The Best Offense is a Good Defense

The Centre for Inquiry Canada’s “Extraordinary Claims” campaign featuring bus ads and in-person educational events is now underway:

National Post columnist Kelly McParland doesn’t get the campaign at all:

So why does he care if people believe in God, Allah or the tooth fairy? Atheists are defined by their disbelief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something. But rather than just go around quietly, not believing, Trottier and his pals feel compelled to make other people not believe either. Their only faith is in the rightness of not having faith.

Isn’t that just a bit strange? I don’t happen to believe basketball is that interesting. Sorry, just don’t. I tried, but it bores me. Mainly I just keep it to myself. But if I was Justin Trottier, I’d be out there raising money to run ads in subways and streetcars, trying to convince other people that basketball is boring. The ads would say: “If you think basketball isn’t boring, you have to prove it. Just like Bigfoot.”

Would that make sense? (Answer: No). And to what end, exactly? If five more people suddenly realize they also don’t care about basketball, have I achieved anything?

I’m so sick of hearing that argument. Why do you atheists have to tear everyone else down? If you don’t believe in god, fine, but just sit there and shut up about it.

We actively fight against extraordinary claims like the ones in the poster because those claims cause harm.

They can drain your wallet.

They will waste your time.

They can become the basis for irrational, unnecessary, and dangerous laws.

They offer false hope that will never come to fruition.

They can make you kill or hate or injure others.

They can make you take placebos when actual medicines are available.

They make you believe in fiction.

They make you fight against reality.

They brainwash children and adults alike.

As one commenter said about McParland’s article, no one is flying planes into buildings because they don’t like basketball.

We can’t “live and let live” when we see how much damage these beliefs — as silly as some might seem — have inflicted on people we love, and how much pain these beliefs have caused by people who took them too seriously.

"Try the nation of Jews. One is Jewish by being born into a Jewish family ..."

Humanistic Jewish Leader Hopes to Become ..."
"I'm pretty sure my Mormon daughter's gonna baptize me after I die. I can hardly ..."

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit from Parents Who ..."
"What you are proving is that there is no factual basis for atheism. The atheist ..."

Young People Are Abandoning Religion Long ..."
"Would that be the same church which 'accepted' that earth is the center of our ..."

I Was Never Taught This Catholic ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Hemant, I like your strength here. You are right on target.

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

    Maybe I’m not familiar with the definition that’s being used here, but I wouldn’t put “vitamin therapy” in with the rest. I get the pro-western medicine/anti-alternative medicine stance, but isn’t vitamin therapy just … ya know… taking Vitamin D supplements?

  • arallyn

    Don’t have anything to add to what you’ve already said, except that I completely agree…only my mouth-words are all glossolalic when I try to tell people what I mean and why I believe/tell others what I do.

    I should get some “Friendly Atheist” stickers made and stick them on people when they ask “why”.

  • Kayla

    They make you fight against reality.

    How so?

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

    Oh, and some of these things have “ordinary” evidence to support them, like psychological evidence. For example, “prayer” might not connect you with a deity, but it can provide stress relief, introspection and other “ordinary” benefits.
    :)

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com considerthe teacosy

    I also find it bizarre that McParland thinks that just because some atheists put up some ads, that atheism is now the biggest thing in all our lives. Seriously?

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    I believe the same exact argument is made about every single other despised and marginalized minority group.

    If [Insert Hated Group] wants to [Do Whatever it is that Hated Group Does] fine. I just don’t want to see it, hear about it, have it recognized in any legal or socially meaningful way or have my children exposed to it. Ever.

    Can’t those angry [Insert Hated Group] just be quiet?

  • arallyn

    Vitamin therapy is usually vitamin megadosing…even if it’s a relatively innocuous vitamin like D, prolonged megadosing can result in quite a few negative side effects.

    It’s important to get vitamins (especially if you have a really crap diet), but “Vitamin therapy” isn’t how to do it.

  • Ben

    Atheists are defined by their disbelief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something.

    This attitude shits me to tears and I think it’s something we need to fight harder against.

    Atheism isn’t the biggest thing in my life. My family is. My partner. My parents. My brothers and sister. My nieces and nephews.

    Aren’t real people enough? Why does there have to be something bigger than family to make life worth living? Why do conservatives hate their families so much that they need them to be superseded?

