, no drawing, even one of the Prophet, is reason enough for us to respond violently, like some Muslim extremists have done in the past.

We do not condone that behavior and we are ashamed that those people practice Islam the way they do. We do not want to be associated with them. The religion we practice is one of peace.

If anyone would like to understand why we feel so strongly about this issue, we urge them to come to our group’s weekly meeting Thursday night at the Student Union…

Wouldn’t that be the reasonable, rational thing for Muslim students to say?

But where was that message?

I don’t recall ever hearing it.

Instead, we heard Muslims compare smiling stick figures to swastikas.

I told my friend about that, too. Her only response was that they probably didn’t speak out because they feared the repercussions.

So they didn’t want to get stabbed by Islamic extremists or kicked out of their family?

“Sure.”

Isn’t that the whole point of doing this? To fight against that fear? Anyone who drew Muhammad on the ground with chalk or used Muhammad as their Facebook profile picture was incredibly brave.

“No, you were all just being jerks.”

But how else are we supposed to respond to that crazy rule that we aren’t allowed to draw Muhammad?

“You don’t.”

I can’t do that. It’s a silly rule and a dangerous belief and I’m compelled to respond. The same thing goes for anyone who believes in the Bible or some other holy book. Or anyone who’s gullible enough to believe in psychics and horoscopes.

I can’t just sit back if I think they’re being irrational. I might not have arguments with every religious person I meet just because the person prays to a god, but if the topic comes up, I’m not about to let it slide.

And I have a lot of respect for anyone else who does the same.

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fett101

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  • Jeremy

    Apathy is death.

  • Tony Heskett

    Good job, thank you. Please continue :-)

    (I don’t believe your piece qualifies as a rant, btw :-)

  • http://toomanytribbles.blogspot.com/ toomanytribbles

    hemant, apathy is more dangerous than extremism.

    apathy towards charlatans gets people killed.
    apathy against the crazies allows them to get away with their own brand of craziness.
    apathy against bigots hurts people of every kind.
    apathy against those that trample on personal freedoms oppresses us all.

    personal responsibility is not about what we, ourselves, do in our immediate surroundings — it’s caring about our society as a whole and helping it become better.

    i don’t let things slide… not any more, and i’m angry with myself for not starting sooner.

  • Bronco

    It must have something to do with your desire to help the species versus her desire to just live her life. Some people externalize better than others and see a bigger picture. In other words, below ratioanale lurks the confounded diversity of physiological chemistry and it’s myriad incarnations. This and burned-in latrinal pathway habits (innate instinctual cortex) can rarely be undone.

  • GentleGiant

    Yup!
    Spot on.
    I concur.

    If we hold our tongues for fear of reprisals, the “bad guys” have already won.
    Misinformation, half-truths, distortions and outright lies should be fought at every opportunity, lest we let it run rampant.

    Dispel the woo-woo!

  • BEX

    I appreciate what you do Hemant.

  • Jeff

    … but on certain ones, you should get upset or angry when people disagree, especially when you know you’re on the right side of the issue.

    I agree with you completely, Hemant. I’ve never understood it, either.

    There’s a tremendous amount of denial out there on the part of people of liberal to moderate faith. Part of it is that they’re non-confrontational by nature, or they were taught while growing up that confrontation is unacceptable behavior or morally wrong.

    Another part is group identification. I’ve said this here in the past – this is why I don’t altogether trust people like Brian McLaren or Jim Wallis. When push comes to shove, I believe they will always side with their evangelical brethren, because they are something we can never be – their “brothers and sisters in Christ”. I think that has a lot to do with it.

    Finally, I think another part is this “I don’t give a shit” attitude that everyone seems to manifest today. This may be the most narcissistic generation in history, certainly in the history of this country. People just don’t care. Also, life is unbelievably complex now, people are working hard (those who have jobs) to maintain their lifestyles in this increasingly failing economy, and everyone is just burned out from worrying about the future – theirs and the planet’s. A lot of them just don’t have the energy or emotional resources to take on more. I’m pretty burned out, myself.

    So, yes, we become enraged when gay people are denied civil rights, or children are taught that their friends are going to burn forever in a lake of fire, but the tragic reality is that many people – perhaps most – just don’t care.

    It’s one of the reasons I’ve pretty much given up on humanity (that and the fact that hundreds of millions of people are perfectly comfortable with the idea that the vast majority of their human siblings will be tortured unimaginably for all of eternity). Not that I want you to – but that’s where I am.

  • Korinthian

    So she’s too apathetic to fight or disagree herself, except when she’s opposing the views of an atheist that speaks up against discrimination and falsehoods? That tells me a lot about her character.

  • pinkbunnyslipperz

    That reminds me of a poem and I think it totally fits what you’re saying here.

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn’t a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

    Although, I think an update is in order.

    They refused equal rights to gays,
    I did not speak up,
    I was not gay.

    They refused equal rights for all religious beliefs or lack of,
    I did not speak up,
    I was in the majority religion.

    When they took away my neighbors’ rights,
    I did not speak up,
    It was not me.

    When they took away my rights,
    I had no voice left to fight with,
    And I let them be taken away.

  • adam

    So, no matter how crazy, wrong, or destructive a person, group, or idea is the only good response is to do and say absolutely nothing or else you are a jerk.

    It’s one thing if someone’s attempt at fighting a problem was to try restraining civil liberties and silence freedom of speech but how do you rationalize something like doing nothing under all circumstances.

  • Adam

    I agree. It always amazes me when someone thinks there is something wrong with you because you get worked up over certain issues. I’ve been told I’m manic, a hippie, going to die early, that I read the news too much, and that I should learn not to care. And I don’t even make signs and shit, I just like to engage other human beings in what is in my opinion important discussion. I can’t even talk about the weather usually without someone taking a shot at the whole “global warming” concept. Usually the only safe topic, unless I want to get into with someone, is food.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    I can accept people not bringing up certain subjects around certain other people, because they know how they will respond, and they just don’t want to deal with the arguing all the time. I can understand a skeptics blog or organization not bringing up religion, because they know it’ll turn into a flame war that districts from their chosen cause, like fighting quackery or psychics. But I can’t for the life of me understand the blanket refusal to ever argue against any position you don’t agree with.

    Hemant, I also wonder if your friend was entirely honest with you. She claims that there was no point to arguing with people who she disagrees with. But clearly, she was willing enough to argue with you, even calling you a zealot extremist.

  • Sherman

    But the religious “zealots” have a lot of conviction and most of them sincerely believe that *they* are on the right side, as well. What makes their conviction condemnable and the conviction of atheists “standing up to lies”?

  • Thom.

    What a great post. I think it actually hit a nerve and inspired me a little bit.

    I don’t comment often, I just felt the need to point that out.

  • JD

    I wasn’t outspoken when I was religious, I thought I would be outcast, though I was anyway, for different reasons. I’m not outspoken as an atheist, I’m pretty sure I will be.

    I do speak out on occasion, but that’s on certain things that I actually know something pretty well, because certain figures are pretty knowledgeable in the falsehoods they believe, hard for me to combat that without an expert’s repertoire.

  • JD

    Something I forgot to add about the article, it seems like people fight facts with bombastic responses, possibly because they really don’t have a good response.

  • http://www.myspace.com/timtationsmusic Tim D.

    I agree mostly, but I would’ve answered this question differently:

    “No, you’re ramming it over everybody’s heads and you won’t stop until they all agree with you.”

    Instead of saying, “but they should agree with us. We’re right,” I would’ve said something more like:

    It’s not that I won’t stop until “they all agree with me.” It’s that, while there will always be people who disagree with me (even on the most basic, fundamental and, to me, obvious issues), among those people there will always be people whose minds can be changed, whether through experience or simple education. By making peaceful and nonviolent efforts to make my views heard, I’m trying to reach out to those people and motivate them to educate themselves, so that one day we might be able to work together to tackle some of these problems.

    I mean, in order for these problems to be solved, we don’t have to have *everyone* on “our side.” And it’s unrealistic (whether we think we’re “right” or not) to think that we ever will.

    Bottom line: the difference between a fundamentalist and someone spreading their beliefs is, a fundamentalist thinks he/she can force change in other people. Someone who is simply passionate about their views wants to inspire other people to change themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/achura Rooker

    That’s pretty sad that Dr Friend would rather shake her head and call antivaxers crazy than try to educate them. Some of the antivax people really are crazy, the rest are just misinformed.

    That kind of apathy is dangerous and inexcusable.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    Elie Wiesel said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

    There’s plenty of evil done in the name of religion. There’s plenty of irrational belief and practice done in the name of religion as well. Heck, a Venn diagram would show that this evil and irrationality are often the same.

    But there are plenty of religious folks who stand by quietly when religious leaders preach anti-gay theologies, anti-women theologies, anti-free speech theologies, and anti-science theologies.

    This “stand by quietly” observation doesn’t include most Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, and other religious liberals. But there are plenty of religious leaders and members of religious organizations who are quietly indifferent.

    Unfortunately, religious liberals are a small minority and there are too many moderate religiously persons who quietly enable those religious leaders who spread evil and irrational ideas by remaining silent and cooperative.

  • http://http://tuesday-is-think-day.blogspot.com/ tues82

    I think I read something a while back, maybe a year or so, where Richard talked about religious people stating their views to defend oor uplift their beliefs, and that there is a public opinion of, “Say it louder!” But when it comes to nonbelievers stating their view on the subject of religion, it’s always, “sit down, shut up, don’t make waves.” When I read that piece it really made me think differently. I realized what I was doing by sitting down and shutting up, not making waves. I even had an atheist friend tell me to do just that. I disagreed with her.

    One argument I hear from the religious all the time is, “if religion isn’t real, why has it been around for so long? Anything that’s been around that long can’t be made up…”

    …..not making waves about it, that’s how.

  • Sunil

    Spot on Hemant. The apathy drives me mad too. Keep fighting!

  • Larry

    You are correct. Here’s my excuse. I hate having to be outspoken because it goes against my nature.

    I’m shy. I just want to do my own thing and be left alone.

    But…

    I have had to start being outspoken because of the Theocrats that are determined to make the USA a Christian Nation.

    I’m angry that radio, cable news, etc. are promoting so much misinformation. I have family–including parents and siblings–and friends that believe all that misinformation.

    Anyway, I understand the desire to not be outspoken. I hate having to be outspoken because I don’t like being in the spotlight or put on the spot.

  • eladnarra

    I found your blog a week or two ago; I’ve never commented before, but I wanted to say: Thank you. This is something I’ve struggled with, and while I’ve tried to balance being strong in my beliefs and not fighting with everyone I meet, lately I feel like I’ve been staying quiet too much.

    When I was younger I got more angry about things. Once in middle school we listened to “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson. This was fine, in context—it was Black History Month, and our school was named after the particular poet. But afterwards our principal said that it was one of her favorite poems because it “told it like it happened.” This felt like endorsement to me, and I was livid.

    No one but my parents understood my anger, however. My friends thought I was overreacting, and the principal said she could not remember saying such a thing. To this day I don’t know if my reaction was proportionate to the event, but how people treated my anger—as silly, unnecessary, not valid—made it much harder to speak up in the following years, even if it was just to tell my parents.

    Fast forward to the present, and I have a good friend who is very religious. We disagree on just about every social issue out there, but I still enjoy being in her company and talking with her. In the past our conversations about sticky issues have been of the “we agree to disagree” sort, which for a while worked well. These days, however, I feel a sinking in my chest every time I don’t say something, such as when she made an offhand comment about global warming being a hoax. I feel like I may have gone too far in the opposite direction, and instead of just avoiding fights I cannot win, I am also suppressing my opinions and beliefs to avoid confrontation completely.

    I’m not sure what I’m trying to get at, but thank you for writing this. It and the comments I’ve seen so far have prompted me to start thinking about something I’ve been avoiding for some time.

  • Secular Stu

    She gives tacit approval to the crazies making death threats, but when it comes to people opposing the death threats, she tells them to shut up? How does she not see this?

    Probably the only defense that could be made for her is that her disagreement with atheism is coloring her views. That and the common human reaction to conflict is to avoid it.

    (And here’s another similarity between atheism and the LGBT movement. “Why do they have to hold hands in public? Why are they ramming their lifestyle down our throats?”)

  • Peregrine

    Your problem, my problem, our problem, is right there in your first paragraph.

    As I talked about some of the stories that got me all worked up over the past few months…

    Why get “worked up” over it? This stuff exists in our society. That’s a given. It ought to be resisted by rational believers and non-believers alike. That’s a given.

    But it’s not going away anytime soon, and in the interim, you’re just going to have to find some way to live with it. For the good of your own psychological health.

