Are Atheists Paying Too Much Respect to Religious Beliefs?

This is a guest post by Spencer Mulesky. Spencer is an undergraduate Philosophy major studying at Indiana University and a Co-Founder of the Atheist and Agnostic Club of North High School (Evansville, IN).

A response follows his piece.

Stephen Fry, a supporter of the British Humanist Association and a public voice for atheism, said just last year:

It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it.

Bruce Sheiman, author of the book An Atheist Defends Religion said:

More than any other institution, religion deserves our appreciation and respect because it has persistently encouraged people to care deeply — for the self, for neighbors, for humanity, and for the natural world — and to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision.

And on a more personal note, the Secular Alliance of Indiana University (of which I’m a member) recently visited several houses of worship as part of a fundraiser. One blog post focused on the experience of visiting a mosque. Though well written, it’s utterly lacking in honest criticism of religious ideas. The article was so “buddy-buddy” and superficial that I wonder if this “secular” group stands for anything at all.

To miss a golden opportunity to point out the intellectual fraud that people of Muslim (and all) faith commit every day is pitiful. The desire to be accepted and to avoid backlash has pushed even secularist organizations to cower and refuse to point out the obvious. Meaningless chatter about the atmosphere in a place of worship and the seeming-friendliness of the deluded people inside lacks focus.

This line of thinking is traitorous to our goals, and we hear it everywhere. No great thinker was ever celebrated for his unbelievable ability to “respect” everyone’s awful ideas and defer to those who held them. The highest respect one can pay to another’s idea is to scrutinize it and explain what might be wrong. This is what “respect” means in the intellectual domain.

There’s no reason to be so cozy with religious groups. We need a close relationship with religious organizations in the same way that environmentalists need a close relationship to BP.

We need to know their positions and we need to be on their case. We need to have a response to their public statements and we need to be pounding away at the irrationality of their doctrines. The kind of secular college organization that I would want to be a part of would pride themselves on the support of reason, the promotion of a naturalistic worldview, and most importantly the public rejection of bogus religious claims.

Should we work together with religious people to further common goals such as open conversation about faith? Yes. Aren’t there times where it is inappropriate to challenge religious claims? Sure, mourning people at a funeral might be a group worth leaving alone. However, any time that religion or supernatural claims come up in everyday conversation, we have a duty to be critical, even if we come off looking like dicks.

To the atheist, agnostic, Humanists, and secular writers: You know damn well that 2,000 years from now, humanity is going to be laughed at for the idiotic superstition that pervaded nearly every inch of our society.

So act like this matters to you and stop the meek pandering and deference to the religious claims that we all know are so harmful to the public’s proper understanding of the world. Give their poorly reasoned positions the criticism they deserve.

In short: Be more respectful.

This is a response to Spencer’s piece by Carly Jane Casper. Carly is the president of the Secular Alliance of Indiana University.

My student group, the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, recently attended a Jummah prayer service with the IU Muslim Student Union. On a hot Friday afternoon, we climbed the eight flights of stairs to the top of the student activities tower and entered a conference room. Sheets and blankets were spread out on the floor. Men were seated separately from women. The service began with a 15-minute sermon on social justice from an MSU member and ended with a short group prayer.

We agreed to do this because we held a Send An Atheist To Church fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, and the MSU’s jar had the most donations. Our group decided that this event was an innocuous way to raise money and learn something new about religion.

Interactions with religious organizations are tricky things for atheist groups. For instance, faith (and, thereby, religion) goes against the values of skepticism and freethought. Undoubtedly, faith is something preventing society from progress. The act of valuing “beliefs” and “opinions” over “facts” and “evidence” has had repercussions in politics and policy across the world. When an atheist group allies themselves with a religious organization, they are tacitly accepting this.

On the other hand, we can’t ignore the influence that religion has. Besides the effect it has on non-religious and marginalized individuals, it also has an emotional effect on the people who follow it.

Skeptics know that ignorance is harmful. It’s harder to recognize, though, that we would be doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring the psychology of faith and being quick to judge religious people in a negative way. This is what led me to the conclusion that interfaith dialogue is integral to achieving a truly secular society.

There is no progress to be made by hating faith, by mocking those who have faith, or by demeaning them for their beliefs. It’s also not a productive way of convincing them to abandon their beliefs. If our end goal is the elimination of faith, then careful attention to human emotional needs is essential. For this, we have to understand the religious. We need to be friends with them and have discussions with them. We, in turn, need to open ourselves to being understood. Closing ourselves off and hiding behind insults, rants, unkindness, hatred, cruelty, or mockery is a deflection mechanism. These tactics skirt the most important thing that this whole debate over religion is getting at, which is truth.

Reconciling uncomfortable truths with comfortable myths is not a simple process, and insulting someone won’t make it happen. Coming to terms with one’s own existence is a sensitive, delicate thing. Most of us have strong reasons for believing what we do and being insensitive to the emotional ties people have to their faith is simply irresponsible.

For this reason, I believe it’s unproductive to quarrel with the religious. There are good aspects of religious philosophy (e.g. love one another, don’t be assholes) and bad parts, too (e.g. stone the gays, enslave the children, control the women, ignore the pleasure, etc). Religious thought has captivated billions of people over the years and we can’t ignore that. It would be foolish for us to work against the current here. We have to act in full understanding, if not acceptance, of the power that faith has over people.

I don’t think that the sole purpose of interfaith is to infiltrate the religious and manipulate them, though that’s how some people view “interfaith work.” The most productive thing that will come out of that relationship for the secular movement is the honest dialogue that comes from talking philosophy with the religious. It helps us both come to conclusions about our existence and purpose and we don’t have to respect one another’s beliefs to achieve this. I certainly don’t respect Christianity, and I doubt there’s any way I’ll be convinced to take it seriously, but I respect a religious person’s search for truth, and the fact that they’re confronting the nature of their existence. I don’t expect a Muslim, who believes that my denial of God’s existence is active blasphemy, to respect my beliefs. We need to acknowledge one another, shake hands, and continue trying to convince one another that that the other person is wrong. We can’t hate each other, because after we retreat from the intellectual front lines of this debate, we have to live together. It’s possible for atheists be kind and still be unflinching in our message and goal.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    Truths can be difficult to swallow. I think the elephant in the church has always been the question of immorality and the lack of evidence for an afterlife. 

    Ingersoll said it best:  “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this hope will blossom in the human heart.” 

    • Jack

      There’s evidence of an afterlife. You’re just not dead yet to see it. 

      • Anonymous

        So there must be a Santa Claus too, I just haven’t been to the north pole yet.

        You don’t have to like the idea of dying and nothingness but you should not have an irrational fear about it. 

        Montaigne seems at least to know about how to die in the following quote:”If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.”