    Besides, atheism isn’t even really a “thing” in the same way faith is. It’s a lack of a thing, and that lack, and desire for lack, might make us stand up against religious privilege, but it’s still not a “thing”.

    Saying atheism is the biggest thing in anybody’s life is like saying that the biggest thing in one man’s life is that he doesn’t eat chilli. He won’t eat chilli when it’s put in front of him, and he’ll complain when a school forces everybody to eat chilli, and he might write a blog post about how he can’t eat chilli while everybody else does, but you can hardly call “not eating chilli” the biggest thing in his life.

  • cortex

    If she doesn’t like skeptical activism, why can’t she just keep it to herself? Why does she have to try and tear us down?

  • http://trueleftvision.blogspot.com/ Thomas T

    The deal with the people that hold this point of view that is expressed in the article section is that they fail to recognize that the beliefs that other people hold has an impact upon us that think it is foolish. I cannot simply ignore the fact that those that adhere to religious dogma have a favored status in much of American [I am sure too Canada] society.

    Plus like Matt Dilahunty says often on the Atheist Experience, ” I want to know as much factual stuff as I can.”

    That is my point of view too. Plus getting to what is reliable and rational is hard enough without adherents throwing the crap of dogma on top of the whoo-doo of religion and science. As I have said in my book God in Chaos.

    Finally, faith answers all questions…with nothing.

  • Raised Godless

    isn’t vitamin therapy just … ya know… taking Vitamin D supplements?

    When the word “therapy” is thrown in there after “vitamin,” it’s big tip-off that there’s a cure claim involved. People like Matthias Rath, for instance, claim that vitamins (coincidentally his vitamins) will cure diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

  • Revyloution

    Maybe not planes into buildings, but there is violence from sports fans about sports every year.

    Of course, I consider rabid sports fans to be just as irrational as your average Scientologist.

  • Danielle

    Riiight, my atheism is the biggest part of my life? lol, no, it really isn’t.

  • Ben

    Maybe not planes into buildings, but there is violence from sports fans about sports every year.

    Yeah, but that’s because their team lost. Not because they don’t like some sport they’re not even watching.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    aren’t all the events over? The latest one in Montreal took place on December 9th.

    I really wanted to attend the one in Vancouver, but I’m poor =(

  • http://krissthesexyatheist.blogspot.com/ krissthesexyatheist

    Yuck yuck and super bad. As we know (Team-A) the Four Horesmen, and after that the New Atheist, emerged in the early 2000’s as a response to the Bush regime and faith based initiatives. The New Atheists is not an attack, it is a defense from centuries of Christian privilege. We are not talking anyones right to believe away, everyone can still do that, but we sure will fight if ‘they’ want to revise history (USA IS a xtian nation), inject non science into the science classroom (ID), take away a womans right to choose, DADT etc…The author of that article should have done some research before writing that article.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    Why? Consumer protection – far too many scams and scammers about.

  • http://knowledgeisnotveryfar.blogspot.com/ Jake

    Another grand example of bigotry and irrational hatred….

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

    I don’t happen to believe basketball is that interesting.

    m-/

    (That’s the emoticon for “facepalm” a friend of mine made up.)

    Is McParland really that incapable of distinguishing between a question of subjective opinion, and a question of objection reality?

    “Believing” that basketball is not very interesting is a question of subjective opinion. People may be very interested in discussing and debating it, but ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves.

    “Believing” that God exists — or angels, or souls, or vampires, or dragons, or the Tooth Fairy — is a question of objection reality. It is a question of what is and is not literally, you know, true. And as such, it is entirely reasonable to try to (a) figure out what the truth of the matter is, and (b) try to change people’s minds about it if you think they’re mistaken.

    And as others here have pointed out, it’s a question of objection reality that shapes how people behave, and that has real-world in the lives of both believers and others around them. Which makes it even more reasonable to try to change people’s minds if you think they’re mistaken.

    Worst. Analogy. Ever.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    If five more people suddenly realize they also don’t care about basketball, have I achieved anything?

    Spoken like a true member of a majority. It would have achieved something if we lived in a world where finding basketball boring can cost your your job and alienate your family if they ever found out. It’d be nice to know that others found basketball boring as well.