    You can’t let yourself get out of sorts over every little thing. If you do, you risk becoming like the self-righteous stick-in-the-muds, sprawled out on their lawn chairs with a scowl on their face at a Glen Beck rally. Or worse: holding the Discovery Channel hostage. Not that you’d ever do that, of course, but it’s no wonder where that mindset comes from.

    A few years ago, one of my uncles seriously disappointed me, when, at a family gathering started expressing his opinion about gay marriage. I held my tongue, though it’s not like I could get a word in edge-wise anyway. And my wife got up and stormed off in a huff. He was a stubborn curmudgeon. A cranky old man, who let himself get worked up about that sort of thing, and other little things; Everything from seemingly insignificant political issues, to the newspaper delivery schedule.

    But a couple years ago, one of my cousins came out. That changed a lot in my family. It changed a lot of attitudes. And maybe it drove a few opinions below the surface, but it also brought out a lot more acceptance, even among the curmudgeons. My uncle hasn’t said much about it lately. Maybe it’s because he’s afraid to stir the pot, or maybe because he’s mellowed, and learned to accept it. Who knows?

    But you’ve got to let some stuff slide every once in a while. If he can do it, anyone can.

    A Christian friend of mine commented on Facebook a while back about how hard it was sometimes standing up for what you believe in. And I replied that, every once in a while, you’ve got to let what you believe in stand up for itself. If it can’t stand up on its own, then maybe its not worth standing up for.

    It’s a big fight, on both sides. And no one person can be expected to do it alone. When you find yourself lapsing into cynicism, for the good of your own health, you’ve got to let some stuff slide once in a while. Stand back, take a breath, and let others carry the load. The fight will still be there when you’re ready to come back to it.

    Our religious friends have a saying, (or prayer, I guess, they have a lot of those,) that might be appropriate to this situation:

    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    We atheists may not have much of an opinion about prayer, but there’s a nugget of wisdom in there that anyone can learn from.

  • Chris

    This is quite the rant. And by posting this on your website, you are essentially shouting “You’re all wrong” at random people.

    “Getting people to lose their faith” is probably the sickest goal I’ve heard an atheist utter. You’ve said before that people should be judged by their actions, yet now you want to judge them by their beliefs.

    You say and do a lot of great things, Hemant. But remember what Uncle Ben told you: “with great power comes great responsibility.” With each passing post, it seems more and more like you’re rallying the troops for an atheistic crusade.

    The great irony is that we atheists often identify ourselves with rational thought, yet you seem happy to recruit a bunch of blind followers willing to just parrot whatever you say.

  • Pickle

    I agree and disagree. I believe in a “live and let live” philosophy. It doesn’t bother me if people believe in a god if it make them feel safe or loved or whatever. (and, of course, if they keep it to themselves and leave me out of it!)
    However, I agree that we should all take a stand against injustices being done to gays, women and non-believers (etc) by religious extremism. No one should be made to suffer because of a belief held by others. Not taking your child to get vaccinated is just stupid and I will fight with those people.
    If someone wants to discuss religion with me, I’m more than happy to speak my mind, but I don’t see it as my business to change what they choose to believe. I HATE it when Christians try to convert me so I try to treat others the way I want to be treated. I leave people to believe what they want, unless it harms another.

  • Jennifer

    Well said Hemant. I totally agree. When there is misinformation being passed as truth, it is our duty as rational thinking people to resist it’s proliferation. This involves offending some people’s sensibilities from time to time. It’s not our fault they choose to be unreasonable!

  • http://Www.shoedaydreams.com Poochie

    I speak up when I see a wrong that is directly hurting another. Forcing religion on someone as well as religion-influenced laws. I find it interesting that you say you would not speak out against someone eating meat or another animal based foods. While religion impacts people in different ways, eating animals causes the death and suffering of another creature 100% of the time and they don’t even get the choice. That seems very hypocritical if you ask me

  • medussa

    I came to outspoken activism through the anti-apartheid movement in the 80’s. As a white woman, it hit me hard that racism would not end until white folks stopped being complicit through silence. Similarly, sexism won’t stop until men stop being complicit, etc, this applies to any form of discrimination.
    I didn’t include atheism in this until theists got involved in politics and tried to make their bigotries law through Prop 8 and the whole anti gay marriage issue.
    Now, there’s no stopping me.

  • Ben

    Islam is coming up more and more and more…and for good reason. This formerly cringing minority is getting bolder thanks to the “PC” liberals out there concerned with everything being equal. Well things aren’t equal. Call me a bigot. It’s losing it’s effectiveness. BTW, I’m a liberal.
    But I don’t give a damn if someone is upset about Muhammad being drawn. It isn’t hate speech in any fashion. Good luck making that argument in a court of law.
    PC liberals will be quick to say that I’m being insensitive. Don’t care. All of it is silly.

  • Ben Zalisko

    Right on Hemant. However, when you couldn’t think of muslims that were supporting the free speech of drawing Muhammad, I thought of the usual voice of reason, The Daily Show. Aasif Mandvi admits that he is uncomfortable with people drawing Muhammad, but is much more offended by the threats of violence coming from his side of the issue.

    Skip to 7:00 for Aasif’s analysis.

  • http://hryun.com Vinícius Egidio

    The answer is CONFORMISM!

    Some people are too shy, too lazy or too coward to stand up and defend what they think it’s right. I’m an atheist but I truly respect the believers that argue and fight for their beliefs; what drives me crazy are the believers or atheists that simply accept everything and don’t move their butts to do anything.

    Your work, Hemant (or any activist work) is the embodiment of the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve spirit that made this country great. Some people never get discouraged; they go after what they believe; and they don’t know the meaning of the word quit.

    While others “just live and let live”.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leilani

    If I am not willing to stand up and speak out for basic human rights, then what else is there to stand up for?

    My children have to right to marry whom ever they love, to live on a planet that is healthy, and to speak their mind. If I were just to sit silent, then who would fight for their rights?

    Apathy is the cancer of society. I don’t understand how people can just sit and let their passion rust away because they are afraid of offending people who aren’t afraid of offending them.

    I love my religious friends. I love my non-religious friends. If my friend wants to believe all rocks are god, fine. Her believing that doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone. But if she then starts picking them up and pelting people with them, I feel obligated to do something.

    But I agree with you, I don’t understand why my friends who are religious, who tell me they believe in gay rights, that they believe in freedom of speech, are so quiet about it. The second Prop 8 passed, I knew I could no longer be Mormon. Why did that click with me and not with them?

    None of my friendships have really suffered because of my beliefs (or lack thereof). My relationship with my Mormon family fell apart, but I knew that was coming. I just couldn’t ‘stay sweet’ a moment longer.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Hitch

    Very powerful stuff. I think you put the finger on the pulse of what I feel, see and observe.

    Look we get “denounced” for saying that 9/11 is a cataclysmic event. But does anybody get denounced for religion being enablers for horrible things?

    The observation of DMD is spot on. We are not supposed to say that “moderate Muslims are silent” on the issue. Reality is that moderates of all stripes are MUCH quicker to denounce something harmless that is politically expedient to denounce (and serves their in-group or friends) than to reflect and see if what has happened here is the right thing.

    What irks me are not religious people but self-described secular people who spend more time attacking critical voices than understanding a situation. This “I want to be a good person so I am going to defend that a strong word has been said! It tears down bridges!” Yes and then stand by when KKK and Nazi comparisons are dropped, or themselves use those comparisons. I’m of the generation and of the geographical makeup to not take Nazi comparisons lightly. Family has suffered through this. But no denounciations. No comparing atheists who speak to Nazis is A-OK, especially when they articulate a really really hard topic carefully!

    But yes, there were voices that had a better take on DMD. On youtube a Muslims called for others to participate in form of caligraphy for example. But this takes nothing away from the problem that supposed bridge-builders did nothing to build bridges around the event, and everything they did demonize/mischaracterize/agitate it and people who had a legitimate point to make.

    And the reason to act is simple: There are things that happen that harm others. Anti-vaccers hurt the herd protection of un-vaccinable kids. Anti-Med parents hurt the well-being of their own kids. Anti-gay people hurt the rights and culture of acceptance for gay people. DMD was in response to real and persistent harm.

    And some take the to me completely appalling attitude: “Just don’t upset people, your actions are at fault why things are bad.” Basically apologizing and absolving the violent bully of all responsibility and asking us to not stand up against the bullying.

    But yes, I grew up under the notion, that if bad things happen, there are no innocent bystanders. Allowing bad things to happen is immoral.

    So much for my rant. I also have sympathy. I have it in me this struggle. What fight is it worth fighting for? And if I’m honest at times I do the “this is not gonna do anything, I’ll just be quiet”. I think I at least try. And I help where I can. If I meet the right balance, I wouldn’t know. But to not even do the right thing when its easy and clearly helps is really just the same as not caring.

  • Hitch

    @Chris: There is no way to win. We get aligned with rational though, then we get accused of being emotional robots by namesakes such as Chris Stedman. If we show passion, we are framed as irrational and aggressive.

    And you use a standard device: Claim that people attack the random. He has articulated exactly what things are troubling and I think he is quite sound to lament those who fit that description.

    So you are saying it is rational to stand by when others get hurt? Well you won’t find me agreeing to that.

    And perhaps people agree with a view-point because it is valid and has the right spirit? But you have to accuse people of being sheep. Right…

  • Dan W

    Nice rant, Hemant. I think your friend here is a bit naive. If atheists don’t get active and speak out against the bullshit so many religious people say and try to do, we’d just remain a stigmatized minority, and the majority would be able to force its ridiculous beliefs into the government more than they already are. These more moderate Christians (like your friend) need to realize that it isn’t a bad thing to stand up and voice opposition to the fundies.

    Meanwhile, I get really pissed when people accuse me of being like the religious extremists. I will react very angrily if someone says that, because I’m not like them. Religious extremists are often violent in defence of their views, while I am usually calm and nonviolent in my advocating the use of reason and critical thinking.

  • Julie

    I cannot stand people who think that pacifism is a more moral position than actually taking a stand. Those that look down their nose at you and call you a “jerk” or “zealot” simply because you aren’t afraid to express your opinion in an unqualified way.

    Peregrine: “A few years ago, one of my uncles seriously disappointed me, when, at a family gathering started expressing his opinion about gay marriage. I held my tongue, though it’s not like I could get a word in edge-wise anyway. And my wife got up and stormed off in a huff.”

    Good on your wife. People like your uncle need to reminded every once in awhile that not everyone agrees with them. Everyone just sitting there every family holiday, biting their tongue and saying nothing while he has a captive audience only reinforces his view that his opinion is the right one since no one is disagreeing with him. Bravo to your wife for not going along with it.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    How about those who support those who are vocal by buying their books, donating money, attending their events, joining boycotts that are called for, and by voting for representatives who have the same beliefs?

  • Chris

    @Hitch: when does “I should get angry and worked up and claim everyone who doesn’t agree with my personal opinions is wrong and immoral” have the ‘right spirit’? Hemant is sending the wrong message to both sides!

    Peregrine’s reply above is probably the best thing I’ve ever read on this website. I’m going to re-post it just so it appears twice:
    Your problem, my problem, our problem, is right there in your first paragraph.

    As I talked about some of the stories that got me all worked up over the past few months…

    Why get “worked up” over it? This stuff exists in our society. That’s a given. It ought to be resisted by rational believers and non-believers alike. That’s a given.

    But it’s not going away anytime soon, and in the interim, you’re just going to have to find some way to live with it. For the good of your own psychological health.

    You can’t let yourself get out of sorts over every little thing. If you do, you risk becoming like the self-righteous stick-in-the-muds, sprawled out on their lawn chairs with a scowl on their face at a Glen Beck rally. Or worse: holding the Discovery Channel hostage. Not that you’d ever do that, of course, but it’s no wonder where that mindset comes from.

    A few years ago, one of my uncles seriously disappointed me, when, at a family gathering started expressing his opinion about gay marriage. I held my tongue, though it’s not like I could get a word in edge-wise anyway. And my wife got up and stormed off in a huff. He was a stubborn curmudgeon. A cranky old man, who let himself get worked up about that sort of thing, and other little things; Everything from seemingly insignificant political issues, to the newspaper delivery schedule.

    But a couple years ago, one of my cousins came out. That changed a lot in my family. It changed a lot of attitudes. And maybe it drove a few opinions below the surface, but it also brought out a lot more acceptance, even among the curmudgeons. My uncle hasn’t said much about it lately. Maybe it’s because he’s afraid to stir the pot, or maybe because he’s mellowed, and learned to accept it. Who knows?

