Let’s Not Rise to Their Level

David Hayward points out — and rightfully so, I say — that atheists can often be no better than Christians when it comes to how we treat people with whom we disagree. It’s important to criticize ideas instead of individuals. Too bad a lot of our “attacks” are just mean-spirited, not helpful to anybody:



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.

  • Colgate

    I completely agree. We too often spend time attacking the person instead of the doctrine, when, it’s the doctrine that is vile and no usually the person.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I think I’d like to see some concrete examples of this. Christians often can’t distinguish between criticism of their beliefs vs criticism of them, and I think you’ve internalized that.

      • Theseus

        Yup. This is a common observation being expressed on thread, and it’s dead on.

  • Rain

    Yes everybody calm down a little.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TptRS73d0Zw

    • doug105

      Nothing there now.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I wonder about the proportions of my own horse. I attempted to offer genuine criticism of a recent post of his, though my comment is not displayed. A subsequent comment to ask about his posting policy yielded only more silence.

    • http://twitter.com/Regcarolmoore Regina Carol Moore

      This blog belongs to him and he has every right to display comments of his choosing, and to respond or not respond to anything written here.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Obviously. I understand that, and wouldn’t suggest otherwise. Though, as a new visitor and first-time commenter, it would nice to know his policy. I couldn’t find anything like that on his site. It’s also possible that the posting system is to blame, though it recognized my attempt to repost the same comment. I don’t claim to know the cause.

  • SeekerLancer

    I understand outright bullying is going too far, but still I wonder where we draw the line.

    When are we being “mean spirited?” If mocking religion is going too far then the Nakedpastor comics are often guilty themselves.

    It’s a sticky situation, you can’t really predict what people are going to be offended by and oftentimes it’s the very fact that an opposing idea exists at all.

    • http://twitter.com/Regcarolmoore Regina Carol Moore

      I think his entire point is that pointing out the flaws in the logic is fine. It’s when atheists start name-calling and putting people down that we end up sounding like “them”. I’ve seen this on twitter. I follow both kinds of atheists. Sometimes it’s hard to stay on the high road when someone is displaying a certain level of ignorance. But I appreciate his point. If atheists just behave like trolls, we aren’t going to convince anyone, especially by example, to try to understand atheism.

      • SeekerLancer

        I agree. I’ve seen people jumping onto others on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other places in light of the bombing in Boston, making fun of people for simply offering their prayers to the victims. That kind of behavior isn’t only unhelpful, it’s hurtful and closes doors to future communication.

        • Theseus

          In those cases you are correct. Those individuals are an embarrassment.

          Those types are unfortunately used to by theists to smear the rest of us: “See, see? That’s how THEY are”. However, even if those individuals didn’t exist we would still get hammered for being disrespectful and offensive for the reasons that are being stated in many of the posts.

          • SeekerLancer

            Indeed, as I said earlier its impossible to be inoffensive when your opponent is offended by your existence.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Christians(and other religious groups) often feel any negative discussion of their beliefs is a personal attack on them. What do we do then? They have a biblical persecution complex and expect to see it everywhere.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

          Once, all I did was say that I’m an atheist, and someone accused me of “being on my high horse” and disrespecting believers. I never said anything about anyone’s beliefs. I only stated mine.

          Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything negative about their beliefs. Sometimes, it’s enough to state that you disagree.

          • The Other Weirdo

            You don’t even have to state it. The very idea of the possibility that atheists might potentially be living among them is often enough to freak out Christians.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        I think his entire point is that pointing out the flaws in the logic is fine

        oh, how i wish this were true. imho, it rarely is. we were just having fun with a religious type over at the gay blog i read, and wow, he was a whiner. and not in any way atypical, in my experience.

        people were polite, fact and reason based, and incredulous of his claims. and said so. soon, he was name calling and whining and accusing people of doing exactly what he was doing; he could not even see the irony.

        nope, the truth is, they don’t like it at all, when you use facts and logic about their own beliefs to make a point they don’t want to hear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.zega.14 Jack Zega

    Antitheism is not about attacking religion, but in standing up for our
    right not to believe and helping to liberate other people’s minds. The
    ONLY attacks on religion which have a lasting impact are the logical
    ones, and even they will only benefit those with an open mind. All of
    this however is a process, which will take a long time. As anyone who has read De Tocqueville or Paine knows, religion has long been a
    fixture in American culture, and in such societies, religion is
    difficult to extirpate. But it will happen, b/c Antitheism is based on
    innate desire of men to be truly free. We see it happening in Islam and
    in America, the poll numbers for the “godless” just continue to
    increase. So be positive Sisters and Brothers and keep spreading the
    Good News!!