      • Anonymous

        If you can’t see it, or measure it in some other way,  it’s not evidence. That’s what the freaking word evidence means!

  • Cheron

    There is no progress to be made by hating faith, by mocking those who have faith, or by demeaning them for their beliefsAs always when this assertion is made …. Citation required.  We have to act in full understanding, if not acceptance, of the power that faith has over people.Oh we understand its power. Faith is so powerful it seems to be able to pressgang even skeptics into becoming its defenders. I respect a religious person’s search for truth, and the fact that they’re confronting the nature of their existenceOnly they ARENT searching for the truth in more then I’m working out while sitting on the couch watching old Suzanne Somers ThighMaster videos. Everything we now know shows that these 1000yr + books have been wrong about almost everything in the past; so how could someone honestly searching for the truth continue looking to them for answers for the furture? The most productive thing that will come out of that relationship for the secular movement is the honest dialogue that comes from talking philosophy with the religiousAnd yet whenever someone is honest about the evils that religion promotes they are called strident, shrill, or just dicks.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly. 

      The nice-guy approach has its place, but so too do the Dawkins, Hitchens, PZ Meyers, and Sam Harris approach of shouting out to everyone that the emperor has no clothes. 

      The numbers of the nonreligious are swelling at a faster rate than ever, and it’s thanks to people finally speaking out.

  • Cheron

    Bah there were spaces and line breaks before I posted honest!

    • Anonymous

      Edit?

  • Anonymous

    “More than any other institution, religion deserves our appreciation
    and respect because it has persistently encouraged people to care deeply
    — for the self, for neighbors, for humanity, and for the natural world —
    and to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision. ”

    Most religious people are “good” because they have a gun on their temple and are desperately trying to buy a ticket for heaven, they rarely care about other people, they just try to look good in the eyes of their imaginary friend in the sky. They don’t care either about the natural world, just look at the US religious crowd.

    • Anonymous


      Most religious people are “good” because they have a gun on their temple and are desperately trying to buy a ticket for heaven”

      I would say that most religious people are “good” because they instinctively know they should be. There may be a few who look at religious observance as some sort of cosmic insurance policy but I would have thought they are few and far between.

      It is, in fact the religious who have to cling to the myth that we all need a book/scripture/pastor/high priest/shaman to tell us the difference between right and wrong. It is our job to tell them that this is not the case.

      As for the natural world thing. Well, that’s what happens when religion and politics get intertwined and you get all your science news from a man in a pulpit.

  • Anonymous

    Spencer strikes me as an angry young man who should probably
    be put in time out. I disagree with his views regarding how atheists should
    treat the religious but I won’t go into that as Carly has done an excellent job
    responding to the content of Spencer’s rant. I will, however, point out what
    Carly has been too gracious to: it seems that Spencer is not content to harangue the religious over the foolishness of their belief; he has also appointed himself the king of atheism and woe unto any atheist who does not act as an atheist ought.

    To Spencer I say, how dare you? Who are you to tell atheists what they should
    or should not do? You rail in defence of reason, but I’ve seen precious little
    evidence of critical thought in your diatribe. You assert that religion must be opposed at every turn but you offer no argument for why this will best achieve our goals. You lecture and you scold, and you seem to expect your fellow atheists to obey simply by virtue of the force of your personality. If I’m looking for that, I’ll just go to church thanks very much.

    • Sc213

       In his defense, he wrote an undergraduate essay with references and more elaborate proof for his arguments, but it had to be edited out for this blog post.

    • Spencer Mulesky

      Sc213 is right, the essay was over 2000 words long but was shortened to something like 500 for this piece. If you would like me to send you the full cited essay with laborious arguments, provide me your email. You should better understand the logistics of blog posts.

      As far as the “Who are you to tell atheists what they should or should not do,” the answer is that I believe that I am right. You believe you are right, and you stand there telling me what I should do! Do I complain about your mere telling me that I shouldn’t do what I am doing? No, I simply think you are wrong.

      • Anonymous

         Spencer, this is not about whether you are correct in your argument, but rather about how you treat your fellow atheists. There is a big difference between your post and my reply. It is the difference between delivering a sermon on how atheists should behave and someone responding, “Don’t do that.” One is demanding obedience, the other is demanding respect.

        Regarding the support for your argument, I am aware of the contraints of blog posting, but when done well, the space constraints add to the clarity of the argument rather than subtracting from it. You seem to think that I am requesting a fully referenced academic paper. I am not. (Although since you appear to have one, please post a link.) What I do expect is that you present the structure of your argument. As Carly did. For example, you believe that atheists must challenge the religious at every opportunity (except perhaps funerals). Why? It is not enough to say that their beliefs are wrong or harmful. What is it you expect to achieve by debating them? I assume your seeking conversion, but you don’t say, so I am left guessting. Why do you think your approach is more likely to achieve this than Carly’s? These questions would not take many words to answer at a high level, and would raise the tone above the current “Do as I say because I’m right.” level.

    • The Captain

      “To Spencer I say, how dare you? Who are you to tell atheists what they should or should not do?”

      So what, Spencer is not allowed to express his opinions on how Atheist should act towards the religious… but Carly Jane Casper can?! Wow now thats a level of hypocrisy I haven’t seen in a long time.

      • FSq

        To you Captain, I say that you must behave better. Your vocalizations right here go against what my deity tells me is the moral and proper way to live, therefore, you must adhere to it and do what we “suggest”.

        Doesn’t make any sense does it?

        No, you have no right to tell atheists what to do, anymore than we have the right to tell you not to practice your religion in YOUR HOME or house of worship. The religious idiots seem to feel they have the right to politicize their views to the oppression and detriment of others (restricting LGBT rights, anti-choice,  placing prayer cards and ten commandment rocks on public owned land and buildings….) NO. You cannot do that. Anymore than we atheists can tell you to place a copy of Dawkin’s book on the walls of your church.

        • Carly Casper

          - “you have no right to tell atheists what to do”

          No one has any right to tell others what to think and do. We can merely suggest and argue our suggestion.

          • FSq

            Well, that is not entirely true.

            We have laws such as no murdering, no stealing, etc…and these tell people what to do. But, in day to day interactions, where one group (the religious) tries to usurp morality so they can oppress, no, that is when the “cannot tell others what to think or do” comes into play.

            And before any religious jackass tries to make a parallel to something like “but you tell the church to sell birth control” BZZZZT. Wrong. What we are saying is that the “church” must play by the same rules as everyone else. This is not persecution or oppression; this is being fair and removing preferred treatment.

          • The Other Weirdo

             I’m pretty sure a judge can tell a man to pay child support. That’s telling him what to do. Are you say the judge has no right to do so?

            • Carly Casper

              I think his “right” here is arguable, but that’s just a reflection of my political beliefs.