    But you’ve got to let some stuff slide every once in a while. If he can do it, anyone can.

    A Christian friend of mine commented on Facebook a while back about how hard it was sometimes standing up for what you believe in. And I replied that, every once in a while, you’ve got to let what you believe in stand up for itself. If it can’t stand up on its own, then maybe its not worth standing up for.

    It’s a big fight, on both sides. And no one person can be expected to do it alone. When you find yourself lapsing into cynicism, for the good of your own health, you’ve got to let some stuff slide once in a while. Stand back, take a breath, and let others carry the load. The fight will still be there when you’re ready to come back to it.

    Our religious friends have a saying, (or prayer, I guess, they have a lot of those,) that might be appropriate to this situation:

    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    We atheists may not have much of an opinion about prayer, but there’s a nugget of wisdom in there that anyone can learn from.

  • Ben

    This is fantastic

  • chistat

    @Julie: Exactly. I had a similar situation at a family gathering where a racist, stereotype-laden discussion was going on. In the interest of not creating a stir, I just sat there and quietly hoped for it to end. In the car on the way home–I cried. Sobbed. It really hit me that by not saying anything I was sending the implicit message that I agreed with them and I was not OK with that. I promised myself then that I would not stay silent in future situations.

    I’ve never understood the family/friends taboo against speaking about religion, politics or money. That’s important stuff! I’d rather have meaningful, respectful, educational conversations about the things that are really important in the world than vapid conversations about where everyone gets their manicures. Avoiding those issues is how the most outspoken groups are able to trample on the rights of everyone else.

  • Puzzled

    I think you’ve mixed up too many things here. Some things, like attacking gay people, hurt other people. Other things, like having your own beliefs about homosexuality, do not. We must loudly and strongly oppose one, but not necessarily the other. Atheists used to be referred to as ‘free-thinkers’ but now what I’m seeing in too much of the atheist community is “everyone must agree with me, damn it, on everything, including my political opinions.” If the uncle mentioned above needs to be reminded that not everyone agrees with him about homosexuality, it seems that so does much of the atheist community.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    I tried to respond here, but when it got to the 3-screen mark, I decided I’d move it to my blog out of respect for the other readers.

    Having warned you of the length, if you still want to read it you can find it at http://theehtheist.blogspot.com/2010/09/response-to-hemant-mehtas-outspoken.html

  • darlene

    I’ve heard that it’s easier to die for your principles than to live up to them, and I think that’s true.

    People know that a position is wrong–morally, factually, whatever–but allow others to feel comfortable taking that position.

    So an antivaxer can talk on and on, but to stand up and say “You are wrong. There is no science to back you.” is somehow rude, even though the antivaxer is killing people? Bull.

    It comes down to being afraid. I don’t have to convince people that I’m right, but I do have to show that there is another opinion, that the world does not agree with them, that there are consequences to their thoughts and speech and actions. I’m not afraid to state a contrary position, and to defend it.

    But many people are. I think that the “Well, you can’t change everyone” attitude is one of cowardice. It removes any obligation for action. Everything can be dismissed with a shrug and a “I don’t want to be rude.”

    One can say that a POV is wrong factually without saying that the person themself is an idiot. I usually try and phrase it like “Oh, well I was just reading this article, and actually, despite that being promoted, it isn’t actually true. Here is the citation…” And yes, I’m the annoying person who forwards snopes.com to everyone on the silly forward I got…

    If you have a voice and choose not to use it, than you are choosing to approve of those who disagree. You are giving tacit approval to the antivaxers and the anti-gays and zealots…your silence is all the approval they need.

  • Hitch

    @Chris: It’s a given? No it’s not. People worked hard for us having what some now casually hold as “a given”.

    Here is what happens when we do not speak:
    1) The first amendment gets undermind.
    2) Schools teach creationism and remove Jefferson from the curriculum
    3) Parents stop vaccinating with the known consequences.
    4) People who try to speak freely get attacked and vilified.

    Don’t lecture me what I have to let slide. If it makes you uncomfortable, too bad. There are different things and some things are more important than comfort.

    Before the civil rights movement the wisdom was that this was not changable. Before the gay rights movement it was considered to too dangerous to be openly gay.

    Where is your wisdom what you can or cannot change?

    Hemant is perfectly on mark about topics that are worth vocalizing and advocating. You just try to split the difference and attack all of use in a broad sweep to then say you are an atheist. Well if you want to feel cosy and good by attacking those who actually take risk don’t expect applause from me.

  • Tyro

    I asked her why she wasn’t as passionate about her beliefs. Forget religion. She’s a doctor. What did she think about people who refused to vaccinate their children?

    “They’re crazy.”

    They’re caring but misinformed parents and for this, she’s standing aside and letting them place their children at risk of illness or death.

    Doesn’t sound very compassionate to me.

    But how else are we supposed to respond to that crazy rule that we aren’t allowed to draw Muhammad?

    “You don’t.”

    Then there will be another demand, and another, and another. At what point do we respond?

    Your friend is justifying her own inaction.

  • Julie

    @christat: I know how you feel. I used to sit by and let that kind of talk go on around me because I was afraid to make waves and also because I felt that I didn’t have the tools necessary to take on that many people, united, all at once. Since then I’ve interjected several times and found that the same holds true for them: they don’t want to take me on. It’s scary when they’re suddenly presented with someone who breaks free from the social convention that politeness means never saying, “I disagree.” Instead it’s much more comfortable for them to roll their eyes and shut up rather than put up, because likely they’ve never had to justify their beliefs before. There have, however, on occasion been times when I’ve made a difference. I distinctly remember my uncle railing against interracial dating and adoption because the children would never be accepted by either community. I told him that a coworker of mine and her husband had adopted two black twin boys and a Korean girl, but he was right, I’m sure those kids would be much happier in foster care than in a loving home because they might be teased at school. He paused and said, “You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Times like that make it worth the discomfort that comes with speaking up.

  • L. Vellenga

    i agree, hemant, esp. on the part about christians not calling our peeps out on their crap. this is why i commented a while back that i think atheists ought to be in the business of persuading others to their way of thinking. i tend to think that people who don’t do so (regardless of their worldview) probably don’t hold their beliefs all that strongly. i say, let beliefs civilly contend for themselves in the marketplace of ideas. more speech, not less. for everyone.

  • mikespeir

    The first thing a zealot has to do is not just convince himself that his cause is righteous, but that everyone who disagrees is evil, and that the world will come crashing down if he doesn’t defeat them. In fact, the world has proven to be pretty durable despite the cacophony of opinion.

  • http://karlaporter.com Karla Porter

    The post and ensuing comments from readers are all quite thought provoking. Many used the word apathy and one or two passion. Apathy is a weak word, one of inertia, and passion is a very strong word. Apathy takes no energy whatsoever and passion usually requires significant fuel to express. Then there are discretion, leading by example, and selective activism.
    I’ll take the example you gave of vegetarianism. I too am one, for the past 30 years. It is very difficult for me to accept that people I am friends with and my family are part and parcel to the torture and slaughter of innocent beings and that some of them hunt. I know very few vegetarians (I do not live in a large urban center) and if I expressed my “passion” – which I clearly have.. to everyone, I would have difficulties in my workplace and community – where I am involved in many activities and on many boards.

    Therefore, I practice discretion, lead by example and selective activism. When I see others eating meat I do not point it out and condemn their choice. However, when I order my meal in a restaurant and direct the waiter to ensure there is no meat, seafood, fish, poultry, animal derived bullion, etc. in it and someone at the table asks, “why, are you vegetarian?” I view it as the perfect opportunity to answer affirmatively, with a friendly smile. This more often than not begets a follow up question asking why, which in turn is the perfect opportunity to explain.

    Similarly, this is how I handle invitations to pray. I say, “no thank you”. Sometimes people figure out what that means and sometimes it requires an explanation, which I am happy to provide. I am involved with various community diversity initiatives. They all include religious diversity. I don’t try to save people from their belief. That would be completely contrary to the purpose of these committees and boards. When I have the opportunity to discuss non-belief I do it in a way that doesn’t demean others or put them on the defense. I feel that because of this approach people are genuinely curious and ask me a lot of questions – which I happily answer.

    I personally find the consumption of animals much more difficult to deal with than others believing in deities and spiritual superpowers and think that if religion were no more – war would not end, we would simply create alternative motivation and logic. On the other hand, if we could manage to all be vegetarian perhaps human aggression would lessen considerably.

    Your friend is analytical and chooses her battles and that is not a bad thing.

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    I could see why you are upset and thought it was a ‘rant.’ I don’t think it was a rant as many of the previous comments explain.

    what bothered me the most, and i get this often, is that your homie questioned your commitment to activism. I get that often from family, friends, and colleagues.

    It’s easy to say I agree with you but I don’t think you need to do all of that. It attempts to make the activist feel like what they are doing is wrong and futile.

    Let me say this, your blog and other blogs like yours helped convince me to move from my agnostic position to atheism. if you never wrote your pieces as well as the other bloggers, I probably would still ride the fence. I have passed your posts on to my theist friends and they dig your blog. Imagine if you never started it?

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Peregrine wrote:

    A few years ago, one of my uncles seriously disappointed me, when, at a family gathering started expressing his opinion about gay marriage. I held my tongue, though it’s not like I could get a word in edge-wise anyway. And my wife got up and stormed off in a huff. He was a stubborn curmudgeon. A cranky old man, who let himself get worked up about that sort of thing, and other little things; Everything from seemingly insignificant political issues, to the newspaper delivery schedule.

    But a couple years ago, one of my cousins came out.

    But if you had spoken out, your cousin would have known that at least someone else in his/her family had their back, instead of knowing that their uncle disapproves and fearing that the rest of the family silently agreed.

  • http://www.michaelwtaft.com Mike

    Religion, in and of itself does not cause pain and suffering. It is arrogance in any belief structure- the sincere beleif that you are definitely right, and others are definitely wrong – and that changing others beliefs is more important than their wellbeing that causes this. Friendly atheists once promoted the value of DOUBT, an awesome and humbling thing. But I guess you would only now want those who disagree with you to doubt their standpoint.

    Live and let live and make a stand when someones religious arrogance is going to hurt someone.

    Many of us are atheists. But we could be wrong.

  • Hitch

    @Mike: There are limits to doubt. If someone is beaten up in front of you for no reason, do you have doubt if it is correct to intervene? Doubt is an important quality, but it cannot be an apology in cases where there is little doubt.

    We want exactly live and let live. How is preventing gay marriage live and let live? How is violence against artists live and let live?

    There is advocacy exactly because live and let live is not a reality.

  • myrrhlyz

    I would speak up more and try to discuss, not argue, why I beleive what I do with people who disagree if they would grant me the respect of being a rational human being who has studied, investigated, and thought through my beliefs enough to know there is validity to them.

  • Nordog

    “My children have to right to marry whom ever they love…”

    Even each other?

  • Secular Stu

    @Chris:

    “Getting people to lose their faith” is probably the sickest goal I’ve heard an atheist utter.

    And what on earth is wrong with that?

    @Mike:

    It is arrogance in any belief structure- the sincere beleif that you are definitely right, and others are definitely wrong – and that changing others beliefs is more important than their wellbeing that causes this.

    And where does Hemant hurt or suggest we hurt someone’s wellbeing?

  • Elisabeth

    I agree with everything you said except the bit about getting people to lose their faith. Personally, I couldn’t care less if people carry on with their ridiculous ideas and beliefs–as long as they leave alone those of us who don’t subscribe to such notions.

    It isn’t faith itself that offends me, but the people of faith who insist that everything must be done their way. Perhaps I’m apathetic, but I truly don’t care what people do within the confines of their home or church. But we all know that’s not how things go, which is why taking action and speaking out are critically important.

    I myself have never encountered the argument that atheists are as fanatical as religious extremists, but it’s about as valid as belief in a god (which is to say not at all!). Religious zealots want everyone to think, believe, and live as they do. As an atheist, I simply want people to live in whatever way seems best to them, and allow everyone else to do the same. Universal tolerance…it’s a nice concept, and hopefully not unachievable. :)

  • Ben

    what Elisabeth said..

  • Luther

    I would suggest submitting to Ask Richard.

    As an amateur I would suggest your friend is fearful and does not like conflict and wishes all these issues would just go away. Perhaps she thinks she is trying to help you, since if she sounded like you do, no matter how calm, she would really be upset.

  • Peregrine

    The example I mentioned about my uncle, isn’t meant to encourage not standing up for something. It’s meant as an example of someone who let things “get to him”, and how his attitude has changed since.