    • C Peterson

      Antitheism has nothing to do with standing up for our rights to not believe. Antitheism is about attacking religion, by its very definition.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jack.zega.14 Jack Zega

        I used to think this way until I read Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason”. Although the whole text is an eloquent exposition of the key point of Antitheism, which is our freedom to be free to think as we like, Paine himself says it best with a phrase in the opening paragraph of the book, “My ow mind is my church”. A major part of antitheism, for me at least, has been this process of learning to liberate myself. Antithesism starts from within: you can’t teach others until you are right with yourself. Otherwise you just become an opinionated preacher no better than the other side.

        • C Peterson

          I don’t see it that way. Our freedom to think as we like has nothing to do with theism at all.

          By definition, antitheism is the opposition to theism, almost always on the grounds that theistic beliefs on the part of individuals leads to societal harm.

  • dan davis

    While I agree to some extent, it is hard not to attack a person that is personally trying to influence public policy and interfere with how I live my actual life. If we were just discussing the pronunciation of tomato I could see the point; however, we aren’t. These ideas they hold aren’t really the issue, it is how they are PERSONALLY and PHYSICALLY screwing with the lives of others based on these ideas. If not attack them, then whom? When they want to discuss ideas rationally, I’m all ears.

    • newavocation

      Also as the saying goes it’s not guns that kill people, it’s not beliefs doing the killing either.

      • dan davis

        True, but kids don’t take their parents beliefs out of the closet and kill people when they aren’t looking, or get shot while playing with or cleaning the bible.

        • newavocation

          Well maybe not kill but have you read about Jordan Anderson, middle schoolers experiences?

  • Greg G.

    It is wrong to bully people and it is best to be civil in our discussions. But no matter how civil we are, we will be seen as bullying. A church can post a billboard with fire suggesting this is your fate but an atheist billboard saying “maybe there is no god” is thought to be too extreme.

    We can criticize an idea but the religious person has internalized it to be a part of them so it feels like a personal attack. The Bible says they should expect to be persecuted but if the worst thing that happens is an idea is criticized then that is the persecution that was prophesied.

    The emphasis put on the need for faith tells the believer their position is untenable at some level so when someone points that out it’s as if our existence is considered to be militant.

    • dan davis

      “The religious person has internalized it to be a part of them so it feels like a personal attack”. Dead on. I don’t get all flustered discussing gradualism and punctuated equilibrium, because they are data based and open to discussion.

    • Tainda

      I totally agree. I am a very laid back atheist and think everyone should be able to believe (in their own homes and churches) what they want. I STILL get told how horrible a person I am along with multiple threats.

      Most religious people see anyone different than them as wrong and offensive. If you don’t agree with that, you’re aggressive and are persecuting them.

      • Theseus

        Exactly. “Help we’re being oppressed”!!!

        Disagreement = persecution, in their minds.

        • SJH

          This is quite judgmental. Who is “their” in your comment. I don’t know anyone that is like this. Certainly people can be sensitive at times but are we all. Isn’t it everyone’s duty to try and understand the other person so that we can better communicate with them? If we are only concerned about what we have to say and don’t care how others will receive it then our comments are pointless. Its about marketing/perception.

          • Theseus

            Excuse me, you are correct I should have clarified who “they” or “their” are. However, since I was responding to Tainda I assumed it would follow who I was talking about.

            I am not being snarky, so don’t take it as such. With all due respect though, based on your statement “I don’t know anyone like this” this is simply a lack of awareness and experience on your part concerning these folks

            “They” are evangelical conservative fundamentalists and conservative Catholics. I am not stereotyping or talking about ALL religious people, nor am I repeating some kind of urban myth. It is real, as a lot of people will attest to that post here; living in Texas,I have a whole lot of personal experience with these folks as well. “They” also make their views known on a daily basis on talk radio, , the internet, cable “news”, publications, and politically with all their candidates. So, am I being “judgmental”? Absolutely, but it is a judgement based on reality and experience.

            • Carmelita Spats

              I am also atheist living in Texas and work with fundamentalist Christians who refer to students with discipline problems as “little sinners”, cite bible verses that support corporal punishment, tell a nine-year-old boy whom they deem to be “effeminate” that he needs more testosterone, believe that the entire faculty should prayer walk the school every August, begin our annual staff “Christmas-Not-Winter” luncheon with a prayer to Jesus, violate school district email policy by soliciting donations to support CHRISTIAN missionaries overseas, violate school district policy with incessant emails about Jesus (including grotesque images of Yahweh’s kid nailed to some plywood), solicit daily “prayer requests” from staff over the school district email, several teachers and the counselor hang crosses in the classrooms/counselor’s office, etc., etc….YES, it is okay to render judgment based on reality and experience. I had no idea the Bible Belt was this insane…I thought most people learned to compartmentalize out of respect for professional ethics. It is terrifying when “pleasing Jesus” trumps professional ethics.