              • The Other Weirdo

                 Oh, I think the feminists, much beloved of many an atheist website, would disagree with you that it’s arguable.

              • Anonymous

                Is the right to forbid murder and theft also “arguable”?

        • The Captain

          Wow your misunderstanding is strong. You should proably have read the article and thread.

          Paul_Robertson said Spencer had no right to tell Atheist how to act, but in the same article Carly Jane Casper goes on to tell atheist how they should act. Hence the hypocrisy I refferd to.

          Now as for you bad opinion. First, “Doesn’t make any sense does it?” Actually it does make sense, I just do not have to follow it. As long as there is not implied or avert use of force then people are free to tell others what they think of their behavior. 

          So I guess you think we have no right to tell Muslims to stop punishing rape victims as adulteress then. I mean… don’t want to tell someone what to do right?

          As for the second part, couldn’t be more wrong…Im an atheist! 

      • Anonymous

         Spence was criticising Carly for not acting the way he though she should. Carly was justifying her actions in the context of Spencer’s criticism. Big difference.

  • Taxihorn

    As an atheist, it seems obvious that there can be no objective morality, because a perspective is required to have a moral opinion. However, that leaves us with subjective morality–a whole lot of individual brains having moral opinions. There isn’t a god telling religious extremists to throw poo at schoolchildren, but there are schoolchildren to have opinions on such matters. I would think most people can put themselves in the place of another person if they try hard enough, no matter their religious affiliations or lack thereof. But aside from morality there is an objective world–a universe both scary and amazing. And it’s obvious that we can’t seem to agree upon the facts of that world. And if we can’t agree on the facts, then we can’t agree upon how to handle each other. Perhaps throwing poo at the schoolchildren was supposed to help them in some way, out of concern for their immortal souls (I know, a stretch…) We are all just “imperfect actors on a tilted stage”, but at least we can acknowledge the extreme difficulty as a human being to navigate that stage, particularly when our loved ones make their love contingent upon your understanding the world in which they do. THAT is the abuse. Believe what you want. Enjoy Santa and the Easter Bunny. Tell stories to better understand yourself. Find a church with a nice community. But don’t tell your children (or anyone else) that if they don’t see your fairies, your gnomes, your Santa, or your Christian god, that you will love them any less.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Why is it obvious?

      • Taxihorn

         … “…because a perspective is required to have a moral opinion.” Perspectives in the natural world require stand-alone brains which interact indirectly. It would seem I use the word “atheism” as an umbrella term for the non-belief in all supernatural perspectives. Is that unreasonable?

        • The Other Weirdo

           While I agree that moral opinions require perspective, I have to question the assertion that it is obvious that there can be no objective morality. To me it doesn’t seem obvious, but maybe I’m just too mired in my own perspective to see that beating on your wife and children in a drunken stupor can be moral, or to hunt humans for sport, or to practice cannibalism. If some culture practices, oh I don’t know, slavery, do we really need to think that, from a certain point of view, slavery is just a perspective on societal organization?

          • Taxihorn

            We only have ourselves to judge. If something is important to us, then it matters. The individual instances of subjective morality do butt up against each other in the examples you give, but it is only through mutual respect for each other as fellow perspective-taking creatures that these issues can be resolved. Empathy should be taught in schools. But I don’t think that any of this implies an objective morality. If people are lucky enough to live in areas where man-made laws and law enforcement protect them because of someone’s past ability to empathise and legislate, then great. If not, there is no-one to answer to but random chance and survival of the fittest. :/

      • Anonymous

        It’s obvious because of the very definitions of the words ‘subjective’ and  ‘objective’.

        The universe doesn’t care if you beat your wife. It’s only your fellow lifeforms, and you, who from our collective subjective experiences have found it to be harmful to our fellow lifeforms, and thus immoral. Something can only be moral or immoral if it involves life, and whether it is or is not is determined by the perspective of life. Thus, morality is inherently subjective.

        Unless you believe in a sky-daddy lawgiver, that is.

        Note that morality being subjective doesn’t make it somehow lesser, or untrue. 

  • Ndonnan

    What has really annoyed Hermunt here is someone going to a mosque and being pleasantly supprised it was a good experiance.They appriciated it as a cultural event,which it is where ever its held.How does he get though life with this ammount of angst.To watch an event and see the positive side of it isnt a disire to be liked,its called maturity.For most of the world to have a differant world view or spiritual belief isnt interlectual fraud,its they see or know or have expirianced somthing that an atheist hasnt.To call it tratarious to our goal is scary,a heil Hitler would fit right in here.Respect means to scrutinise doctrons and explain how they are wrong,is simply a made up meaning to justify poor behaviour.When i read the expousing of on this site is usually embarassing to say the least,so you should just stick to not beliving in a spiritual realm.This is all atheism has to say,everything else is pushing personal agendas.Abortian,homosexuals,enviroment, all nothing to do with atheism, just this personal agenda of an immature,rebellious,selfcentured inderviduals.

    • Bryan

       Dude, you would think with all the garbage you post here you’d learn to put some spaces after your periods.

      Oh yeah, and read the BIG YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED PARAGRAPH at the start of this post that says this is a guest post, not written by “Hermunt”.

      • Marguerite

        Spacing after periods isn’t the big issue here, it seems to me. Spell check would go a long ways toward making this post more understandable, though.

        I actually like the thought of being an “immature, rebellious, self-centered individual,” though. It sounds a lot cooler than what I actually am– a boring middle-aged housewife with four kids.  If I’d realized atheism would transform me into a cool teenage rebel, I might have gone the atheistic route a long time ago:-).

        • Anonymous

          I actually like the thought of being an “immature, rebellious, self-centered individual,” though.
          Have you tried having a few abortions, engaging in some gay sex and recycling?

          • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

            Yes.

            • Anonymous

              I bet that abortion was tough on you Michael…

              • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

                The other two make up for it.

        • Ndonnan

          Haha, im guessing your children arnt 16 yet, kinda loses its appeal when its directed at you

      • Ndonnan

        Who posted the post bryan,the answer is above the BIG YELLOW PARAGRAPH,besides with all the angst and hostility,it screams helmunt,lol

    • Sc213

       Despite your awful grammar, I think you’re missing the point of the 1st article. Cultural experiences are fine. He’s not attacking cultural experiences. He’s challenging the Secular Student Alliance’s actions and criticizing their role as a *secular* organization. In other words, he’s saying the organization is not as secular as it should be.

      • TiltedHorizon

         To get the point one needs to read, the fact that Ndonnan attributes the  article to “Hermunt” means the highlighted words “guest post” was skipped, an indication that only a cursory review was done. 

        • Carly Casper

          Also, “Hermunt”. Lols.

          • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

            I hope he starts going by that name around here.

    • TiltedHorizon

       “What has really annoyed Hermunt here is someone going to a mosque and being pleasantly supprised it was a good experiance.”

      Please highlight the line in the post from which you draw this conclusion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Know your purpose and be true to your purpose.  If you’re there to learn about their religion (or make a show of good faith, to coin a phrase) then you should do that.  If you held a fundraiser in which people “voted” for your group to visit a religious service by donating money in your name, then you owe it to those people to do what you said you would do, not go pick a fight.

    If you want to go to a mosque and ask for a respectful debate instead of observing their service in a “buddy-buddy” manner, that’s great, but no one should be demanding that the Secular Student group pull a bait-and-switch.

    • Spencer Mulesky

      I agree that they should do what they were “paid” to do, but as the non-religious secular flagbearers, shouldn’t we offer SOME sort of criticism about the beliefs that Muslims hold when we post articles online? They paid the SAIU to visit, not to be their PR guys!

      The point put simply: If a group that organizes around being non-religious and rational will not criticize beliefs that we all agree are completely irrational and harmful, who will? Religious ideas are not incurable diseases that the non-religious among us are lucky enough not to have. These irrational and dangerous beliefs, just like any belief, is able to be criticized. Our criticisms really do make a difference and SAIU, if they stand for anything, should stand with me on this point.

    • Pseudonym

       

      Know your purpose and be true to your purpose.

      Good point. I’d add that you probably shouldn’t call yourself “secular” if you meant “atheist”. Americans United is a secular organisation, but not an (exclusively) atheist one.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      I agree absolutely.

      I don’t think that the sole purpose of interfaith is to infiltrate the religious and manipulate them, though … The most productive thing that will come out of that relationship for the secular movement is the honest dialogue… We need to acknowledge one another, shake hands, and continue trying to convince one another that that the other person is wrong.

      Here’s a good example of this inconsistency. Dialogue, “convince one another”, debate, or whatever you want to call it IS manipulation! There are issues that should be met head-on and confronted aggressively, and there are situations and issues like you describe here which should be set aside. When you hide behind euphemisms and aren’t honest with your own goals, you will make the mistake of confusing these two situations.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Why should I respect something that states that I should be put to death by stoning just for being who I am? Why should I respect someone’s right to believe that I should be put to death by stoning just for being who I am?

    I keep on hearing this meme that the only way to get through to the religious is to be respectful towards them, only then will we be able to sway them.  I’ve never seen any evidence for this belief. Some may be swayed by that kind of method, others may need a shock to get them thinking about their beliefs, to say that only one method will work with all people is just silly.

    • Pseudonym

      Of course, you shouldn’t respect that.

      So how many Christians do you know, or how many Christian organisations have you come into contact with, who actually believe you should be put to death by stoning? My money is on exactly none.

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

        They don’t actually believe their own text? That’s progress.

        • Pseudonym

          Oh, they believe it, all right. In fact, you probably do too. Pretty much nobody disputes that the rule that you allude to was an actual part of the Ancient Hebrew civil/religious code at some point in history.

          There’s considerable legitimate historical argument over exactly when, and a bit less over precisely what was the intention behind it, but that’s another topic.

          But as far as I know, there’s no point in history where Christians have advocated stoning anyone for any reason. The same is true of crucifixion, and for the same reason: in the early years, they tended to be on the receiving end.

          There is a huge difference between interpretation and application.  When phrases such as “the people” were written into US Constitution says, it pretty much meant adult male landowners. Nobody of consequence seriously complains that today it’s applied in a more egalitarian spirit.

          • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

            The intention behind it is the topic. Don’t try to tell me one of the oldest codified rules was never enforced.

            • Pseudonym

              I didn’t want to go into this in detail, but since you brought it up, the intention is pretty clear from the text itself.

              Let’s take Leviticus 20 as our example. I won’t quote it here; you can read it yourself if you want.

              vv 1-5: Don’t sacrifice your children to Molech. Apparently this was such a big problem that it needed FOUR WHOLE VERSES to rub this one in.

              v6-9: No using mediums and spiritualists, no passing curses.

              v10: Guys are not to sleep with another guy’s wife.

              v11-12: Stuff about incest.

              v13: Guys are not to sleep with guys. (This is the one verse you’ve concentrated on; stay with me, context is important.)

              v14-21: More laws about sex. This is getting tedious, so we’ll skip to the important bit.

              v22-24: Here we go, here’s the reason for all of the above laws: This is all stuff those evil other nations did. Don’t be like them.

              And finally, more stuff about unclean animals and spiritists.

              So there you are. There’s the intention behind it. These are specific prohibitions against stuff those other nations (e.g. the Caananites) did. Ancient Hebrews were supposed to be different, and there was a risk of being polluted by the practices of those evil other nations.

              I’m sure it probably was enforced. It was, after all, part of the Ancient Hebrew civil/religious legal code.  If you’re not an Ancient Hebrew citizen, I’d say this UMC minister probably thinks you have nothing to worry about.

              • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

                First of all, YOU brought up the stoning rule, then say I “alluded” to it. Then YOU brought up “the intention behind it” as a defense (You’re talking about it when you say “this is a reason but I’m not talking it”) then you claim I brought it up? You obviously wanted to bring it up.

                The verse “I focused on” is relevant even when you feel like trying to abstract all details out of it.

                If you want to have a serious discussion, you don’t get to turn a diode and ignore details of the bible on a whim. (Stay with me here, this is important) While context is important; it is not sufficient to create meaning itself. You don’t get to ignore the specific rule you brought up by pointing around it and declaring other statements more significant.

                And you shouldn’t need to put words in my mouth to do it.

        • Nordog

          It’s not that they don’t believe it.  Perhaps they just reject your bigoted polemical exigesis.  Yeah, I’m bettin’ that’s the case.

          • Anonymous

            Reading the words exactly as they’re written is hardly interpretation.

            Your bible is bigoted, not the person pointing it out. 

            • Nordog

              Yeah, right.  What were you saying before about confirmation bias?  Look in the mirror, ’cause your projecting again.

              • Anonymous

                That doesn’t even make sense. Do you even understand what the term “projecting” means? 

                Look, you’re real good at being snide and dismissive, but I’ve yet to see an actual rational, logical argument from you. All I’ve seen is you telling people they’re wrong without backing it up.

      • Anonymous

        They only “don’t believe” it because society would no longer stand for it. 

        Put a theocracy back in place, how long do you really think it’ll be before the Inquisitors stroll back into town, or they “rediscover” Luther’s shrill antisemitism? 