    You’re right, of course. My wife handled the situation well, and if you knew her temper, you’d know that was probably one of the better responses she could have had. And believe me, I’ve reflected many times on that incident, and came up with many things that I wished occurred to me at the time. And my siblings and cousins and I kindof suspected that the one cousin was gay, and his presence most certainly occurred to me at the time. And I think he knew that most of us were cool with it.

    The conversation switched before I had a chance to react, and it was my mother, rather than my uncle who dominated most of it, with another opinion altogether.

    But that’s not the point. If it’s a bad example, leave it out, and look at the rest instead. My point is, if you let everything get to you, you risk becoming like him, like he was. And if he’s softened his opinions, for the sake of his own blood pressure, surely any of us can.

  • http://www.michaelwtaft.com Mike

    @stu

    I am not suggesting Hemant is hurrying people- I am merely extolling the virtue of remaining humble and the danger of arrogance.

  • TychaBrahe

    I’ve been rereading Robert Heinlein lately, and just finished The Puppet Masters last night. This is the new Baen edition, with afterword by Sarah A. Hoyt. Hoyt says something about totalitarian regimes that I wanted to recommend to you, Hemant, but at the moment feel it is important enough to recommend to everyone.

    It’s much easier to believe the worst of our own citizens—of the other party, the other race, the other class, those goofballs in DC, anything—than to believe that something or someone ruthless and utterly unprincipled wants to kill us. (Why, we’re pretty nice people. How can they hate us? They don’t even know us.) It is easier to believe that it is our own president, our own Congress, those people up the street, who have gone crazy, who are paranoid, racist evil, than to believe that our deaths are the path to some stranger’s idea of world domination and paradise on Earth.

    You see, we know our neighbors, our president, our Congress. We know those people down the street. We can call them evil all we want to, but deep inside, we know they’re safe to attack. The very fact that we’re here, in the United States, means we can say whatever we want to, doesn’t it? No one is going to hurt us. (As for publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, why we’re not doing it because we’re being sensitive! Sensitive, I tell you. It has nothing to do with being afraid for our heads and their precarious attachment to our necks.)

  • Miko

    but on certain ones, you should get upset or angry when people disagree, especially when you know you’re on the right side of the issue.

    There are precisely zero issues in this world in which I know I’m on the right side. On many of the important issues of the day, I’m not even sure that a “right” side exists.

    Epistemic absolutism is not an attractive trait. Unless you think facts are more important than people, I’d pay attention to clues like “See, this is why we don’t hang out more often.”

    And your friend is right: not everyone has to agree with me (and if they don’t even have to agree with me, they certainly don’t have to agree with any of you 😉 ). There are certain issues which I’ve studied more deeply than others and think that they would agree with me if they studied it as closely with an open mind, but understand that they won’t because they don’t care about the issue. There are certain issues which I approach from a set of moral principles that differ from the set of moral principles that others hold, and I understand that the differing starting points means we’ll reach differing conclusions without either of us being objectively right (and the vast majority of issues fall into this category). There are certain issues that I haven’t studied deeply and realize that I might change my viewpoint if I looked deeper, but nonetheless can’t be bothered to commit the time necessary to fully research opposing points of view.

    There are lots of legitimate reasons for people to disagree. Learning to live together peacefully despite our disagreements is orders of magnitude more important than striking out on a futile crusade to force everyone to conform to your point of view.

  • http://www.atheistrex.blogspot.com Rex

    A huge part of morality is taking personal responsibility to use whatever influence you have to positively affect society. Sometimes that means volunteering for a good cause, and sometimes that means speaking out against injustices in society.

    If you fail to do so, then you are tacitly condoning societal injustices.

  • Miko

    @Chris:

    “Getting people to lose their faith” is probably the sickest goal I’ve heard an atheist utter.

    In the spirit of Hemant’s comment:

    This is especially true when it’s someone in your own “camp” who is being ridiculous.

    One of the reasons I’ve become much more cynical lately about cooperating with Christians is because I so rarely hear them call out their pastors (or other Christians) on their bullshit.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to agree with you completely: it’s sick, counterproductive, and tantamount to the goals of the street-corner preacher even if the methods are slightly different.

    @Elisabeth:

    Personally, I couldn’t care less if people carry on with their ridiculous ideas and beliefs–as long as they leave alone those of us who don’t subscribe to such notions.

    It isn’t faith itself that offends me, but the people of faith who insist that everything must be done their way

    Right on. To generalize, what offends me is the people of faith or of no faith who insist that everything must be done their way. Atheism is important because the majority of the people who refuse to leave others alone are on the theist side, but it’s no guarantor of virtue.

  • Duo

    I’m sorry to say that your friend is an apathetic coward.

  • http://debaptized.com RevWubby

    As a US Marine I learned a pithy phrase that has come back to me time and again when people would rather I not be so vocal about trying to solve things I see as unjust. That phrase is: Silence is consent.

    If you do NOT speak out; if you do NOT do something to try stop a wrong, they you are implicitly agreeing that it should continue.

    Words can have the power to change the world, but if your friend will only speak them at the dinner table when she can feel safe and uninvolved, then she might as well not speak them at all.

    And to suggest you shouldn’t pursue your passions isn’t about her desire to let other people live is peace, it’s about her embarrassment that you possess the courage, that she clearly lacks, to do the things she knows she should. She wants to do nothing yet still feel superior about it.

  • Samiimas

    To my ears the religious people claiming Atheists need to calm down and stop trying to point out the giant logical holes in religion sound exactly like the straight people who claim gays need to just shut up, go back in the closet and stop ‘forcing our lifestyle’ on everyone and society will accept us.

    In other words it’s a complete and utter lie and the person is perfectly aware that if we actually followed their advice and stopped standing up for ourselves we’d just be shit on far more. Which is exactly what they want.

  • Fundie Troll

    Anyone who drew Muhammad on the ground with chalk or used Muhammad as their Facebook profile picture was incredibly brave.

    “No, you were all just being jerks.”

    I knew the truth would be revealed on this blog sooner or later…

  • Sully

    “But how else are we supposed to respond to that crazy rule that we aren’t allowed to draw Muhammad?

    “You don’t.””

    No offense, Hemant, but your friend sounds like a jerk.

  • MH

    Maybe it’s because I live in the secular North East, but religion in the US seems tamed. Many of my neighbors are not religious, and the others are more wishy washy CINO’s than fire breathing fundamentalists.

    So when I hear people getting worked up and demanding an end to faith, the first question I ask is how many converts to atheism have you made? I doubt very many, so why waste your breath?

    People believe things because they need to. A universe run badly by a God is less scary than an impersonal universe where our opinion about how the place works is pretty much irrelevant. Lots of luck persuading people to believe that (even though it is true) as fear is a powerful motivator.

  • darlene

    Miko Said: “There are precisely zero issues in this world in which I know I’m on the right side.”

    Well, I am 99.999999% certain that, when speaking out against rape, I am on the right side. If you have an srgument for why it’s okay, I’d love to hear it…

    And when I advocate for civil liberties, I’m 99.999999% sure that I am on the right side. Because I can’t think of a single moral argument for slavery or institutionalized racism or sexism or any other ism. If you have some, I’d love to hear it…

    If I see a person on the street being beaten or abused I’m 99.99999% sure that I should call the police and probably intercede. If I see a child being beaten I am 99.99999999999% positive that I have a duty to intercede and/or report to authorities.

    There are precisely zero issues in this world in which I doubt I’m on the right side. The big thing is that, if I am proved wrong, I am willing to look at the evidence and entertain the thought of the other side being right. However, on the issues which I choose to stand for, I have yet to hear a convincing argument.

  • Hitch

    I’m happy to be called a jerk when it is because I articulate my resistence to fear, violence, threats and intolerance. I’d consider that a badge of honor. If that’s what being a jerk means nowadays I’d encourage more people to be it! Want to call me a bully for volunteering on weekends? Go ahead! See if I get scared!

    Just because people throw around those negative labels does not make them true. It’s weird when people incorrectly use labels on others that really apply to themselves.

  • Seymour Skinner

    What Larry said.

    If you want to be outspoken, that’s your personal choice to make.
    If you don’t, that’s entirely up to you.
    Not everyone is the same.
    To each his own.

    I don’t tell you how to live your life – don’t tell me how to live mine.

    Besides, life’s too short to waste on fighting with people all the time.

    There will always be seriously ignorant people. There always have been and always will be.

    If those people didn’t need my input when I was four years old and didn’t have a care in the world, then they don’t need my input now.

    ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’ is apropo.

    Accept the things you cannot change. You’ll live longer.

    @Vinícius Egidio: I’ll take on ‘the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve spirit’ when I get back from my second job. It might take a good 14 years off my life, but it will be well worth it – not!

    No one is looking out for you but you, so keep your priorities straight. If your ass was put out on the street do you think the outspoken atheist activists would do a damn thing for you? No! So do what you have to do to survive – because you would just be another statistic to them.

  • http://zackfordblogs.com ZackFord

    I feel so validated by this post. You said exactly what I was trying to imply with a post of my own earlier in the week. I’ve since linked it to yours, because we are so very much on the same page.

    http://zackfordblogs.com/2010/09/the-problem-with-christianity/

  • http://chunkymonkeymind.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

    “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
    Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
    — Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

  • Greg

    What I find bizarre about this type of view is that even she (and others that say this sort of thing) must allow that there comes a point where that ‘philosophy’ fails.

    If, for example, a group of people believed they had the right to go around killing anyone they want, I find it very hard to believe that she would say – ‘well, anyone who speaks out against them is just as zealous as these people’. Likewise if the group of people went around feeling they had the right to enslave people, or deny another group of people the vote.

    So where does the line become drawn where a group of people should be humoured, and where they should stood up to. Clearly, if DMD (free speech) or gay marriage (equality) are issues that shouldn’t deeply perturb us or we should allow to slide then it isn’t simply a matter of when these people negatively impact others, so when is it?

    Just how badly do a person’s human rights have to be infringed before standing up to the people doing the infringing is no longer ‘just as bad’ or ‘being a jerk’?

    Also – what does she think would happen if all the crazies were out there, spouting their inane and dangerous beliefs, and persuading other people to believe these things, and no-one was out there to correct them? That is what she is saying should happen.

    In a way, it’s analogous to viruses and medicines. If you’re out there actively providing vaccinations, people are a lot less likely to get sick in the first place, and are also more likely to get better if they do get sick but you are providing them with the drugs they need to fight off the infection. If you’re not providing this help… well, don’t be surprised when people start getting ill.

  • Nordog

    So, how’s “Life and let live” and be kind to those of good will (even the dim ones) sound?

  • Hangnail

    I had two Jehovah witness come to my house this morning. After opening the door I realized I had two options. Shut the door with me inside the house ignoring them, or shut the door with my outside the house speaking with them.

    I chose to speak with them. I debated with them openly on my doorstep for almost an hour until someone came up in a car to pick them up. Not only did I stop them from getting to any other houses, I probably let them know that there are many other schools of thought out there. I’m sure I didn’t “get through” to them, but it was a slaughter as far as debates go. They didn’t stand a chance.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Peregrine said:

    My point is, if you let everything get to you, you risk becoming like him, like he was.

    Your uncle’s problem wasn’t that he was too worked up. His problem was that he was wrong. I doubt your cousin would have minded if he had instead used the same zeal to defended the rights of gays. Wouldn’t that have been much better than you guys just quietly “being cool with it”? Especially considering you are apparently still not sure whether he knew you were in fact cool with it?

  • Samiimas

    I think you’ve mixed up too many things here. Some things, like attacking gay people, hurt other people. Other things, like having your own beliefs about homosexuality, do not.

    If this is the same euphemisms I’ve heard before you’re saying it’s perfectly okay to think gays are evil and sinful as long as you don’t actually try to take away their rights. It’s not.

    No one shows the slightest respect to the racists who claim god hates miscegenation, even if they’ve never actually done anything to stop interracial marriage. ‘Having your own beliefs’ about race won’t stop me from calling you a racist and ‘having your own beliefs’ about homosexuality won’t stop me from calling you a bigot.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    MH said:

    So when I hear people getting worked up and demanding an end to faith, the first question I ask is how many converts to atheism have you made? I doubt very many, so why waste your breath?

    Considering the number of people who from time to time come in and thank Hemant, I’d say quite a few. Probably more than you have by staying quiet. I also don’t think that “demanding an end to faith” is a fair representation of what Hemant and most atheists want. We hope to persuade, we don’t demand.

    People believe things because they need to. A universe run badly by a God is less scary than an impersonal universe where our opinion about how the place works is pretty much irrelevant. Lots of luck persuading people to believe that (even though it is true) as fear is a powerful motivator.

    You don’t have a very high opinion of people, do you? Especially not of religious people.