    As Greta said, it’s an awful analogy, but I just had to extend it.

  • Harold

    The National Post is our primary crazy-conservative media outlet. Most of the time when it comes up on Google News it’s a “column” from some economic think tanks that’s nothing more than a corporate shill, or something simply asinine like this article.

  • Trace

    “Atheists are defined by their disbelief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something.”

    That is silly.

    Perhaps he is making the assumption that since his religious beliefs may be the biggest think in his life (and in the lives of others like him) atheists should be defined, first and foremost, by their lack of religious belief? As we say: “piensa el ladrón…”

    Then again, I don’t know what his beliefs are, so….

  • Justin

    Atheists are defined by their disbelief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something.

    Wrong. People who dislike atheists define atheists this way because making us look as one dimensional as possible makes it easier to stir up bigotry and predjudice against us. Thanks for contributing to that National Post columnist Kelly McParland.

    And yeah, your basketball analogy was absurd.

  • http://mysistersfarmhouse.com Rechelle

    Awesome response.

  • http://fredsblahg.blogspot.com/ freddy

    The National Post seems to not be accepting my comment. Here’s what I attempted to post:

    ====

    Ms. McParland’s attitude towards atheism and the purpose of this campaign isn’t surprising and this article certainly needs some work before qualifying for the status of ignorant.

    To state that atheism is a belief is a tired old canard that makes as much sense as calling baldness a hair color. To also state that atheists are so absorbed by the rejecting of religion that it’s the the most important thing on their minds is painting a one-dimensional, condescending portrait of a group in our society, which is insulting and juvenile. Does Ms. McParland also think all men are pigs? She is welcome to speak her mind and she should but the sheer stupidity of her every word only serves to promote the kind of fear for skepticism rational thinking that scares her and other apologists for only nonsensical reasons. The article is excellent evidence towards her not having done any actual research or interaction of her own beyond the distant chastising that goes on in the circles of like-minded nitwits.

    The CFI campaign is not solely dedicated to pointing out how bad religion is. It’s about suggesting taking a second look at actions, ideas and claims made by others that hold no water and may not be good for you. If this happens to offend anyone who subscribes to any of the items on the CFI’s list, then they can turn
    their heads when the sign appears just as you’d change the channel when Jersey Shore is on. As an atheist, I don’t complain when I see stores selling jewelry and other items with mythological symbols on them such as stars of David or crosses. That a person believes in God, the flying pink unicorn, or homeopathy is none of my business but this is not the world we live in. People who believe in woo aren’t happy until everyone believes it and this is dangerous. That we are offending anyone by using mere words to challenge this is not our problem and beliefs of any kind that are pushed into secular society or used as a way to obtain political objectives at the cost of what’s right MUST be challenged. Belief is not immune to criticism and is as subject to inquiry like anything else. It doesn’t get any clearer than that, folks.

    Atheists do not wish to force others to drop superstition or pseudoscience. Making statements, putting up signs and the like are all harmless. To consider the CFI’s campaign as hateful or offensive is ridiculous. It’s certainly far less intruding than referencing God in our national anthem (which is wrong) or lying to children
    about outrageous, inconsistent and in many cases very immoral claims made in an ancient book written by ignorant desert nomads.

    I encourage anyone who finds the CFI’s campaign or even the spirit of it off-putting or offensive to take some time to actually do their own reading on the matter, even on atheism itself, beyond the opinions made by religious apologists and others who choose to reject reality. Otherwise, you’re welcome to pull your head out of your ass.

  • Rebecca

    I believe in dragons. One lives under my porch! He toasts marshmallows to a crispy brown whenever I get marshmallows. LOL As for human combustion: you haven’t met my hubby after he eats beans! Don’t light a match! Or, better yet, don’t tell my pet dragon to roast any marshmallows for a few hours.

  • captsam

    one of your better post, very entertaining.

  • DA

    Ben, as far as I’m concerned we’re a chili-eating nation, and if you don’t like it, you can leave and go to some chili-hating country like Holland. This country was founded with a clear Chileo-Cornbread ethic.

  • David T

    In my internal monologue, “National Post” is replaced with “Crypto-Fascist Post,” but that’s just me. In any case, as Harold pointed out above, it’s not much of a paper. Columns like this are standard fare, but may not be that influential as it’s not as widely read as quality newspapers.