              • Theseus

                “Yahweh’s kid” Lol

                To an outsider, I imagine that what you are describing actually WOULD sound like secular propaganda to smear evangelical Texans and southerners. The scary thing is…. it’s not! It’s all true! This is what I was trying to get through to SJH.

                That is one reason why these dominionist/fundies are so dangerous… people hold up “the hand” and say: “Aw c’mon, they can’t be that bad, you’re exaggerating”.

          • GCT

            I don’t know anyone that is like this.

            Then, you’re not paying attention to the ever-present albatross of religious privilege hanging over all of us. “They” in this sense are all the people infused with religious privilege that cannot differentiate between criticism of ideas and criticism of people, which virtually every time is an excuse to tell atheists to STFU.

    • 3lemenope

      I don’t care whether I’m seen as bullying. I care whether I *am* bullying. The optics are often just an excuse to act as bad as one’s adversaries, but what matters, morally, is what a person has done, not how the act is perceived.

      • SJH

        Perception is reality. If you are seen as a bully then your words will amount to nothing and the discussion won’t lead to progress or truth. It only leads to division. Its about sensitivity and trying to understand the other. Perhaps if we understand each other better and spoke in a way that the other perceived as respectful then we would go a long way in helping each other.

        • sane37

          This does not work when anything but agreement is seen as disrespectful.

        • 3lemenope

          Reality is reality. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You can’t force other people to have empathy; all you need to be concerned with is whether your acts are empathetic. I (often, almost ad nauseam) exhort people to be kind and thoughtful in interactions with others. This does not mean that they should take someone seriously if, after being kind and thoughtful, they are accused of being strident and mean. Some people just lack all perspective, and their complaints should have no purchase.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          wow, do i disagree with that. ever had hallucinations? used mind bending drugs? been on a drunk bender? those aren’t reality, but they sure are perceptions, and NOT reality, to the person having one. but for a while they’ll think it is reality.

          and why is all the pressure on the person perceived as a bully, and not the one misperceiving things? sounds to me like you’ve got it backwards. if a person perceives me a bully for saying “the sky is blue” because he believes that “Ra is the Sungod and he makes it Green!” and i’m a bully for calling it ‘blue’… i guess i don’t understand your logic at all.

  • viaten

    I agree. And there are also people who take criticism of their ideas as an attack on them and their character, though it seems to be more of a specialty with many religious believers than with atheists or skeptics.

  • Theseus

    I agree. Problem is a robust critique of a mind set or belief system is looked at as “mean spirited” or disrespectful (with nary a personal attack in sight) by many believers. When one is dealing with individuals that think their religion is automatically in the “hands off” zone or beyond criticism, anything that is said that is critical of that religion WILL be considered offensive.

    I live in Texas and I have been though this many times. I never name call or launch into a personal attack. However when faced with an intolerant, close minded individual that has zero respect for you and other people’s rights, it is difficult to keep the tone civil. I have had people sitting across the table from me at Starbucks wanting to engage in a tirade of ignorance and intolerance…. talking about how the country is lost because we have taken God out of the schools, how we need prayer and the Ten Commandments in said school, how the “homos” have turned the U.S into a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, and on and on. These people are quite common here and are I suspect, well respected in their own communities.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jack.zega.14 Jack Zega

      When religious people are lamenting their defeat, I just sit back and smile. And then I challenge their authority legally to make others obey their principles in the schools or in public places

    • SeekerLancer

      Needless to say I’m not looking forward to moving to Texas later this year.

  • baal

    Christian inability to tell the difference between legit criticism and vile or demeaning personal attacks is not a reasonable argument for using vile or demeaning personal attacks. They are going to be pissed either way so let’s really lose our shit all over them?

    • Theseus

      Ha! Yeah that’s completely wrong headed as well. I have actually heard that rationalization used before, as I’m sure you have..

  • Houndentenor

    It’s more helpful to discuss such things with specific examples. Most of the time we could have handled a discussion better so a critique can be useful. But most of the time it’s frustrating to hear someone regurgitate long-disproven talking points thrown out in no particular order. At some point in frustration it’s easy to lose your cool and insult the person who frankly deserves the insult, but I will agree that the insult is not only unhelpful but perhaps turns off people who might be in the process of becoming sympathetic to a reality-based world view.

  • Katwise

    It would be more accurate to say, “Let’s not stoop to their level,” but then we would have to get off our high horse.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    On a slight tangent, I realized something yesterday. I drive by a LOT of churches, and almost all of them have roadside signage with new messages every couple of weeks. Some churches post big events, congratulations or condolences, but most of them of course post about Jesus. The thing is, they overwhelmingly judge the reader, who is presumed to be religious also. For example, one close by reads “Is Your Faith True Enough To See Him In Heaven?”