  • Cortex

    Thanks, Hemant. This post was fantastic. We all need to have more courage more often.

    And for those who would have us be less outspoken, well, I guess they should just take their own advice.

  • ihedenius

    No one is looking out for you but you, so keep your priorities straight. If your ass was put out on the street do you think the outspoken atheist activists would do a damn thing for you? No! So do what you have to do to survive – because you would just be another statistic to them.

    I recall Hitchens taking a concrete personal interest in Hirsin Ali when she was threatened with loosing her police protection.
    http://hotair.com/archives/2007/10/08/hitchens-america-must-stand-behind-ayaan-hirsi-ali/

  • ihedenius

    Chris,

    “Getting people to lose their faith” is probably the sickest goal I’ve heard an atheist utter.

    Really ? I don’t see why atheists aren’t as free to plead their view as everybody else is. The less people living in fantasy worlds the better.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    To be fair, I am apathetic about a lot of activist causes. Or I sympathize with them, but I do nothing to contribute. But damn if I’m going to condemn activists merely on the grounds that they’re too passionate. Activism can be noble.

  • Derek Clevidence

    The difference comes down to this as I see it:
    The religionists mission is to take away your rights and to dehumanize you; The atheist side argues for free inquiry and rejects the notion of an unquestionable authority. A ‘free’ society cannot exist in the former. It requires the latter.

  • Jenn

    There goes the friendly from your namesake. I was very appalled at reading this.
    I believe faith is like hope to people. If you take it away they have nothing left of them. And trying to change someone or yell at them to change because you think they’re wrong won’t help anything or anyone. I agree with your friend in some part. Not every subject is worth fighting for. Or yelling at others for. Talking is one thing, but trying to rip ones belief away is another.

  • Jeff

    @seymour skinner: There will always be seriously ignorant people. There always have been and always will be.

    Yes, but for the first time, the seriously ignorant people have the ability to destroy the planet.

    @chris: “Getting people to lose their faith” is probably the sickest goal I’ve heard an atheist utter.

    It isn’t as sick as the Christian goal of getting to heaven so you can spend eternity watching everyone else fry.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Jenn said:

    I believe faith is like hope to people. If you take it away they have nothing left of them.

    If faith is like hope, a false belief is like false hope. Giving people false hope is often cruel.

    You seem to think religious people are somehow incapable of living without their faith, But isn’t that a much more unfriendly assessment than telling them that they don’t need religion?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Jenn:

    I believe faith is like hope to people. If you take it away they have nothing left of them.

    … We’re taking away hope in something that never existed in the first place. And I’m living proof that your position is wrong. I was an evangelical Christian. I gave up my faith. I have plenty left.

    These people only believe that the faith gives them real hope because they’ve been taught a mythology that says it does.

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful, Hemant.

  • MH

    Deen, I’m 45, so maybe I have a low opinion of people, or maybe a realistic one based upon experience.

    I’m certainly not the first person to call religion a compensatory fantasy or the opium of the masses.

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    I’m left wondering why it’s ok for religious missionaries to “take away the faith” of millions of people all over the world, killing many in the process and changing the way their cultures have existed for thousands of years, but getting people to lose their faith is the “sickest goal” for an atheist to have.

    Typical double standard. Unfortunately.

    That’s all I wanted to point out.
    You guys got the rest.

  • http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~edmin/Pamphlets/ Cyberguy

    It is obvious, even to biased observers, that atheism vs. religion is a serious cultural meme-war. This is a truly global struggle that will not be over until one side has “won”, at least to the extent of gaining complete dominance over the other.

    The winning side will NOT be the one that is passive!!!

  • Samiimas

    Thank you for pointing that out Lagunatic. I’m always completely shocked at how people are able to whine about Atheists ‘shoving their beliefs’ on people and being ‘militant’ and how we need to just leave people alone and let them believe whatever they want while not once being called out on the fact that the major religions spend millions of dollars and send people to every corner of the earth trying to ‘take away people’s faith’ and replace it with another.

    It is a double standard, one of the bigger ones.

  • Robyn

    Are you talking to everybody or those that are in the social position to be an activist? Because that could make a difference.

    The doctor friend you spoke of is in a position to do so, though, so I understand your rant on that level. I just wasn’t clear on that one.

  • Samiimas

    As long as we’re on the subject it also annoys me how they’re able to justify the proselytizing by saying they believe the world would be better if everyone was ______ but if I even suggest that I’d like to see a world of only atheists they scream that it’s proof I’m an intolerant asshole who wants to get rid all religious people by force. It’s like claiming I want to put SUV drivers in re-education camps and murder people who leave the lights on all night just because I think everyone should stop wasting so many resources.

    I’m sick of it. I truly think the world would be a far better place if every single person was an Atheist and I’m not ashamed to admit it. For starters I’d be able to get married.

  • Peregrine

    @Deen
    Yes, he was wrong. But that’s not my point. That’s a completely different topic, maybe tangentially related, and on that note, I see what you mean, and mostly agree. But that’s not what I’m getting at.

    I said earlier that he had the same kind of problem that Hemant had, waaaay up at the top of the page; that he was getting worked up about every little thing, like political opinions that may never have affected him. Like the gun registry. We’re Canadian. We don’t even have a 2nd amendment. He hasn’t hunted in years. Doesn’t even own a gun, to my knowledge. But for some reason, the gun registry was one of those issues. And even to the point where he was getting worked up over the newspaper delivery, and calling the office, and complaining to managers. Little things like that upset him, and it was affecting his health. That was his problem. Sure, he had other problems, but that’s beside the point. And the example that I cited is that he’s mellowed since. He’s learned to let stuff go. We may not agree with his opinion, and maybe I could have reacted better back then, but one of my leading problems is that I’m at expert at esprit d’escalier. We’ve dealt with that. My point is, he’s learned to let some stuff go. And he’s a healthier, and somewhat more tolerable person for it. That’s the example I’m trying to get at.

    We have the same problem on our side. We read news articles and blog posts from across the continent, and we get all worked up over each and every one of them to the point that every slight infringement on some freedom or other requires a call to action. If we let that get to us, then we run the same risk of becoming grumpy, cynical old farts. Just like him. Because when I see the scowley protester at the Glen Beck rally bitching about things they barely understand, I’m reminded of my grumpy curmudgeon uncle not very many years ago. More than that, when I read blog posts like this, or some of PZ’s recent diatribes, the similarities are striking enough that they’re worth mentioning.

    And if somehow I’ve failed to get that across, then fine; it’s a bad example. Strike the whole thing out, and move on with the rest. And I think that’s all I have to say on the matter, because frankly, I think it’s about time to take my own advice.

  • Pseudonym

    Wouldn’t that be the reasonable, rational thing for Muslim students to say?

    But where was that message?

    I don’t recall ever hearing it.

    Of course you didn’t. Whether or not you personally intended it, DMD was designed (in the figurative unintelligent evolutionary sense) to elicit a heated unreasonable response, not a reasonable response.

    If enough people go in with the intention of giving Muslims the finger, that’s all they’re going to see.

  • James Probis

    @Peregrine:
    So what you’re saying is that if something doesn’t personally effect you you consider it wrong for someone to care that it effects others? So straight people who actually work in favor of gay rights rather than being silent cowards allowing family members to think they are hated by those who should love them most are the ones in the wrong?

    I don’t really have anything to say other than that it pathetically obvious you only attack those who care about others to mask your own shame.

  • muggle

    Wow, quite the thread and I hope you’re reading it all since you’re getting a variety of great feedback. Now to add my $.02 (which, admit it, you knew I would since I always have an opinion).

    At first I was going to say I go two ways on this since I see benefit in sometimes speaking up and sometimes letting it pass but the more I read the comments the more I said who the hell you kidding, muggle? You are not that apathetic.

    I get called bitch one hell of a lot. This is a thing I’m very proud of and I’m proud of it for a reason. I’ve only been called a bitch under two, no three, circumstances: when standing up for my rights, when standing up for someone else’s rights or when challenging someone’s dearly held notions.

    Do we need to convert? You know how I feel about that. Do not become what you hate. Do not become as obnoxious as preachers who blaspheme their own god by standing in his place and passing judgment for him as if they don’t trust him to do it. Don’t become the Atheist version of this and judge people for merely having a different opinion from you.

    But most decidedly speak up for yourself and express what you believe right, speak up against oppressors when you see them hurting others, and, if people say things expecting a pass in polite company, fuck that shit. They brought it up. It’s, therefore, game.

    Your friend was wrong because she didn’t criticize you constructively. Instead, she criticized you not for having your opinion but daring to speak it. How dare she? How dare she try to gag you so that her view could be expressed and yours silenced? No one’s allowed to challenge her opinion? Like fuck! Just as she challenged yours, you had every right to challenge hers and it sounds as if you were polite about it. She, on the other hand, was not only rude but abusive. This is why you’re so upset.

    “Polite” people spin this as choose your battles carefully. From experience, they do this because they don’t like the battle you chose. Well, who the hell are they to tell you what battles are worth fighting? It’s entirely up to you to deem what’s important enough to you to fight for. Religion is to you and vegetarianism isn’t. That’s your right.

    Now that I got that off my chest, I find there are different battles in every war and each battle must be handled in the most effective way possible. There is a time to stand up and say uh, uh, fuck you, no way am I going to get away with that and there is a time to take the high road and come off looking like the bigger person for letting obvious idiocy pass and there are times when somewhere between between these two extremes is the best course of action. If fuck you is 1 and letting it pass is 10, there are going to be times when you should take reactive action that is 3, 5, or 8, etc.

    Hemant, I’ve been reading you for years. You have a good head on your shoulders and are both passionate and compassionate. You struggled with this situation and came to us with it for feedback because you don’t make rash decisions or throw temper tantrums. You are the friendly Atheist regardless of criticisms you see here. Trust yourself. You have excellent judgment. Trust yourself to know when to take action number 1, action number 10 or action number 6. You’ve certainly been good at it so far and are not yet even 30. Cudos.

    And don’t ever let anyone tell you what battles to fight. You decide what should be fought for yourself. Or what battle is not worth it to you either for that matter.

  • Peregrine

    No, James, what I’m saying is, one doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders all the time. One would be well advised to take a break once in a while, so that one doesn’t go completely off the deep end. And that there are others who will carry on the cause in their absence.

    I’m kinda glad my uncle never bothered with the internet. He’d have a fucking coronary, if he ever learned of a place where deliberately missing the point was such a goddamned refined art form.

  • James Probis

    @Peregrine:
    Some of us don’t have the option of not giving a shit. Some of us can’t “take a break” from being attacked by ignorant bigots, but it’s always good to know haw far some supposed allies are willing to roll over while we’re attacked.

  • Hitch

    This is a really great thread.

  • http://www.happyatheists.com Slickninja

    Hemant, I’m with you buddy. Not every atheist is, but the only way the religious find atheism acceptable is, unvoiced, out of sight and out of mind.

  • Heavy D

    It meant a lot to me to read this post. I never let a stupid comment go, particularly a religious one. It is not that I want people to think the same as me but when they live out irrational thoughts or vote with them it affects me. All I want is for them to reason though it. Needless to say, I catch a lot of flak for this to the point that my family jumps on me like a live hand grenade when something like that comes up.

    If we say nothing, then we are cooperating with it and some stupidity and irrationality shouldn’t be tolerated.

    It was awesome to see it on your blog. Thank you.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Peregrine: Maybe I’m misreading you, but you come across as equating being passionate about a specific set of things with being constantly on edge about everything. What gives?

  • Jeff

    @MikeTheInfidel: Peregrine: Maybe I’m misreading you, but you come across as equating being passionate about a specific set of things with being constantly on edge about everything. What gives?

    It may be a Canadian cultural trait.

  • Rollingforest

    Some people seem to assume that if you advocate for something you won’t stop until everyone agrees with you. I think the whole point of debating with someone is not to convince them but rather to convince the moderates who are listening to you debate.

  • Hitch

    The whole point of speaking is to give others the opportunity to hear.

    Yes, they may hear something that someone does not like, but most often the things that we have hangups on and need to hear about are the things we don’t want to hear about.

    Speaking difficult perspectives, unpleasant truths, can be a real positive even if, sometimes especially when it is perceived as a negative.

    That doesn’t mean that one constantly yells ones views into people’s faces. Noone is advocting that.

    And there are things where self and others need to speak to improve things.

    For a humorous treatment of these dilemmas I recommend Paul Watzlawick’s book “The Situation is Hopeless but Not Serious” which addresses exactly this in a rather humerous way. Watzlawick was a psychologist who also worked on linguistics and communication.