  • Sean

    I know it is in fashion for atheists and skeptics to be witty and all, but Kelly McParland is just a dumb fuck. Can I say that?

  • Ben

    Ben, as far as I’m concerned we’re a chili-eating nation, and if you don’t like it, you can leave and go to some chili-hating country like Holland. This country was founded with a clear Chileo-Cornbread ethic.

    Ha!

    Thankfully I don’t live in the U.S. so I’m already in a country where the type of food you eat isn’t really spoken about in polite company. Of course, there are those chilli-lovers who consistently vote in line with their chilli-loving ways, secretly desiring to force chilli on us all via referenda.

    But there are those of use who don’t believe in chilli as a way of life, nor believe chilli should inform our dietary habits. People should keep their chilli in their homes and stop trying to force us all to eat it.

    Viva-la-blandness!

    (P.S. This is a terrible analogy. I love chilli. Do not say anything bad against chilli. )

  • Fundie Troll

    @ freddy

    Atheists do not wish to force others to drop superstition or pseudoscience.

    Apparently Hemant doesn’t agree with you on this point…

    We actively fight against extraordinary claims like the ones in the poster because those claims cause harm…We can’t “live and let live” when we see how much damage these beliefs — as silly as some might seem — have inflicted on people we love, and how much pain these beliefs have caused by people who took them too seriously.

    Hemant, you can’t “live and let live”? Then you are guilty of the very thing that you accuse the religious of on a daily basis – forcing your system of beliefs on others.

    The road that you are travelling down – and I will admit that the religious right in this country is guilty of the same thing – leads to tyranny. You MUST live and let live, because the only alternative is a society where freedom does not exist.

  • jose

    “Live and let live” is an euphemism for “let me live” or more formally “Don’t challenge the statu quo”. Maybe “stop complaining” is the most accurate meaning of that expression. Please don’t ask for your civil rights, please don’t fight to legallize gay marriage, because I find your demands annoying or offensive. Why are you offending me so much, attacking my values, can’t you just leave me alone? Live and let live, man. Yeah.

  • Gliewmeden

    I have to rant.

    The whole essence of this campaign, which I love, is HOW do we substantiate Extraordinary Claims.

    Forget your atheist/non-atheist rants. They are not valid.

    Our Canadian statement is: HOW do you determine validity of [claims made on the Extraordinary Claims poster].

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

    Ben, your chilli analogy is the best thing ever!

    The problem with the pro-basketball people is that they’re always trying to ban football as unnatural. It’s already illegal in most states and in some others they only allow college teams.

    Now if we could only work pedophilia into the analogy.

  • tkmlac

    To answer Kelly McParland’s question as to why atheists are outspoken:

    “So why do Christians care if people don’t believe in God, Allah or the tooth fairy? Christians are defined by their belief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they believe in something. But rather than just go around quietly,believing, Christians and their pals feel compelled to make other people believe as well. Their faith is in the rightness of having faith.”

  • DA

    Ben, sorry, didn’t realize you’re a furriner. Just so as you know, I’m not a bigot; I got friends who eat both red AND green chili, a few misguided souls who add beans* and even know a couple liberal types who go in for chipotle and cilantro and other hipster nonsense. But just rejecting chili altogether? Can’t trust a man what don’t like chili. I heard Obama eats Oatmeal three meals a day.

    *Anyone who knows beans about chili knows chili ain’t got no beans!

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

    They can make you take placebos when actual medicines are available.

    ah, the dead horse i seemed doomed to beat at this blog.

    “actual” medicine? you mean like the “actual” science that says if people eat a lot of salt and fat and meat, they’ll live shorter, less healthy lives? oh, that’s right. those ideas didn’t first come from “western” “science,” they came from cultures which were based on spiritual traditions that *also* have had a long, proven record of talking about why fat, salt and meat are less healthful for the human body than a raw or pure vegan diet. “actual” medicine, which enriches the Big Pharma industrial concerns of the Western markets (worth trillions) even though preventative medicine like exercise and body awareness can do more, cost less, and last longer, without drugs? what’s your choice? ideas that go untested by Western science, and unfunded and thus ignored because brown people in homemade cloth espouse them, or quickly “tested” drugs approved by government agents who are on or about to be on the payroll of big corporations, just as soon as they ‘overlook’ the questionable research that fails to “prove” some new drug is “safe?” blah, blah, blah, i can go on and on.

