You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
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Penn Jillette‘s video from the Reason Rally:
(There’s also some behind-the-scenes footage for that video.)
My recap of the event can be read here.
Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
I wish I could get Nancy Pelosi, and 395 other members of Congress, to watch that.
(I got another call from them asking for my money)
Edit: Oh man, I need some Hulk underwear.
There’s not really any substance to that address, but it’s good for a cheer.
Very entertaining video. I love Penn, even if he and I are on completely different sides of the political sphere.
And once again, my bud hits it out of the park.
(you go buddy!)
I don’t know how big the image will be, but this is my new hat. A khaki ballcap that simply reads “Atheist.”
I have had several dirty looks, a couple of “good for you’s” and one very nasty little woman getting up in my face.
Penn is right. Stand tall. Stand proud, and put them on the defensive, because really, that is where they belong.
He’s SO right that we don’t all think the same politically, and I hope that leaders in the atheist movement will keep that in mind. I am happy to work together with other atheists, to support atheists, and I love the charitable things I’ve seen lately along with the discussion. But reasonable atheists can come to very different conclusions about politics and society as a whole, so don’t just assume that everyone agrees with you on all the big issues. I happen to like Penn’s politics. He has even endorsed the Free State Project a couple of times. But like I said, you don’t have to agree with his politics to support his stand for atheism and the nice feel-good message in the video.
I like to embrace it all, be open to it all and take it as another voice that should be heard. However it doesn’t sit well with me the label of ‘those who don’t believe or those who believe in nothing’ I believe in reason, I believe in energy, working together, community etc. To assign labels of non-belief is just defining atheists not for who they are or what they believe but merely as a juxtaposition to theists. I believe there is no god is better then I don’t believe in god in that respect but also ridiculous as I don’t want to define the negatives .. I don’t believe in talking underpants or leprechauns etc it’s not a useful step forward. Also as much as I’d like to appreciate the good/bad morality argument It only holds if it’s a divine judgment of morality – I think we are all prone to action based on judgment and fear but when we base it within the sphere of social design we can then begin to assert morality by choice and personal responsibility – we begin to own who we are and what we do rather then excuse it in the creationary branches of god.
I respect Penn for a lot of things, but I don’t like absolute generalizations like “…the only ones with true morality are us – the atheists.” It not only insults a lot of people who don’t consider themselves atheists but who are perfectly moral and not for selfish reasons, but it also makes us look like arrogant jerks. We have to be careful about the things we say or we risk validating the (hopefully) untrue accusations made by theists of fundamentalism, religiosity, and dogmatism among atheists.
I’m also a little put off by him laughing repeatedly at the word “Mormons.” Sure, Mormonism is a belief system that involves believing a lot of demonstrably false things that are so silly that it’s hard to imagine how an adult could ever buy into it all… even more so than most other religions, and that’s saying something. Still, it’s the -ISM not the -ISTs that I think is the problem. Mormons get indoctrinated during childhood the same way Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious folk do. I have known some outstandingly kind, humble, and generous human beings of the Latter Day Saints persuasion, and it rubs me the wrong way to hear them being mocked as if their stupidity is self-evident, with no rational arguments against their irrational beliefs being presented. If we’re going to claim to value reason, we are obligated to come up with better reasoning and better behavior than, “Haha! Yer dumb!”
We’re all (I’m sure) aware of their ridiculous beliefs and the history of the religion, though, so no explanation is necessary.
Just because we atheists are aware of the ridiculousness of the beliefs held by Mormons, doesn’t mean that standing around going “HAHA! MORMONS ARE DUMB” is appropriate. It’s not a productive conversation about anything, it’s behavior guaranteed to keep us on the fringes of society, and it’s just pointlessly rude. I get what’s funny about Mormon beliefs – virtually everything; but mocking the people themselves is un-called-for, and doing it OUT IN PUBLIC AT A HUGE RALLY IN D.C. WITH THE MEDIA PRESENT reflects very badly on us. Atheists know why Mormonism is funny, Mormons just hear mean atheists laughing at them.
The point of his generalization is to redefine “morality.” Rather than
patiently explaining a nuanced opinion, it is easier to just assume a
new definition of a common word. It is quick. It doesn’t take even five
minutes to get the point across. It is provocative, and this is also
good. This is how you communicate with people who aren’t interested in a slow conversation.
Many people aren’t interested in what I think you’d call a “real
conversation.” You will never be able to explain to them that you aren’t a jerk. You have to provoke them into engaging in a dialogue first.
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