    His famous story is that of a husband and wife. The wife tries a new soup, it’s very elaborate soup and she pours in a lot of effort in the hopes to do him some good. So he tastes the soup and it is (pun intended) god-awful. But he loves his wife and does not want to offend here. So he says it’s absolutely delicious. The wife is overjoyed. Now at every opportunity she makes that soup to please her husband.

    Point is of course that paradoxically trying to please and not offend can at times not have the right outcome. To speak truthfully can offend, but it has a much better chance of avoiding pleasantries leading to the perpetuation of the unpleasant.

  • Peregrine

    @James Probis
    well, if this is the kind of battle you want to wage, then you probably don’t need my help anyway.

    @MikeTheInfidel
    You may be misreading me. Seems to be an epidemic lately. Or I may have poorly explained it in the first place.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Well, you came out of the gate with “You can’t let yourself get out of sorts over every little thing. If you do, you risk becoming like the self-righteous stick-in-the-muds, sprawled out on their lawn chairs with a scowl on their face at a Glen Beck rally. Or worse: holding the Discovery Channel hostage. Not that you’d ever do that, of course, but it’s no wonder where that mindset comes from.”

    But it’s not every little thing. It’s only some things, and not all of them are little. This sounds incredibly dismissive of the idea of being passionate about what we think matters. And it also sounds like you think it’s silly for us to bother with things that you might think don’t matter, even if they do to us.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    I have a blog with the title, The Truth About Everything. It is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I will now take down that title and pass it to you, because you not only believe you know everything, but you also believe that those who disagree with you are fools. This is typical of the left in my experience, and can only lead to one obvious conclusion: stop those fools from exercising their rights to disagree. It is already happening on the campus. With folks like 80% of the posts above in charge, I would fear for our freedom in America, and what is left in Canada.

  • http://prettyprogressive.wordpress.com Shayna

    This is the problem with moderate believers. If the only people speaking out in faith are the “crazies” as a non-believer you more or less have to respond in kind. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in this world, therefore the religious zealots crying out against same-sex marriage, abortion, etc are the ones getting their message across. Being outspoken if not outraged is the only way we have to even this out. But maybe if the perfectly sane, normally, intelligent purple who do believe in god cared more they would speak up against the crazies and even against us loud angry atheists and then they just might have the peaceful neutrality they always seem to be looking for.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Thanks, Randy! It’s always fun to see people who are totally certain but completely wrong. Not only do we NOT believe we know everything, but we ABSOLUTELY support people’s right to disagree. As for people we disagree with being fools… you’re the only one to bring that up!

    Having a right to disagree does not mean that you have a right to be correct, however, and on certain issues, there is a real answer.

  • Peregrine

    @MikeTheInfidel
    Kinda like not being able to see the forest for the trees, isn’t it?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I’m not entirely certain what you’re referring to.

  • mikespeir

    I guess the thing that bothers me most about this post is that it seems to be trying to put people right back under bondage again. When I was a Christian we were incessantly hammered with, “Why aren’t you witnessing more?” It was a constant guilt trip. I’m sure as hell not going to let anybody do that to me again. I didn’t escape from the frying pan only to jump into the fire. I’m done with religion–theistic and atheistic both!

  • CJ :)

    Some people pick their battles. If I spent my life ranting and raving about every little thing that drove me batty I’d be opening a vein on a regular basis.

    Atheism is not my main issue. I am interested in it, I will discuss it with others, I don’t roll over and play dead when it comes up, but my main issue is mental illness. Why? Because I was diagnosed as manic-depressive in 1982 (before the term “bipolar” came into vogue) and I have spent my life fighting against being labeled, classified and outcast all my adult life while managing an illness that can destroy me if I take my eyes off it for one second. When my son developed the same illness it permanently shifted my focus.

    The fact that I don’t have an atheism blog and I don’t rant from the rooftops and I don’t rent billboards and put signs on my car doesn’t make me any less an atheist. It means that in the scope of my life there is something that is more immediate and important to me.

  • CCL

    No, James, what I’m saying is, one doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders all the time.

    Do you know how awesome it would be if this could actually happen sometime? It would be fantastic if women didn’t have to carry the weight of being women on their shoulders all the time, or if black people didn’t have to carry the weight of being black on their shoulders all the time, or gay people didn’t have to carry the weight of being gay on their shoulders the whole time, or if atheists didn’t have to carry the weight of being atheists on their shoulders all the time.

    Unfortunately, culture doesn’t like that very much. Being able to not be engaged in this conversation and your culture, or to step back and let things slide, is privilege.

    The problem with your uncle wasn’t that he was loudly homophobic, it’s that he was (and probabaly still is) homophobic. Unless he’s actually changing, he might still go into a ballot box and vote for something like Proposition 8 when no one’s looking. Or vote for something like the Alabama referendum that banned gay people from adopting. Or quietly thinking that gay men are all perverts and sluts and perpetuating a culture that is actively hostile towards gay people. So you think that your backing off was probabaly an appropriate thing to do, but I’m pretty sure as far as your gay cousin is concerned, people not speaking up for him hurt just as much, if not more, than your uncle screaming insanities.

    So enjoy being able to let things slide sometimes. Not all of us are so lucky.

  • cass_m

    Hermant, I can see why your friend wouldn’t be passionate about your atheism but to criticize it…this is the kind of friend to have shallow conversations with as she either really disagrees with you or is quite apathetic (based on her antivax response.). Either way your passion could create more strain.

    And I’m with you Peregrin, pick your battles and commit to them, not create a diffuse rage. The part of the web I check is very americanized, I am not a US citizen. I have had to step away from that perspective (religion, homosexuals, gun control, abortion, universal health care…the list goes on) on line because I can do nothing about them. I am no less passionate about idea or hesitant to speak them but in some situations confrontation do no good to anyone but walking away can be most effective.

  • Rollingforest

    Actually cass_m , you CAN do things about those issues. Just continue speaking your mind and writing letters to the editor that American citizens can read.

  • Naomi

    Thank you for this post. It’s all very well to stay ‘above the fray’ and feel smugly superior to both sides who foolishly believe these ideas matter. But the thing is, they do. One nutcase believing crazy stuff isn’t going to hurt anyone as long as the craziness stays inside their head. But when it’s widespread and the nutcases end up in positions of power, inflicting their damaging ideas unto everyone, it MATTERS.

    There is too much social obligation to ‘respect’ opinions, even when they are ignorant.

  • santa

    I am also passionate about atheism. My wife tires of my comments at times, but a good friend who is a strongly religious Mormon doesn’t. He doesn’t because we just don’t talk about it. He is very conservative, he is anti-gay in the military, and he is generally way off the scale of conservatism from my perspective. I on the other hand often comment that I don’t support Barrack Obama because he is too far to the right for me. So in this context my friend and I just enjoy a common hobby and we discuss it, not politics or religion or societal issues. It can be a hard balance to choose when to speak and when not to speak, but today when I go to a baptism, rest assured I won’t raise any religious issues even my thinking tends to go there.

  • Cortex

    @mikespeir: Communicating with others is not a defining characteristic of religion. If you want to shrug-off your responsibility to participate in the marketplace of ideas, go ahead. But don’t look down on the people who stand up for reality.

    @Lots of People: When did Hemant say to lose your mind over every minor annoyance? Vaccination, public policy, civil rights, science denial, and religious discrimination are NOT trivial!

  • mikespeir

    Cortex:

    I communicate with people all the time. I communicate with them about the very reality you refer to. But you–or Hemant–aren’t going to define my responsibilities for me. I’ll communicate about it at my own discretion. I will not be made to feel I have some moral obligation to become an activist or that I’m less of a person–or even an atheist–if I don’t. I don’t aspire to be lauded for my atheism.

    No, atheism, per se, isn’t a religion. It’s when people begin draping it with the trappings of religion that I become annoyed.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    No, atheism, per se, isn’t a religion. It’s when people begin draping it with the trappings of religion that I become annoyed.

    What does this even mean?

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    On further reflection, what I think is going on could be called a failure to empathize. I have two boys. One is a natural who lacks passion. The other has solid skills, but passionately works towards success in sports, music, and some academic work. I can no more make the one boy passionate than fly to the moon. I can encourage, show by example, etc. Do I love him any less? Do I shun him or call him names? Do I think him a fool or judge him?

    I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian who has come to that belief by serious analytic work, and by faith. You can ridicule my belief. I don’t choose to ridicule yours. I do have concern about those who are unable to walk in the shoes of those with whom they disagree.

  • Hitch

    Randy, I agree with you that we have to take perspective. But we also have to be able to make some decisions. Love is not silence. It is in fact an act of love to speak truthfully. If our children do something that hurts somebody else, then we do speak in love. If they form believes that are encode things that disrespect or hurt others, we say that too. If they respond to a math text with “I have strong conviction that the answer is 17 because they are too lazy to learn math.” it is right to question it. And if they they make up results in biology lab claiming it was a revelation, we are right to question it too. And if the attitude becomes endemic, we are right to worry why that is.

    Randy, I don’t think you have understood the original text in its context.

    Let’s invert that idea. You have two kids. One is getting bullied in school. Do we keep quiet about it? Or do we not intervene in the fear of hurting the feelings of the bully?

    No, we do intervene, and we do stand up and work for what is right.

    Does that mean we disrespect the humanity of the bully? Not at all. It’s just that bullying is a bad idea, and trying to get it to stop is not wrong.

    (And yes I can already predict how this example will not be understood as it is intended)

    Let me make this plain. I have gay friends. The discrimination they suffer is real and tangible. And people who tell me that I advocate form them to not suffer this discrimination call me a zealot as bad as religious extremist is part of the problem and there really should be no equivocation about this at all.

    But this is how this goes. People get bent out of shape because we actually care, but they misread it as attacking them as people. No we are not. We work against discrimination, intolerance, superstitious thinking. And tolerance does not mean that one tolerates intolerance.

    And this inability to separate things and see them in their proper place is exactly why we have these odd discussions.

  • mikespeir

    What does it mean, MikeTheInfidel? When you try to impose groupthink such that “unless you do it my way”–for instance, fail to actively “evangelize”–you’re somehow morally deficient? Ring any bells?

  • Secular Stu

    And trying to change someone or yell at them to change because you think they’re wrong won’t help anything or anyone.

    Wow.

  • James Probis

    Always lovely to see how an event where someone is attacking another for being outspoken in the name of justice is inevitably twisted into the person concerned about justice attacking those who do nothing. Nobody aside from the voices in your heads has attacked you for not speaking up, the point is that we shouldn’t be shamed into not speaking up.

    Some of us actually have the experience of BEING the gay person in the room when a bigot goes on a rant and nobody speaks up. Trust me, you have NO FUCKING IDEA what that feels like. And no, when you are in that situation you do not assume the cowards who refuse to speak up are on your side, because in fact they aren’t.

    Bravo to those who speak up for justice, you have no idea how much good you do. You may not change the bigots, but you give strength to those who feel the world is against them.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    So, clearly you would agree that if my child is bullied by teachers who disagree with their belief that God created, I should zealously make certain that this abuse is discontinued while understanding the teacher’s attitude is being shaped by forums that call my son’s belief woo woo. Thus, I need to be empathetic.

    And hopefully you will respect that my deeply held convictions can be just as intellectually informed as yours. Therefore if I were sitting on the grass in a lawn chair in DC, being encouraged in faith charity and hope, you would not stereotype me as smug, self righteous, etc.

  • James Probis

    Nobody should be expected to remain silent about their beliefs. Some beliefs are wrong, some beliefs are harmful- the answer to that is for more people to speak up.

    All I see is the common thing where religious ideas are too incredibly stupid to compete in a marketplace of ideas so it is demanded that those who have differing views keep silent. Nobody has a fucking hissy fit about how Christians (who, by the way believe we are going to hell for disagreeing with them) are being disrespectful by not sharing my beliefs as an atheist. Religious believers by the very nature of their belief think that atheists are wrong, yet it’s only atheists who are somehow “disrespectful” by stating that religion is wrong.

  • Hitch

    Well Randy, I’m sorry to say that your and your son’s beliefs are woo woo. Though perhaps you can recommend a more gentle way to say the same thing.

    And saying that is not bullying. A teacher can be a bully, but telling someone that creationism has no place in the classroom is not it.

    In fact to banter children into bringing creationism into the classroom is questionable. I wouldn’t call it bullying but it is exposing children to being rebuked for no reason, other that you didn’t know any better to teach them what is actually known and established and how science works. Teaching children misinformation is actually a sign of lack of empathy. If we empathize we equipt our children and our peers with real information and real knowledge. Not hearsay or convictions.