    i am often dismissive. i have learned: it doesn’t actually change any minds to be so. so for the issues i care about the most? i work directly, from fact. all my scientific training tells me one fact is very, very true right now, in the West’s highly unregulated, highly influenced by corporate profit/money, system of “doing science.” my own lab experience backs this up. science? just as susceptible to politics, money, and pressure as religion. as a skeptic: i’m not unafriad to say this. i don’t trust the CEO of Aetna when he says some new technological approach to pediatric cancer is “experimental” even though it’s statistically and clinically proven to work in 73% of the children who have received it. i don’t ignore herbalists who have a better track record with helping people quit smoking than the “nic gum” selling corporatists. i don’t ignore the research nutritionists (PhD in nutrional science in Western schools, natch) who have a better record than “spiritual” orgs like AA in cases of drug abuse or alcohol addition. i don’t believe the poison makers who killed thousands in Bophal when they say the water and air there is clean and all those cancer ridden kids are dying just because. i don’t believe a well-paid guy with a lifetime job studying a pet cause or belief who tells me he’s right, and the poor brown woman from an ancient tradition of healing is wrong, just because she’s not invited to the same parties in London he is. sorry. skepticism is blind, like justice is supposed to be.

    i have no problem with projects like these. i have a big problem with intellectual sloppiness and laziness and “fashion.” yes, placebos are real. no, they are not limited to snake oil salesmen. or rather, some snake oil sellers? they have white skin, degrees from fancy schools, and financial ties to the same corporations that make billions telling uneducated people in third world nations: our formula is better than breast milk, in the health of your child. because we made it in a lab, and your milk just comes from a device that nature and evolution competitively developed over a savage process that took place over more than four billion years. after all, we have guys in white coats! guys with letters after their names! they know more than that ugly old “hedge witch” who kept the last 5 out of 7 of your children alive, when the salesmen from western corporate fake nurse came by and tried to get you to trade half your plot’s crop for “food” for your littlest one. or convinced your grandfather to cease growing foods that kept your village alive for thousands of years, using methods that were sustainable, in order for you to grow a crop your country doesn’t need, that you don’t locally sell, that some outsider is going to control the distribution of, and which will destroy the natural balance of your ecosystem. etc.

    i can walk and chew gum at the same time. Western science is as flawed as any other Western system. skeptics should be able to say that, as easily as they can say “faith healing is bunk that kill innocent children.” don’t get me started on the deluge of modern happy pills. killers, most of them. for corporate profit.

  • Stephen P

    @Fundie Troll:

    You need to get a few distinctions clear in your mind.
    1) The distinction between “pursuade” and “force”.
    2) The distinction between beliefs with little or no supporting evidence and views supported by evidence.
    3) The distinction between people who choose to administer worthless treatments to themselves, and people who take other people’s money in exchange for worthless treatments.

    We aren’t proposing forcing an amateur astrologer out of her day-job or out of her home (the sort of action that some religious people are all too willing to take). We do however think it reasonable to try to pursuade her to look more critically at her beliefs.

    If however iridologists or Reiki-practitioners are claiming the ability to improve people’s health, and are taking their money on the basis of these claims, then we think it reasonable that come up with actual evidence supporting their claims – real evidence, not testimonials. And if they can’t, they should be stopped. And yes, this also applies to mainstream medicine.

    “Live and let live” does not apply to con-men, and it is not much of a defence that a con-man’s first victim was himself.

  • http://planetatheism.com Pedro Timóteo

    no one is flying planes into buildings because they don’t like basketball.

    Actually, the correct comparison would be “because they like baseball”. :)

  • http://sesoron.blogspot.com/ Sesoron

    And you’d be surprised how worked up some people can get about basketball in Cleveland and Akron. When LeBron and the Heat came to play Cleveland last week, the crowd systematically booed within a fraction of a second every time LeBron got the ball, all while we got thoroughly trounced.

    As a side note, every time I drive by LeBron’s old Catholic high school in Akron, which is several times a week, I wonder if he was actually Catholic or just got recruited to them for his skills.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Last time I checked no one was trying to force me to watch basketball.