  • Nazani14

    I have a problem with Fry’s remarks because I reject the whole concept of  “salvation.”   If somebody is feeling bad about him/herself, the cause is certainly not because they have not “gotten right” with some sky bully.  Maybe Fry means “salvation” in some metaphoric sense that I do not understand.  
        We also have to clarify what we mean by “respect.”  I can go along with civil discourse, and not hassling people who are on shaky emotional ground, but when a religious bully knocks the ball into my court, he will get it knocked back at him.

    A couple of years ago I attended a church service, and afterwards a couple of people asked me what I thought.  I gave a couple of reasons why I thought the sermon was based on poor reasoning.  The questioners were shocked that I would be so “disrespectful.”  

    I wonder, did the  anyone in the Muslim Student Union talk to the Secular Alliance visitors later?  Or did the MSU simply feel they had checked off an imaginary box by exposing atheists to their beliefs?

    Oh, and I think environmentalists need a close relationship with BP.  And by close, I mean like stalking.  Call ‘em at 3 a.m., breathe down the back of their collars.  “I know who you are, and I saw what you did.”

    • Carly Casper

      Re: MSU, after the service, we talked with the president and a few more members about our reactions, and they answered a few questions. They’re very casual and laid-back in the group, and I’ve continued to have a good relationship with the president. They’re all really nice and eager to be understood.

    • The Other Weirdo

       

      Oh, and I think environmentalists need a close relationship with BP. 
      And by close, I mean like stalking.  Call ‘em at 3 a.m., breathe down
      the back of their collars.  “I know who you are, and I saw what you
      did.”

      You’re suggesting an illegal activity. Bzzt. Just in case, BP isn’t a person, and phoning it up at 3am will just get you their corporate voicemail system. (Sarcasm mode on) Yes, I’m sure it’s an excellent idea to phone a house full of people that had nothing to do with what you don’t like. (Sarcasm mode off)

      • Carly Casper

        I think he was being figurative/metaphorical…

        • The Other Weirdo

           I dunno. Didn’t sound like figurative/metaphorical to me.

        • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

          That’s how it starts.

  • Ronlawhouston

    Loved this article.  The contrasting points of view give both sides of the issue.  I’m more in Carly’s camp, but I say good job to the authors.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      I think it is a mistake to try to separate them into camps in the first place. Why over-simplify this?

  • Grung_e_Gene

    You don’t respect bullies and most religious people who make their voices heard today are bullies.

    In the same manner, you don’t go up to a bunch of elderly ladies coming out of church with their palm fronds and tell them they are ignorant and there is no god.

    You meet like with like.

    But, being congenial in the face of religious bigotry and bullying as is going on with the Religious Right trying to free their views upon everyone through the power of government must be met with like force.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      Little old people who have little else but their faith to comfort them are certainly not a priority. When you are able to perfectly tell the difference between one of those and a manipulator, you will have solved this entire issue.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this is just so much BS. Let’s try an experiment, shall we?

    There is no progress to be made by hating faith racism, by mocking those who
    have faith racist beliefs, or by demeaning them for their beliefs. It’s also not a
    productive way of convincing them to abandon their beliefs. If our end
    goal is the elimination of faith racism, then careful attention to human
    emotional needs is essential. For this, we have to understand the
    religious racists. We need to be friends with them and have discussions with
    them. We, in turn, need to open ourselves to being understood.

    Yes, it’s of benefit to analyze and understand what it is in the human psyche that leads people to be bigots or causes them to create imaginary edifices of authority, but we should be using every social tool at our disposal to stand against pernicious, harmful modes of thinking and behaving. We see that such direct confrontation has borne results in the fight against racism, homophobia, and even misogyny. But for some reason we must forego this approach and instead cozy up to  superstitious, anti-scientific, authoritarianism and coddle and wheedle and be nice and civil and hope they’ll eventually come around? Why is that? And how can one possibly think that will work?

    No. The bulk of the progress will be made by hating faulty reasoning, mocking anti-intellectualism, and demeaning those who want to rule over their fellow humans on behalf of their imaginary gods.
     

    • Carly Casper

      I don’t think that faith and racism are as comparable as you make them out to be. Things are a little more complex than that.

      • Spencer Mulesky

        How so? I am genuinely interested in a relevant disanalogy.

      • Anonymous

        Of course things are complex. Racism itself is complex. But we know that it is not based on a rational understanding of the world. We know that it causes harm to society and to individual people. When we encounter something like that, it is our moral duty to oppose it. Understand it, yes. Educate ourselves and others about it, yes. But also confront it and make it socially unacceptable to use it as a means of oppression. How is that unlike religion?

        • Carly Casper

          Fair point. I suppose my opposition was more to the equation of racism and religion. It’s fair to approach them the same way, but they’re not the same. I think we’re on the same page. :)

        • Anonymous

           @facebook-1267009187:disqus  Ibis You said: “Racism itself is complex. But we know that it is not based on a rational
          understanding of the world. We know that it causes harm to society and
          to individual people. When we encounter something like that, it is our
          moral duty to oppose it.” This was supposed to create an equation between racism and religion. However racism has almost zero positive effects anywhere on the planet except for strengthening the bonds of an “in group”. Which can be done in almost endless ways. So it has almost exclusively awful impact on the world. Religion has both positive and negative effects in spades. The weaker the religious sauce, the greater the percentage of positive to negative. With racism the best that can be said is that the weaker the racist sauce, the negative effects are less powerful. It is very different because of this, and if you cannot see that religion has positive impact as well, I suggest that you are guilty of an approach that in your words: ” is not based on a rational understanding of the world. We know that it
          causes harm to society and to individual people. When we encounter
          something like that, it is our moral duty to oppose it.” Should your analogy show that the very thought process that lead you to make this analogy is comparable to racism? On the other hand I couldn’t agree more that we should make it socially unacceptable to use religion as a means of oppression.

        • Nordog

           The irony is that while you obviously disparage bigotry based in race, you champion it when based on creed.

          • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

            Awe, you and your poor, oppressed beliefs. Any “creed” that purports to enhance your understanding or circumstances does this implicitly.

            There is no bigotry against an idea. Ideas aren’t living creatures that
            require cooperation with others to survive. Opposition to an idea is not bigotry against those that support it.

            • Nordog

              Great strawman/ad hominem combo there.  Your friends in the freethinking scientific community must be proud of you logical faculty here.

              • Anonymous

                Except it wasn’t a strawman. Your comment was. Disparaging an idea isn’t bigotry.

                One isn’t being bigoted if they call out racism, or homophobia, if they tear apart the silly arguments for creation, or if they point out that the ideas of a Hindu or Christian don’t make sense. 

                • Nordog

                  Being confident in your convictions, and blind to your prejudices, makes it difficult to see your own bigotry, but it doesn’t make it not so.

                  I realize bigots don’t like to be called such, and will rationalize the whole day long as to why they are not.  But the fact is that this place is chock full o’ bigots who project their own shortcomings on people of faith.