    Empathy is not the same as affirming something that has no basis.

    Empathy is to feel with the other. I will not resist a surgery of a friend simply because I empathize that it will be an unpleasant experience. It is good for them, even though it is unpleasant!

    And yes I have empathy that it hurts to be told that ones world view is woo woo. It does hurt. But there is no alternative that is honest. I could lie and say it’s not woo woo.

    That is the very point here. Can we speak honestly and not have that twisted into some guilt-trip about lack of empathy?

    I don’t actually respect any deeply held convictions at all. I respect people and if you have a good idea I respect that good idea on its merits.

    I’m against stereotyping, so I certainly wouldn’t do that. To disagree, or to not respect societally engrained constructs such as piety, devotion or spirituality, is not the same as stereotyping. It’s a disagreement on the merit. And that’s what it should be.

    And you are entitled to have religious feelings or concerns. But when it comes to classrooms or public policy, sadly we cannot just be empathic and have to go ahead and be said or implemented whatever springs from your inner convictions, and not from what is what we know or should morally want.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    well i just knew this would be a kicker of the thread! heh, 140 comments. jumping in unread:

    i’m really vocal about my atheism. unapologetic, too. sorry, mythology is mythology, like crap is crap. i don’t sniff crap and call it truffles, i don’t accept mythology as reality. i studied mythology for a long, long time, and did all the things Serious People say one should do, while “figuring out what to believe.” well, 20 years and several degrees later, i “figured it out.” i will go toe to toe with believers of any kind, nothing they say scares me. i admire and respect the beauty of metaphysics and theology, as *human* creations. i understand the history of most of the major faiths, how they’ve changed and adapted to a changing world. basically, religious ideas don’t make me afraid, ever. i think that’s the problem people like your friend have. she’s doing the old, tired canard that is applied to people who want equality for gays, ethnic minorities, atheists, etc… “why can’t you just shut up? you’re making me uncomfortable.” well, sorry honey. that’s just too bad. i have to listen to religious claptrap every day of my life. why aren’t my feelings as important as yours? religion offends my intellect, just like my “rudeness” offends you. it all comes down to this for me, and i do judge believers by this standard: if your faith is so weak you can’t deal with me being what i am, then your faith isn’t worth a piece of toilet paper. i know all about what faith is supposed to be, and i reject it. if you don’t, nothing i say or do should change that. the only thing that determines faith is the individual. even the most fundamental believers admit that the onerous of faith is on the human being, and not the “god.”

  • Neon Genesis

    Some people do have other things to do with their time besides going to political rallies all the time, like going to school or work or raising a family.

  • Cortex

    @mikespeir

    It’s ironic that you’re accusing Hemant of imposing groupthink when he’s advocating for more open criticism of beliefs, even if it leads to conflict and social discomfort.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    So, now my child (18) who can go to war and vote, cannot have his own deeply held belief (only a reflection of mine.) If he disagrees with the teacher on science or politics of food, ok to bully him in class and reduce his scores for not parroting the teacher. (Happened to me even 40 years ago)

    The discourse needs to be free and open to all, not just Christians. Not just atheists. You want to convince me of your POV, no problem. I’ve set up a wide open forum with a sold out atheist as my co-blogger. Just don’t call what I experience woo woo, and I won’t call what you don’t experience woo woo. Let the debate turn on facts and good argumentation.

  • p.s.

    lol randy, feel free to call the things I don’t experience woo. Hell, I call plenty of things I don’t experience woo. Other than that I think that you and almost everyone here is on the same page. As long as you aren’t suggesting creationism be taught as science (it’s not) or that teacher-led prayer in the classroom is constitutional (it’s not).

  • Hitch

    Randy, yes discourse needs to be free. But that is what I am doing. You believe that people’s deeply held believes should enter the science classroom. Well I believe that it is destructive.

    Creationism is roundly debunked and if you expect that a teacher baby-sits theories that are known to be untrue, then I think that is exactly where the problem is. There are many theories that people hold. There are people who hold they are Napoleon. Should we allow their deeply held convictions to be subject of debate in science classrooms as well? Or will this notion that just any belief deserves equal consideration just stifle any actual teaching and knowledge because we talk forever about things known to be false or superseded by a much better founded explanation.

    Science is not a matter of POV, it is a matter of experimentation, verification, refinement and falsification. The reason why you and your son don’t get to just talk about creationism in class is because the POV is not scientific.

    Discourse needs to be free and open so good ideas can win and propagate. That means that people can keep trying to keep disproven ideas alive too because they have strong convictions. But don’t expect that you get approval. You are free to express them, but you are not free to have them in any forum. You certainly are not free to pollute our science classrooms with it.

    Free discourse does not mean that bad, debunked ideas deserve respect. They don’t. Stop propagating quack nonsense. You think I have not convinced you? There is plenty of material out there. You do not need me to convince you. It’s up to you to be intellectually curious. Noone is hiding the information form you.

    But in reality it’s this standard move about “oh you didn’t say this in the right way so I am not convinced”. Randy, in all likelihood you don’t care to be convinced. Looking at your blog you want to argue how wrong atheists are and how it’s unfair that your debunked ideas don’t get an equal hearing.

    Good luck to Bernardo. I couldn’t take this. It’s already so frustrating how our country is strangled by ignoramuses who still insist after all this effort of honest scientists that their debunked, yet deeply held, kitchen-sink idea gets equal hearing. You waste our time. Read more and convince yourself, if you care. But don’t expect to be baby-sat when you do the stuff that pulls this country down.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Randy, sorry, I’ve got to call you on your total bullshit. If the discourse is free and open to all, you can’t whine about how your beliefs are being “bullied.” Either you really want an honest, frank discourse, or you want special protection for your position. You can’t have it both ways. Part of having open discourse is allowing for your position to be ridiculed. You don’t get to tell people not to call your beliefs woo-woo. It’s fundamentally dishonest to say you want an open discourse and then attempt to limit criticism of your ideas.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    Would you like a list of the ideas and theories that were once believed and taught by the science community that needed to be overcome by even more observation, hypothesis, experimentation, etc? When you stifle debate, you shut down freedom. I’m not even asking for the teacher to give 1 day out of 200 to honestly and impartially lay out the current theories on creationism (although that would seem like a small price to pay for open discourse.) But if the teacher bullies that student, that’s where we have to start drawing a major line in the sand. And the bullying is not merely on the subject of origins. Climate Change? History of religion and its impact on social life, justice, etc. The list is long. Once teachers believe that they can take away freedom of discourse, the slippery slope is a long one.

    I am impressed that you were able to judge a blog with 100’s of pages of content so quickly. And that nothing in those 100’s of pages was of any value to the discourse.

    Your last paragraph says it all. The 10’s of 1000’s of brilliant individuals from all backgrounds, now and in history, are propagating quackery and need to be stopped from participating in certain forums because you have the monopoly on truth.

  • Hitch

    P.S. Here is a parody model of a free discourse idea.

    20 people are in the room. 1 person has a good idea. 19 people scream lalalala.

    When they are criticized for affecting the discourse and that they should stop to let the one be heard they demand an equal hearing compared to the 1 and complain that they are not convinced.

    Is this how free discourse is supposed to function? Nope.

    But they then go write blog posts how the lalala opinion is not allowable in that room and how that violates the idea of free discourse. Congratulations. You have found exactly how to undermine actual free discourse by flooding it with non-sense.

  • p.s.

    Would you like a list of the ideas and theories that were once believed and taught by the science community that needed to be overcome by even more observation, hypothesis, experimentation, etc? When you stifle debate, you shut down freedom.

    That’s pretty much every scientific theory ever. We think one thing is true based on the current evidence, and if more evidence pops up, then we reevaluate the theory. That’s how science works. There is absolutely no evidence supporting creationism and there is no experiment that creationists would possibly accept to prove it one way or the other. There are no scientific theories for creationism. If you think there are, then you don’t understand what a scientific theory is. Climate change has happened in the past (see ice age). Changing weather trends is a current fact. Too much CO2 in the atmosphere causes the planet to heat up- this is a fact. Not sure why you would object to people teaching the facts.

    (hitch: definitely thought you were talking to me for a second. damn my initials!)

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    I think you’ve mixed up too many things here. Some things, like attacking gay people, hurt other people. Other things, like having your own beliefs about homosexuality, do not.

    do you have your own beliefs about black people too? how about democrats? vegetarians? is it ok to think anyone with any of those labels is lesser, just because that’s “your belief?”

    it really saddens me how many people on this thread can’t understand that silence = death. that’s an old saying from gay right activism but it applies to a lot of other issues. it’s literally true. nonbelievers and skeptics are murdered because of their lack of belief, murdered by believers who think being offended is a death penalty worthy crime. google is your friend, and it should only take you about 30 seconds to find a news story that proves this point of fact.

    so while i’m a pretty tolerant person, and i’m willing to grant believers the same freedoms that i have, i’m not willing to ignore their constant, violent hostility towards me, simply because i am what i am. i guess people can say they don’t feel a “responsibility” to speak out about atheism and i can understand that, but to me it’s a very personal, very immediate issue that has to do with me living.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    But that is how it is happening on the campus. Left wingers are shouting LALALALA and not letting folks of conservative opinion have their say. This is true with invited guests and in the classroom. Show me an example of where right wingers are trying to shout down those from the left.

    Go into a Christian High School or University and see if the beliefs of the scientific community are being promulgated. Of course they are. That is because we believe that when ALL ideas are on the table, there is potential for the cream to rise to the top and the fatuous to be discarded on the scrap heap of history.

    Under your method, Darwin’s theories would have never seen the light of day in the classroom. But they did, and that was in Christian institutions, not public.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Science does not care about debate or opinions. Science cares about evidence. You’re out of your mind.

  • Jude

    Actually, I’m non-confrontational, but I also don’t like to proselytize. If you choose to be an idiot, so be it. However, perhaps influenced by reading too many atheist blogs, this week when a teacher asked me if I went to church because he wanted to get together to work on a project on Sunday, I said, “No, I’m an atheist.” He responded, “That’s great!” which was a little goofy, but he really wanted to get together.

  • Hitch

    P.S. (as in refering to the commenter p.s.) Still nice to talk to you and good perspective! (And sorry for inducing the confusion!)

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    Science does not care about debate or opinions. Science cares about evidence. You’re out of your mind.

    And evidence is never colored by opinion?
    Right!

  • Hitch

    Randy, Science is not a belief.

    We make theories obsolete in science all the time. We no longer teach aether in physics. We no longer teach old theories about how everything is made of earth/wind/fire.

    That you do not understand that process is not my problem.

    New evidence is always welcome. But “creationism is true” is not new evidence. And new evidence does not obsolete old evidence. If you provide new evidence that overthrows evolution, it has to contradict the theory.

    It’s not political. It’s a process. The process is open to any honest particioner. But you do have to show evidence and use all existing evidence. No cherry picking, no political coloring, no theories just because.

    But this is the trouble right now. We have deluded people who want their opinions be heard on par with refined scientific theories and because they don’t understand and are offended use political means to get their voiced leveraged into the science process as they understand it.

    The damage is massive. So Randy, I do hope that you read up on evolution and learn the facts and arguments. I hope that you want to do that (as you claim you do). If after having looked at all the evidence you still think creationism is the hot deal, well at least you have done the honest work that you claim you want for debates.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    You misunderstand my statements, either by coloring the information I have stated with your own lens, or because I have not been very good at communicating.

    I believe God made everything. That is not a scientific statement, that is a philosophical statement. I believe that many of the tenants of Darwinian theory and the current variations of those are true. I also believe that there are many things that we are lacking in the picture. Some of those may lead us to find that there are “natural” phenomenon that may take us very close to what is now considered supernatural which are part of the picture. If we close off our mind to those potentials, then why not also close our minds to memes and string theory.

    You are no different than a flat earther of another time. Don’t mess with my mind. It’s already made up.

  • Hitch

    So you want your self-proclaimed non-scientific statements discussed in science class? I don’t think I misunderstood you at all. Oh wait, I get it …

    Don’t mess with my mind. It’s already made up.

    You said it bro. So much for being interested in facts and arguments 😀

    Clinging to a belief is not debate, but whatever floats your boat.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    “Because if you’re not actively defending the truth, you’re allowing the lies to gain more traction”

    This statement should be used to promote participation from those so far unwilling to stand up against others that make life so much harder then it needs to be.

  • James Probis

    Actually, what we see in this thread is yet another way the fundamentally stupid destroy debate. We aren’t talking about fucking Creationism, and some doubletalking troll is changing the subject. We should allow the troll to speak his lies, and the rest of us should simply point out that they are fucking dishonest lies that cause actual harm in the real world. But the troll demands nobody be allowed to point out that his lies are lies and that they cause demonstrable harm.