    Then you are guilty of the very thing that you accuse the religious of on a daily basis – forcing your system of beliefs on others.

    This, in a nutshell, is why I’m so against the anti-theist movement. Sorry but it’s every bit as mean and bigoted as the Religious Right.

    It scares me when I agree with Fundie Troll but I read him because every so often he makes a good point. Same with Robert. Nathan, however, can take a flying leap. He ain’t nothing but obnoxious yet you all give him more respect than Fundie Troll and Robert who don’t rant like he does.

    I’ve also got to back up Chicago Dyke here somewhat. Not all home remedies, ancient medicines, etc. are junk. Vitamins? Please. My daughter had recurrent bladder infections growing up. It was a very excellent doctor in Denver (who I still miss 15 years after leaving Denver) who cued me in to the fact that one can’t overdose on vitamin C because it’s water soluable meaning you pee it out and creates acid in the urine kills the infection and thereby saved me money in frequent doctor appointments and anti-biotics and my daughter a lot of physical grief because she was subject to these things. I gave her the regular multi-vitamin daily but when symptoms surfaced, I loaded up the C and it invariably stopped the infection every time.

    This doctor’s practice catered to the poor and the reality of life for the poor. In other words, he gave a damn about his patients. I overlooked the Children’s Illustrated Bible Stories (well, except that we sparred in jest quite a bit about religion while showing each other a great deal of respect, he recognized the importance of bedside manner and a good relationship with his patients) in the waiting room because he excelled in getting the two of us back on our feet and giving tips in keeping us well while financially challenged. He also didn’t demand payment before even speaking to a patient and if my daugher or I were sick between paydays, we weren’t left suffering until I had the copay as much as two or three weeks later (I got paid monthly).

    This Tuesday, I have a visit with the new specialist that found the CPPD — a condition that just is and isn’t caused by anything I could have done or not done — that’s crippling me and, so far, I’ve found him more approachable and open than I have many doctors lately but I’m dreading it because the medicine he subscribed — when only arrests the condition; it’s incurable — has death listed as a side affect and my first words to him are going to be don’t prescribe me anything that has death as a possible side affect ’cause I ain’t going to risk unless not doing anything would also kill me. I’ve only got this one life.

    Call me crazy but I’d rather be crippled than dead. I want to see my grandson grow up and become a police officer or whatever else he wants to be should he change his mind in the next 11 or so years. If the only way to do that is in a wheelchair, I’ll take the wheelchair over the grave. YMMV but this is my choice.

    I liked this doctor because he agreed with me on assessing various treatments and risks and the choice of what to risk being mine. The reason I dread this discussion is because I’ve had three doctors to date kick me out of their practice for daring to even question their orders. For the record, I refused to take Vioxx for the same damned reason: death is a listed side affect. Then it was pulled from the market. You’d think this was a real I rest my case for me but, no, the doctor that wanted to prescribe it was mad it was pulled.

    Finding doctors is hard when you don’t treat them like gods and, let’s face it, all too many Western doctors are big pharma’s puppets these days.

    Yeah, I know. I know. This is yet again personal anecdote.

    I don’t like the sign either but I support their right to say it.

  • interestsarefree

    “So why do Christians care if people don’t believe in God, Allah or the tooth fairy? Christians are defined by their belief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they believe in something. But rather than just go around quietly,believing, Christians and their pals feel compelled to make other people believe as well. Their faith is in the rightness of having faith.”

    @tkmlac

    I agree completely at how ridiculous Christians’ hypocrisy is. They want us to keep our “disbelief” to ourselves and find it insulting being outspoken and trying to make others believe as we do yet that’s exactly what they do along with indoctrinating children, infiltrating legislatures in direct violation of the separation of church and state and baptizing members of third world countries who already had their own faith systems. And they have done such things for thousands of years. But they want us to be silent about our disbelief, right?

  • http://olfroth.blogspot.com Ol’Froth

    I’ll be quite happy to shut up about my non-belief just as soon as theists shut up about their belief.

  • Samantha

    @Fundie Troll –

    I think we can “live and let live” on certain issues. Unfortunately, not speaking out against these extraordinary claims is akin, to many of us, to people in the past not speaking out against sexism, racism, slavery, child sacrifice, etc.