                  Now I grant that there is much to criticize in Christianity, and one of these is that there are bigots in the fold, so to speak.  But when atheists make categorical statements about millions upon millions of people such that these millions all must be the same as the worst among them, well, that’s text book bigotry, and it’s the stock and trade here in this echo chamber.

    • The Captain

      Beat me to it :) I was just about to do the same thing with “psychics”.

      • Pseudonym

        Psychics are a pretty good analogy, actually, because it’s not always clear-cut.

        I’ve suspected for a while that many “psychics” are honest, well-meaning people, some of whom could even a natural talent for reading body language or other skills that would make them a good psychologist or counsellor, who honestly believe that they have some kind of supernatural “gift”.

        I’m not talking about the high-profile “psychics”, or the ones staffing premium phone services. Though even some of the con artists performing magic tricks could have started out “legitimately”.

        Everyone who has worked with water dowsers will freely admit that they are some of the most honourable people you will ever meet. They honestly believe that what they do is real. In many cases, it might even be “real” in the sense that they are people with a natural talent for geology (or just lots of experience) who mistake the ideomotor effect for supernatural powers.

        Water dowsers tend to freely submit themselves to controlled testing (which is pretty good evidence that they honestly believe in what they do, contra Sylvia Browne) and are genuinely puzzled when they don’t test out.

        I’m not sure what would be gained by mocking such people, and I suspect the same would be true of many low-profile “psychics”.

    • http://www.chucksteel.com/ csteelatgburg
    • Kalafarski

      Well, racism is hateful; faith is often not. There are numerous compassionate and intelligent religious people and I feel Hemant and you are ignoring that fact. The groups aren’t arguing to just be happy and consent to everything, but to be understanding and compassionate, even when you debate and criticize. The goal is not to eradicate religion. The goal is to bring about secularization, rationality, and a love for human kindness and intelligence, and that occurs when people are exposed to different viewpoints and are accepting of the differences in others. 

      And coexistence certainly doesn’t come about by comparing your opponents to racists and calling on your fellows to hate faith and demean individuals–no, that speaks far more of your character than it does of theirs.

  • Ian Reide

    Put me in the zero respect category. My life experience is—the more the religion the more the ignorant bigot (pardon the tautology). 

    • Carly Casper

      Same here. Only once have I met an extremely devout person who I got along with, but they were an agnostic theist, so does that count?

      • The Other Weirdo

         Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? “Devout” + “agnostic theist”

    • AndyTK

      I
      know a number of theists, some Catholics, one a very liberal, but very devout, Episcopalian
      that are smart, wonderful people that believe in evolution, global warming and
      science in general.  They get upset at
      attacks on all religion just because of some nuts.  I have to remind them that they are not in
      the majority and that easiest point of attack against all religions is the belief
      in the supernatural.

      • The Other Weirdo

         The funny thing is that, they don’t count, unless they take proactive steps to support what you say they believe in: evolution, global warming(bzzt, not supposed to call it that, now it’s climate change), and science in general. When they vote, do they do so automatically for those candidates who wear their religion on their sleeve or for those who have actual platforms? Do they speak out against the religious nuts, of whom, according to you, there aren’t that many?

        The point is that it doesn’t matter what they think or believe in private. Only their public opinions matter, because those are the ones that shape policy and decide elections. And not just national elections, either, but local ones, like school boards and such.

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        Andy, I think one of the strongest critiques I’ve seen aimed at some of the more popular atheist books is that they take the most hateful religious subgroups and generalize their behaviors to all of religion. In effect, a stereotype (or in rationalist parlance, a strawman) is being used at the heart of the books’ criticisms of religion.

        While those criticisms are widely embraced by the current batch of atheists, believers are able to easily dismiss the criticism because it doesn’t accurately reflect their particular approach to faith. Fundamentalists, who are the group that is being accurately criticized, simply don’t care. So, as criticisms go, a more nuanced approach is merited.

        Nevertheless, employing the fear and discomfort that is accessed by negative stereotypes is an effective means of bringing together a group of people and forming a strong set of boundaries and group identity. The Christian Right uses this very same tactic in their own churches. It’s an effective organizing tool, and so, we atheists use it too. We are uniting around a commonly feared enemy.

        We are accessing a very ancient set of human instincts in building our movement… and its working.

        Will we eventually become what we now fear? Are we laying the foundations for becoming something as vile as that which we critique?

        Time will tell.

        • Nordog

           Often I find your posts cut directly to the problem I find in many postings here, and they do so succinctly.

        • Pseudonym

          Andy, I think one of the strongest critiques I’ve seen aimed at some of
          the more popular atheist books is that they take the most hateful
          religious subgroups and generalize their behaviors to all of religion.
          In effect, a stereotype (or in rationalist parlance, a strawman) is
          being used at the heart of the books’ criticisms of religion.
          Oh, it’s far worse than that. Some of the books or their authors actually define terms like “religion” or “faith” in such a way that only the strawman is really “religion”. This is probably the most common New Atheist version of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

          For Sam Harris, for example, fundamentalist religion is “religion”, and liberal religion is “hypocrisy”. And, of course, his neuro-Buddhism isn’t really “religion”.

          For Christopher Hitchens, religion poisons everything. He sent his daughter to a Quaker school, but that’s okay because that’s not really religion. Oh, and Stalinism was “religion” but Troskyism wasn’t.

          For my money, I like the Dan Savage approach better.

          • Pseudonym

             Errr… sorry about the misformatting. Can’t edit, unfortunately.

        • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

          The Other Weirdo summarized a justification for focusing on the fundamentalists: It simplifies the argument and justifies the importance of fundamentalists in spite of their non-representative status.

          I think the new atheist books tend to include this argument, also. It’s something the “they generalize too much” criticism doesn’t acknowledge.

  • Anonymous

    “I don’t expect a Muslim, who believes that my denial of God’s existence is active blasphemy, to respect my beliefs.”

    First off, one cannot deny a thing that doesn’t exist.

    Second of all, respect is mutual.  If you don’t respect me then I’m under no obligation to respect you and most certainly not your beliefs.

    I’m a firm believer in respecting people, their beliefs not so much.

    • Carly Casper

      “one cannot deny a thing that doesn’t exist”

      Fair point. :)

      I interpret respect as implying admiration. I don’t admire faith, and I’m not okay with it enough to respect it. I can and do respect religious people for other things, but religious faith is always a tarnish on that.

      • Pseudonym

         There are two perfectly legitimate usages of the word “respect”. One implies courtesy or acknowledgement, such as respecting someone’s right to free speech even if you think their speech is abhorrent. The other implies, as you say, reverence or admiration.