    Cowards who are afraid to let their stupid ideas compete with better ideas always worry about how terribly “rude” it is for people who know what they are talking about to speak. We need to quit worrying about being rude to idiots whose bad ideas cause harm and start worrying about protecting people from those bad ideas in the first place.

    Quite frankly, speaking as a gay man I’ve seen this underhanded tactic my entire life, bullies pretending they are harmed by those they bully.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    You are no different than a flat earther of another time.

    Give me a break! The idea of the flat earth was dismissed by evidence. You’ve begun with a presupposition that is evidence-free and you’re demanding that we should allow it to be discussed on equal standing with ideas that can actually be tested – and that it’s somehow “damaging” to science and progress to do otherwise. Sorry! In this case, you’re the persistent flat-earth believer insisting that flat-earth theory should be debated in a geography class.

    No, the claim “God created everything” is not a philosophical statement. It’s a claim of fact. If you actually believe it’s factual, and you want to present it as a viable option in contrast to other ideas that have evidential backing, you’d best be ready to give evidence for your position as well!

  • p.s.

    Hitch, no worries :) I suppose I could have picked a less ambiguous user name. oh well.

    randy:

    And evidence is never colored by opinion?
    Right!

    well I suppose it can be… but that’s why scientific experiments are repeatable. If someone questions the validity of the experiment or the integrity of the scientist who gathered the data, someone else can always redo the experiment to verify the results. It’s a good system that strives towards objectivity.

  • http://www.GodvsNoGod.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    p.s. Of course, but can we agree that the need to publish, to be funded, etc., can lead to efforts to take “scientific discoveries” to the public prior to any kind of replication. Both industry and academia have incentives and disincentives regarding research. Then there is the matter of peer pressure. This is all heaped on the reality that we all come to the lab with world views and skill sets that color the work. Then, we next go from physics, which has a more objective set of facts to archaeology or social psych, which have less solidity.

    Then with all of that uncertainty and fluidity in the sciences, and the boundary drawing between philosophy and science, it seems so strange to come here and get so much unwillingness to hear from those who likely have just as much background and experience (or more) than the posters who just dismiss our POV as not worthy of seeing the light of day

  • Hitch

    Then with all of that uncertainty and fluidity in the sciences, and the boundary drawing between philosophy and science,

    Problem is you haven’t really understood in what way science works, when things are fluid and when they are rigid. There is a lot of fluidity in areas where there is little or conflicting evidence and poorly formed theories. There is lots of rigidity in areas where there is lots of evidence, lots of studies, strong and confirmed theories. Creationism is not in a fluid area of science, when it tries to make scientific claims. It’s debunked. You can try to rescue it into the realm of philosophy but your original premise was the science classroom, so you basically moved the topic from that to allowing a philosophical discussion.

    it seems so strange to come here and get so much unwillingness to hear from those who likely have just as much background and experience (or more) than the posters who just dismiss our POV as not worthy of seeing the light of day

    Well that’s your story. You constantly complain that you POV isn’t heard. But it is. We have given creationism 150 years of scruitiny, along with competing theories. You have displayed exactly zero evidence of knowing anything of what that process was about or what the current state of affairs is.

    And we have whole think-tanks who stuff attempts at rescuing creationism down out throats and try to fake science (by making up pseudo journals etc). We know all this. The broad scope of what you claim has been considered.

    You display no awareness of any of this.

    Yet you still lament that we do not accept your POV. Look, you are intellectually lazy and like to complain. Come back when you actually have all this background that (again without evidence) you claim to have, or demonstrate that you have the background, don’t just claim authority.

    We know a lot. There are books about argumentation, about experimental design, about difference between scientific hypothesis and random idea and so forth. You do not observe a lot of these. We do not dismiss your POV, we tell you that there is much more to be had than what you display. In fact you all this time dismiss others POV. You have acknowledged almost none of the points made. You have not acknowledged what the position of the debate even is and what the impact on society is. You have not acknowledged why it is troubling to bring creationistic arguments to the classroom. You have not acknowledged that there is extensive literature on the debate, nor have you articulated your position with respect to that literature. Nothing. But you keep complaining that people don’t want your POV.

    It’s not true. We know your point of view and it has been considered in detail. If you have nothing to add but whining that you are not considered, you really are just broken record.

  • James Probis

    Can we assume that Randy doesn’t want to be given current generation antibiotics, which are developed to deal with the actual observed evolution of bacteria? Can we presume that it’s gaaaawd’s will that people die from preventable disease rather than acknowledging the fact of evolution?

    Or better yet, can we simply move on from the complete fucking moron’s unsupportable lies? We don’t have to treat sheer idiocy as though it were a valid debate topic, we don’t have to be polite to people whose idiocy causes actual harm to people.

  • Brian Macker

    “she believes that no one should be denied health care,”

    So she believes that doctors can be made into slaves, or that other people can be stolen from in order to pay her? Nice lady.

    She and apparently you don’t understand economics well enough to get that such good intentions act as paving stones on the road to hell. Same kinds of good intentions lead to the current economic mess. Two of the stones on the road to this economic mess are labeled “No one should be denied the opportunity to own a home.” and “No one should lose their savings in a bank failure”

  • Richard Wade

    Hemant,
    It has always been fear rather than apathy that has held me back. Your example has helped me get past much of my fear. I deeply thank you for that. I still have a long way to go, and as I slowly become more free, I hope to give back whatever I can.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    So she believes that doctors can be made into slaves

    If doctors are required to provide health care, but they are still paid, how on earth is it slavery?

    or that other people can be stolen from in order to pay her

    I love this. Everyone’s all for chipping in to help their fellow man. But suggest that the government might require it of you and suddenly it’s theft.

    Two of the stones on the road to this economic mess are labeled “No one should be denied the opportunity to own a home.” and “No one should lose their savings in a bank failure”

    I agree with the first bit (people spent money like credit was magic, and that’s insane) – but how on earth does it make sense not to defend savings against mismanagement or incompetent management by a bank?

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

    Responding quite late here but was off the grid and just saw the post. The attitude that Hemant describes basically boils down to “always let bullies do what they want to”. It’s true that you have to pick your battles to maximize outcomes.

    But there are lots of people in the world who for whatever reason have decided to pick no battles, and then insist on belittling people who stand up passionately for their principles. With all respect to Hemant’s friend, whenever someone makes this kind of case, it seems that they’re just soothing their own sense of jealousy at realizing that others are morally braver than they.

  • Hitch

    I actually don’t mind if people don’t pick battles. I mind if they turn on those who do stand up for something and make them into the bad guy.

  • mikespeir

    It’s ironic that you’re accusing Hemant of imposing groupthink when he’s advocating for more open criticism of beliefs, even if it leads to conflict and social discomfort.

    Not at all, Cortex. He’s attempting to tell me and everyone here that unless we get out and do like he does we’re somehow morally deficient. He’s equating a lack of zeal in the cause of atheistic evangelism to clear, line-of-sight cause-and-effect issues such as vaccination and so forth. That’s absurd!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Two thumbs up for Hemant!!!

    I don’t do a lot but I do do a little bit.
    I’ll try to do a little bit more.

    If everybody can do a little bit more, then that would help a lot.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to people.
    Start a blog.
    Participate in other blogs.
    Start a youtube channel
    Set up automatic draft to the SSA or something like that.

  • Seymour Skinner

    @Hitch I don’t think the backlash against groupthink is about making those who stand up for something the bad guys. If the post had been named ‘Why I’m Outspoken’ it would have been harmless enough. But ‘Why Aren’t You More Outspoken?’ implies that those of us who value our family’s financial and personal security more than wearing our scarlet A atheist badges are somehow lesser human beings for it.

    As I see it putting your family over your ‘affiliation’ is actually the more mature thing to do. What’s more important – the people you love, or what you believe about reality?

    @JeffP I’m willing to do almost any of those things except talking to people about my atheism face to face – unless I know they’re atheists already. I might have to live with my neighbors for decades – and people say good fences make good neighbors for good reason.

    As for anonymous blogging, Youtube, etc, sure, why not? That’s nice and safe.

    This post actually got me thinking – if I can express my atheism freely and openly on the internets without reprisal, why would I need to express it face to face to my coworkers or in-laws where it might have some very bad real-world consequences for me and those I love?

    The internets gives us the best of both worlds – it allows us to express ourselves freely without fear of being victimized by other people’s inflexible prejudices. Why anyone would want to invite being victimized is beyond me, but the masochists can go for it if they want. Just get off your high horse if you think every atheist that isn’t like you is morally deficient for thinking for herself instead of letting you shepherd her.

  • Hitch

    Seymour, I don’t think you read my remark in context. Let me explain:

    “No, you were all just being jerks.”

    Is not the same as “I keep quiet to keep my financial situation stable and my family safe”.

    This is what I mean by: “I mind if they turn on those who do stand up for something and make them into the bad guy.”

    You case is well covered by what I said before that: “I actually don’t mind if people don’t pick battles.”

    Noone I know will ask you to take risk that are not fine for you. I certainly don’t read that in Hemant’s post. But I do read a dismay that people who have no risks do nothing, or worse torpedo those who do something and tell them off.

    I am fully aware that there are real risks to be had, but I for one am grateful that some people help expand the envelope and hence decrease the risks for all of us.

    So yes, family, safety, well-being are high priorities. Go pick them. You will not find me having one bad word for it. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot have people who do take risks if they feel comfortable. Both choices are fine. Or are they not? And it certainly is fine to ask why some do not speak when they easily can.

  • MER

    This is something that really frustrates me about the current state of liberalism.

    It seems to have forgotten that we’re right.

    It ignores the fact that life in a liberal culture is more pleasant, safer, and more productive than life in a regressive one.

    Religion is wrong, and it is dangerous in all forms.

    And it ignores that people don’t know it, and don’t feel it. It doesn’t have the “by any means necessary” attitude that the opposition does. It won’t smear. It won’t make emotional appeals. And it loses.

    This isn’t a good faith debate, it’s not about figuring out how to live together in harmony.
    I know I’m angrier than most people here, but if we’re not outspoken, and we let them frame the dialogue, then we lose.

    Because they are out there every day
    spreading their lies, and loving it.

  • Cortex

    @mikespeir

    Persuasion is not the same thing as groupthink. Hemant is clearly trying to persuade people to stand up to nonsense – not to impose social pressure that would override our critical thinking.

    http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

  • Amy G

    I personally think that we shouldn’t spend so much time advocating atheism. It seems silly that we need to stand up for our non-beliefs. I don’t talk about not believing in unicorns or in ghosts, and I don’t try to get other people to not believe in those things. I think that instead of talking so much about the things we DON’T believe in, we should spend more time advocating for the things we DO believe in. I DO stand up for the right for homosexuals to marry and I always say that everyone has the right to believe (or not believe) in whatever they want. I don’t go around saying that atheists are right, but I do ask people to constantly question their beliefs and work to learn more about the world around them. Life should not be about who’s right and who’s wrong. Instead, it should be about living a good life, doing our best to learn about our world and the people (and creatures and plants and things) within it. It’s about sharing love and happiness and trying to be rid of hate.

  • Leah

    Why aren’t we more outspoken? Because of people like you. Idiots who refuse to accept they might actually be wrong sometimes and have no intention of ever compromising or analysing their own possible misconceptions and make a lot of assumptions and then treat them like givens. It’s an impossible situation. You don’t want people to argue their beliefs – you just want them to get into an argument with you so you can prove them wrong, or else you want people on your side of the fence to argue more to prove you right.

    Why would someone ever want to argue with you (or people like you) who are completely disrespectful and mocking of their beliefs and refuse to hold a mutually respectful debate, and instead counter with stupid things like “But (you) should agree with (me), I’m right”?

    I know I’m right on a lot of issues. But people who hold opposing views to me “know” they’re right on the same issues. We can’t both just sit there and say “but I’m right”. I thought people got past that by the age of 16.

    Ultimately, most of the time, there is no POINT in it. Why didn’t you see those messages from Muslims? Well why should they have said it? What would it have achieved? Nothing, except letting us know they didn’t like Mohammed being drawn – which we already knew.

    You might also find people are sometimes more outspoken than you think, but not around you. I pick and choose who I have my debates with. If they are people who can give intelligent responses (not just “you’re crazy”), are respectful and are willing to analyse their own beliefs, then sure, I will share my opinions and engage in debate. If it’s idiots who are not interested in intelligent debate and are only interested in saying how stupid my opinions are and how they are right, I’ll walk away. Because it will achieve nothing.