    I don’t really think I can convert / persuade many hard-core “fundies” – though they are often the ones who reject equality, science and rationalism. However, getting the level-headed religious men and women to examine their beliefs and no longer support organizations that tolerate or even promote harmful and discriminatory acts is, I think, crucial. Its crucial to moving forward. Religion isn’t the cause of all problems. Yes, some religious folk do plenty of good deeds. Yet, there are others who promote bigotry or deny their children the right to medical services for illnesses based on THEIR religious beliefs.

    Live and let live sounds quite nice. It would be if everyone made their own decisions about their beliefs and did not force them on others. This is often not the case. Indoctrinating children is one obvious example. Also, religion influences people’s decisions in politics and in everyday life – decisions that affect other people’s well being. (Choosing to deny another person’s right to marry who they choose, for one example) I think that this is what the post is actually talking about when Hemant says we can’t just sit back and not speak out.

  • Steve

    Not to be petty and maybe I’m missing something, but Shouldn’t the header say “The best defense is a good offense”, as the quote goes?

    If we weren’t heading towards becoming a 3rd rate country(U.S.)and planet thanks to the faith-heads in the republican party – then we wouldn’t need to push for rationality. These advertisements seem negative, but they are simply asking people to be reasonable – and that’s what the Atheist/Skeptical/Humanist/Secular movement(s) need to emphasize. I love this ad.

  • Brian Macker

    “We actively fight against extraordinary claims like the ones in the poster because those claims cause harm.”

    Well they are false and the cause harm. I don’t dispute true statements that cause harm. I also dispute false claims that aren’t particularly harmful, like yours. You don’t speak for what “we” do. It’s a false statement and not particularly harmful, and I dispute it. I assume you are making it for the purpose of abbreviated communications.

  • cortex

    Ok, is no one else going to say something about the alt-med advocacy going on here?

    Yep, scientists are human, and so are physicians. Here’s the thing – they’ve got statistics on their side. Yes, racism and capitalism have influenced medicine, just as they’ve influenced everything else. And that is awful and regrettable and I understand if people find it unforgivable, at least on an emotional level. But I cannot take a live-and-let-live (or die) approach to alt-med until someone shows me strong evidence that it works as well as Western medicine when it comes to preserving life.

  • Steve

    @Cortex: To quote Tim Minchin in “Storm” (and others), You know what they call alternative medicine that works…………Medicine.

  • http://fredsblahg.blogspot.com/ freddy

    @Fundie Troll

    Good point. I should have clarified and instead said that we attempt to influence. I was meaning that we don’t force atheism down others’ throats. I was too vague there.

  • Ben Finney

    I also find it bizarre that McParland thinks that just because some atheists put up some ads, that atheism is now the biggest thing in all our lives. Seriously?

    This position is evidently held seriously by many when reacting to skeptical or atheist claims. The equation of “I hold this position on a particular topic” with “This position is the biggest thing in my life” is baffling, but common.

    As near as I can determine, the unstated logic goes something like this:

    * My religious belief is the biggest thing in my life.

    * I have been surrounded by people who profess the same importance of religious belief since childhood.

    * Even people who hold religious beliefs different from me appear to express them strongly, so it must be the biggest thing in their lives too.

    * Here before me is an expression of someone’s position that they don’t have any religious belief.

    * I find such expressions to be shocking and contradictory to the biggest thing in my life.

    * Yet such expressions are clearly on the topic of religion, which is the biggest thing in my life and the life of everyone else.

    * Therefore, this strongly-expressed position of non-belief is the biggest thing in that person’s life.

    As Sam Harris tells us, people who do not have strongly-held religious belief can’t conceive that fundamentalists actually believe what they say they believe.

    This appears to be the exact opposite phenomenon: people who hold strong religious belief can’t conceive that we just don’t hold the topic of religion to be worth anyone’s time.

  • http://thekeyofatheist.wordpress.com Jakob

    Really well-articulated response Hemant, and more concise than mine. I also think Jeffrey Myers makes a really good point; “can’t they just be quiet” has to be one of the most toxic anti-atheist (and anti-anything) memes around.

  • http://vancouvermoose.livejournal.com/ VancouverMoose

    i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something.

    The biggest thing in my life is anime.