        When people say “you must respect my religious beliefs” or “I don’t respect your beliefs”, it would be useful to know which usage they meant.

  • AndyTK

    This is why I take the Atheist version of the “Hate the sin, love the sinner” philosophy.  We are each a sum of different beliefs and actions and you can just as easily be a good person and still hold logically indefensible positions as be a bad person that holds only positions for which logic and evidence is overwhelming.

    We should be strong in condemning things like creationism/intelligent design.  I have no problem calling people that believe such nonsense as stupid, ignorant or willfully gullible on that issue.  On the other hand I try to be clear that just as one can be stupid, ignorant or willfully gullible about how to invest in stocks while also being quite knowledge on other topics.  Let me be clear, we need to be blunt on these issues.  The live and let live attitude have allowed issues like creationism/intelligent design to continue long beyond the point that they should have been shunned to whispered corners of the most fundamentalist congregations.

    • Pseudonym

      Shorter version: “Pick your battles wisely.”

  • Yulaffin

    I’ll respect the religious when they keep their religion in their homes and churches/mosques/temples/synagogues where it belongs and out of my uterus.

    • Carly Casper

      Even then I probably won’t respect religion…but that would still be an improvement.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I think Spencer is dead-on here. I believe that faith is a value which harms the individual, and harms society. It deserves no respect (except in the sense that Spencer used the word). Likewise for religious beliefs- they are harmful (some more than others) and should be challenged… aggressively.

    I think Carly’s response fails because it misses the point Spencer was making. It is suggested “There is no progress to be made by hating faith, by mocking those who have faith, or by demeaning them for their beliefs.” Certainly… I’d agree. I don’t see Spencer suggesting such a thing. Mocking and demeaning a person for his views is almost never constructive. But that’s a very different thing than attacking the views themselves! Similarly for “quarrel[ing] with the religious”. Quarreling?! I’m not familiar with that approach to rational discussion.

    Minds are changed when they are challenged with thoughtful arguments, in a civil way. Some minds… particularly those contaminated by faith… may be nearly impossible to change. But one thing is sure- without a firm challenge, there is no possibility at all. We should not pretend any sort of respect for beliefs we don’t respect, and we should not be concerned if our attacks on those beliefs offend the sensibilities of those who happen to hold them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      I agree. On similar grounds though, “it takes all kinds”. Perhaps for one group of theists, a polite interfaith group is best. Still for others, an aggressive response can work.

      If I respect the beliefs of the theist, what point is there in rationally discussing them? If questioning their belief is disrespect, then where does that leave me room to discuss?I am with Spencer. I think religion is poisonous to the mind. If a theist cannot see the danger of their blind faith, I feel inclined to try to explain it to them.

    • Jack

      Yes, clearly me giving meals to the homeless is harmful. I’ve even put people up in hotels before when the weather was nasty and the shelters were full. Danged Christianity. I guess they would have been better off if they would have frozen to death? 

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        You wouldn’t help people if you weren’t Christian? If the deity you believe in didn’t command it? Then I have little respect for your personal moral basis.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’ve asked that of other Christian posters on here, and the only one who gave me a clear answer was Rwlawoffice who said “probably yes” (would still mostly do the same good works without religion).

          Clearly not everyone’s good works are dependent on religion.  So the question is, are there some people who only do good works because of religion?  And if so, why?

  • FSq

    I respect the right of the religious to practice their particular flavors of myth, but I have no respect for the beliefs.

  • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

    I note that many, many, gnu atheists are highly hulk-smash online, and talk about what they do, and how they just walk right up to theists and tell them what’s what. Yet, when actually in the presence of another human being who has religious beliefs, suddenly, they aren’t all “you’re stupid for believing that” and “if you’re not an atheist, you’re an idiot”.

    It’s funny how radical people are online, and yet, in person suddenly so meek about things… 

    Aside from that, it’s entirely possible to have no real  respect for religion per se, and yet respect the good deeds that people do as part of their religion, not because of the belief, but because someone did something good. If a local church is running a really good food bank that gives food out to thousands of local families who need food, that’s a good thing. It’s not good *in spite of who’s doing it*. It’s good. Lots of religious people do good things all the time, lots of atheists are raging jackasses all the time. 

    You even find that some churches/mosques/synagogues are a lot more flexible than you may wish to believe. One local church in tallahassee makes great use of a secularly-run food bank, because they realized that the existing food bank had that infrastructure down pat, and the ONLY reason to duplicate it would be “so it’s OUR stuff”. They, rather intelligently, concluded that such thinking was a waste of resources that could better be spent on more food, and so, now work with the secular food bank, and deliver around 3000 bags of groceries a month that the existing food bank wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

    Should the food bank have slapped that food away because it was tainted by TEH JEEBUS? Well, only if they were idiots. Fortunately no one in this equation is an idiot, and so people who need food get fed. The fact that some of this work is done in the name of $DEITY is immaterial, these are still people doing the right thing. That’s common ground. It is far, far easier to talk with someone, to exchange ideas when you at least start out by not being a douchebag about their beliefs, find the common ground and help them see that being an atheist or whatever actually doesn’t make you a dick. 

    If you show them that part of what their religion has been telling them is wrong, it opens a door to them pondering a little more may be wrong as well. They may not ever “convert”, but they’re maybe thinking a tad more critically about it, which, last I heard is a good thing. Or you can play into their bad opinion, ‘prove’ them right about atheists, and put even more bricks in that wall. 

    Tsunamis are impressive, but short-lived. Colorado river’s not all that big, yet, given a few million years, and you get the Grand Canyon. 

    • Spencer Mulesky

      I started the first Atheist group in an Indiana High School and lost many friends over it. I really am very adamant about this in person as anyone who knew me would attest to. I lose friends from it but I get to see who is actually interested in quality discourse and they stick around. I don’t let anyone get away with irrational beliefs in person, and I just wanted to make sure that if the “interweb superhero” claim didn’t go without response.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        You lose acquaintances, not friends. I’m an outspoken atheist, but I have friends with many religious beliefs. They know my views, I know theirs, and we haven’t stopped being friends.

        Anybody who would abandon a “friendship” over a philosophical difference of opinion that doesn’t manifest in significant differences of actual ethical behavior was not a real friend to begin with.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Perfect! If they abandon you over your atheism, were they ever really your friend? I couldn’t have put it better myself.

        • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

          Anybody who would abandon a “friendship” over a philosophical difference
          of opinion that doesn’t manifest in significant differences of actual
          ethical behavior
          was not a real friend to begin with.

          However, what would a friend think of another friend who is haranguing them over a difference in philosophy which doesn’t have much impact on ethical behavior? I think, after a number of these experiences, I too would start to pull back from the friendship and my relationship with that person would eventually approach “acquaintance” status.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Personally, I try to avoid “haranguing” my friends about anything, and they don’t direct a lot of that towards me. I certainly have philosophical discussions with many of them… when the time and mood is right. Neither my atheism nor their theism are major issues in our relationships.