    Seriously, I watch about three hours of anime a day. That is approximately two hours and fifty minutes more than I spend thinking about religion.

    It seems that many people believe that the biggest thing in their lives (whatever it may be) must/should be the biggest thing in others’ lives as well, and they get damn cranky when they find out it isn’t. Especially when that whatever turns out to be jebus.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    “So why does he care if people believe in God, Allah or the tooth fairy?” Why? Consumer protection – far too many scams and scammers about – effected by furthering the free flow of truthful information in the intellectual marketplace. Though this be not to the liking of the godly – ever prone to stifle open critical discussion – given a fair field and no favour, we’re not going away. We’re quite willing to shut up and stop exposing bullshit just as soon as the bullshitters give up spouting it.

  • Robert W.

    I want to make sure I am properly understanding the argument correctly before i comment.

    The justification of speaking out against someone else’s belief is that that person’s belief maybe harming someone else and therefore, in order to prevent harm to other people, you have the right and the obligation to speak out against the belief that you think is causing harm to others.

    Is that accurate?

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Thanks Hermant, for taking a stab at the ongoing claims cause harm list, that’s a good start. I think it deserves it’s own post/thread.

  • sven

    This needed to be said. Just thinking of those kids that died because their parents choose prayer over medical attention makes me sad and angry at the same time.

  • Fundie Troll

    @ Muggle

    You mean…you read me? And…you AGREE with me?? Oh gosh, I’m so excited I’m going to pee my pants! 😉

  • Christophe Thill

    But rather than just go around quietly, not believing, Trottier and his pals feel compelled to make other people not believe either.

    This is like bashing James Brown for singing I’m black and I’m proud, or a gay person for a public coming out.

  • stogoe

    Chicago_dyke needz moar skeptisizzim.

    Seriously, I suggest you go read the Respectful Insolence archives, because you seriously have a gigantic blind spot when it comes to medical woo. The words “Mote” and “Plank” come to mind.

  • Samiimas

    I’m so sick of this ludicrous lie that ‘polite’ people don’t point out when someones full of crap. People regularly point out that Scientology and astrology are bullshit and no one whines about them ‘attacking people’s beliefs’, because they agree those are BS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    You and Robert both, Fundie. Nathan I gave up on. I actually find it amusing that the one that comes on here all glad-handing the Atheists is actually the least tolerant of the three of you and is given the most respect by the majority of commenters here.

    I also read the two of you because I don’t know before-hand if I’m going to agree or disagree with you. Admittedly, I disagree far more often than I agree but it keeps me reading. Hopefully, likewise. :)

  • Robert W.

    Thank you Muggle. I find myself agreeing with you as well on occasion and I will be sure to point it out when I do.

    Let me also add that I have read of your struggles in childhood and I am truly sorry you went through that abuse. It appears that despite that you have become a strong and loving lady and I commend you.

  • epafaic

    A thought provoking post. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Although I’m an atheist, something is holding me back from being an all out anti-theist.

    Don’t get me wrong – deep down, I’m a true blue skeptic and strongly anti-theist, and I despise religion for all the harm it’s done to my own life, my loved ones, and the society I live in. My vision of a perfect world is one where everyone is honest about the reality they live in. Yet, I’m not fully convinced that a world without religion would necessarily be better. I agree with the points Hemant made about the harm religion does, yet I also think it does some good.

    Sad to say, in the country I live in, the loveliest people I’ve known have been the (mild to moderately) religious sort; the atheists/ unreligious people that I’ve known were markedly more narcissistic and lacked principles of equality, compassion and service to the community. A couple of exceptions, but most of them fit the bill. It leaves me wondering if a world without religion would be anything like my idealised vision.

    I think decreasing religiosity is great since it would reduce all the ills mentioned in this post. But we would need to replace religion with something else that would perform the “good work” that religion currently does to our society.

  • DA

    epafaic;

    That’s interesting. In my experience, it’s been largely the reverse; the best people I know are almost all defacto atheists (they don’t necessarily use the word, or care much about it, but have no real religious beliefs), but like you, there’s exceptions; I know some lovely people who are deeply religious or even fundamentalists.

  • kmw

    This is EXACTLY the same argument people use against gay people. It’s exactly what “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is all about. “..just shut up about it…”