            I would consider it as rude to force my views on somebody not interested in hearing them as I do when a Mormon or JW shows up uninvited at my door. My views are expressed in consensual discussions, or in online forums.

      • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

        And I win my bet with a friend that the first reply to this would be “I AM SO JUST AS BAD-ASSED IN REAL LIFE AS ONLINE”

        Mmm…free pizza.

        • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

          You were the first reply?

    • Ndonnan

      someone finally talking some sense here,yay

    • Gcyeuell

      As a Christian, I appreciate your identification of the common ground that we can stand on in service to people in need.

    • Gcyeuell

      As a Christian, I appreciate your identification of the common ground that we can stand on in service to people in need.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    I guess we owe Andrew Wakefield an apology and perhaps restoration of his medical license?
    Need to be “mindful and respectful” of different POV’s after all.

  • Anonymous

    I blogged about a similar topic yesterday.  I tend to agree with Spencer.  In today’s U.S. society, religions are entering the political arena often and openly.  It is my opinion that they should be treated the same as any other political actor…in other words we need to take the “kid gloves” off when debating the religious.  It has become “polite” to not question religion.  That needs to end. If they seek to push their agenda(s) on society, then the foundation for those agenda(s) need to be called into question.  This is no different than the treatment that any group in society is subject to when trying to enact legislation.

    I disagree with Carly a bit (and also blogged about that defending Dawkins comments at the reason rally).  There is a place for “mockery” and there is a place for “civil discourse”…it all depends on what the goal of the conversation is and how that conversation proceeds.  If the goal is de-conversion from religion, mockery will most likely often fail.  If the conversation turns, as it often does, to a series of close-minded irrational claims from the theist, if the theist is not interested in actually having a rational discussion or seeks to convert the atheist, then I think there is a place for “mocking” in the spirit that Dawkins spoke about.

    • Carly Casper

      Agreed on all counts. “Polite” is not necessarily the ideal modus operandi. “Empathetic” is a good way to go (not “sympathetic”). I’m not implying that we can’t be fierce and ignore empathy. We can! I’ve seen it.

      • Anonymous

         I agree Carly.  Also, great work running a Secular Alliance organization.  I wish my school had that when I was there!  Sadly they did not exist back then…

  • T-Rex

    Sorry, but I have no respect for any beliefs that aren’t based in reality and backed up by evidence/proof that those beliefs are rational. Whether it be religion, life after death, holistic medicines, ghosts, unicorns, leprechauns, etc.. They all fall into the STFU category. I don’t go around preaching my rational beliefs to others, unless of course they ask me first. So when delusional godlodytes start pushing their dogma in my face I simply point out their flawed arguments and the inconsistencies in their ancient hand books until they STFU. I have no tolerance for ignorance.

  • Anonymous

    Just before coming here, I happened to read one of the most stunningly, jaw-droppingly stupid and bizarre things I’ve ever seen from any christian. I really can’t do justice to it, you have to read it yourself to believe it:

    http://theanswergirl.tumblr.com/post/11913635998/amoral-or-natural-evil-this-refers-to-the-evil

    (Just remember, these are the people who scream until they’re blue in the face that global warming is a hoax)

    Why should any sane person give even the most microscopic iota of respect to such stark raving lunacy?

  • Keulan

    Honestly I agree with Spencer on this. I’m tired of being told I must respect silly iron-age beliefs that have aren’t don’t fit with reality and that have harmed and continue to harm humanity. I’m not going to respect things that have not and never will deserve respect.

    • Keulan

      Ugh typos. Get rid of “have” and “aren’t” before “don’t” in my second sentence and it makes sense.

  • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

    I pity those who aren’t able to maintain productive relationships without promoting their pet delusions. I loathe those who champion delusions for their own gain. I don’t respect any of it.

  • Ndonnan

    what a load of waffel from top to bottem,sad sad people with the very occasional sensable comment

  • http://enfascination.com/ Seth Frey

    Carly, I think you could have made an even stronger case for tolerance and communication. 
     Spencer, you’re rhetorical technique is totally ineffective for anything but rallying the troops.  I’m proud that SAIU has so few angry athiests.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

    Sorry
    to join this discussion so late. I only just red the post and skimmed through
    the comments. It looks like a bunch more of us atheists have had our fur rubbed
    the wrong way again over the antagonist / accomodationist debate. Isn’t it
    clear by now that we need both? I have no trouble working both sides myself,
    whether it is working with interfaith groups for charity or taking religion and
    the faithful to the mat for their many egregious statements and actions.

     

    Not
    surprisingly, I found myself disappointed with both authors. While Spencer
    Mulesky has every right to express his opinion that the SAIU for perhaps being
    too soft, his my-way-or-the-highway uncalled for. Spencer, we are atheists. We
    have no dogma and no orthodoxy and I am most certainly not traitor to my beliefs
    by being willing to work with religious groups to help feed the poor or donate
    blood.

     

    That
    said I was also disappointed with Carly Caspar and the disingenuous nature of
    her argument, particularly the paragraph quoted below (emphasis mine).

     

    “There
    is no progress to be made by hating
    faith, by mocking those who have faith, or by demeaning them for their beliefs.
    It’s also not a productive way of convincing them to abandon their beliefs. If
    our end goal is the elimination of faith, then careful attention to human
    emotional needs is essential. For this, we have to understand the religious. We
    need to be friends with them and have discussions with them. We, in turn, need
    to open ourselves to being understood. Closing ourselves off and hiding behind insults, rants, unkindness,
    hatred, cruelty, or mockery is a deflection mechanism. These tactics skirt
    the most important thing that this whole debate over religion is getting at,
    which is truth.”

     

    Carly,
    I know that many atheists do mock and insult theists but nowhere in Spencer’s
    post does he call for that and yet nowhere in your response do you characterize
    confrontation as anything but mockery and insults. I am capable of confronting
    religion without resort to insults or abuse, whether I’m having a polite
    conversation with a theist or when I come out swinging against the religious
    bigotry of those seeking to strike down our new Gay Marriage law here in
    Washington or some other manifestation of religious privilege or dominionism.

     

    Sure, I make snarky comments
    on occasion but I reserve that to the in group, joking with atheist friends or
    responding to egregious examples or religious misbehavior in the comments of
    blogs such as this one. If some atheists want to insult theists, they can,
    those who disagree have the right to criticize them and try to persuade them to
    do otherwise.

    • Matt E

      Where did my formatting go?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

       We need both, but I dont want an accomadtionist telling me how I have to show religion respect. That’s their role. I don’t respect religion, and I’m not a liar.


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