    They’re “You are not living up to the standards of MY religion, all my fellow Christians” messages. What’s up with that?

    • 3lemenope

      Whenever there is a standard, there is a (extremely difficult-to-overcome) human instinct to measure everything and everyone against it in order to figure out where they stand in the pack (we are tribal monkeys, after all). Christians, in this, are no different. They want to know whether they are good or bad Christians, not in relation to the standard abstractly, but compared to other Christians.

      • Antinomian

        I take exception with your personal attack upon me by relating me with the “Christian Monkey Tribe”. I’ll have you know Sir, that I am a member of the “Atheist Primate Tribe” and will gladly take a DNA test to prove it.

  • C Peterson

    I would never walk into a church and call its occupants deluded fools. I would never go to one of my Christian friends and suggest that they operate under a poor moral code.

    However, in responding to the actions of a public figure, or the comments of a debater in a forum designed for just such discussion, there is certainly a role for personal attack. Not at the exclusion of reasoned argument, of course, and not beyond a certain level of civility. But in such cases, a direct, individual attack should not automatically be considered unjustifiable.

    • Theseus

      Within certain limits it is. For example calling someone a bigot or hypocrite in these forums, and then providing evidence by giving specific examples of the individuals statements or actions.

      Yes, Reasoned and evidence based personal attacks are appropriate in some cases.

    • SJH

      Why would it be bad to simply not attack anyone? Obviously we can be critical of each other’s ideas but why not do it in a productive way. Why would you have to call someone a hypocrite or bigot even if you think it is true or even if it is in fact true? How is that productive?What purpose does your judgement serve? Focus on the ideas and treat others with dignity.

      • C Peterson

        Language has power. Our choice of words has power- the power to change the minds of those we address, and the power to change the minds of those who merely listen. Ridicule and humor (humor is essentially always based on ridicule) are time honored, highly effective methods of changing minds. The greatest thinkers and orators throughout history have not hesitated to ridicule or demean their opponents when that strategy could effectively make a point, or change a mind. A debate limited to forced civility and neutral words will accomplish little.

        If a person acts like a bigot, or acts like a hypocrite, there is nothing wrong with calling them out, and calling them out with precisely those words. Because those are the ideas being addressed!

      • Antinomian

        Yes, instead of of pointing out a lie and calling a liar a liar, we’l just say they’ve misplaced their ontological predicates and offer them a soothing cup of tea and a seat in the “comfy chair”.

      • Charles Honeycutt

        Right, don’t question leaders at all. That has always worked in the past.

  • rustygh

    The bottom line on this is, it’s BS. We tried that but continue to see the hate from religion. You can sit back and be nice and get nowhere, or push a little so they start to hear. What I do believe is don’t pick out one person to bully.
    but blast the religion hard! (These are just my thoughts)

    • SJH

      Who are you speaking to that hates you so much? I don’t know anyone that hates an atheist.

      • RobMcCune

        Just because such people aren’t in your circle of friends doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Likewise hatred doesn’t need to be an explicitly stated belief, it can be a set of attitudes and reactions.

      • Charles Honeycutt

        Given that you have posted before and thus read this blog, you are now lying.

  • qt314

    False equivalence. It’s more reasonable to mock someone for believing in magic than for not believing in magic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=645690699 Rachel Holierhoek

    I think there is a danger in assuming our superiority, whether it’s a superior intellect, superior definition of truth, or superior morals that we believe we have, we are diminishing the humanity of the other individual. I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate religion. I don’t consider it my mission to disabuse people of what I consider delusions. I think that works best when people come to that on their own. Even the title of this article reflects that we see ourselves as superior to believers.

    • GCT

      We have superior ideas. Why should I abstain from saying or thinking that? Rejecting beliefs based on faith is rational, and I won’t stop saying that simply because you think it diminishes the humanity of the other individual. It does not.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    It’s important to criticize ideas instead of individuals.

    to you. you’re not the boss of me. and frankly, the vast majority of “bad” reactions to religious people come in two forms: the ones that are a form of exasperation, coming on the heels of several comments or posts that are polite and respectful but only garner reactions like “you’re mean! you suck!” etc, without any reasoned response to go with that
    or
    the ones that aren’t “bad” in any way, but point out FACTS about a/some religion(s) that believers don’t want to hear, when they fall back into the “you’re mean! you suck!” permanent victim mode.

    atheists can often be no better than Christians

    this is a tired, oft-repeated overstatement and false equiv. on so many levels. i’m sorry to see it repeated so often here. why do you show your work? not by linking to some other guy, but show us why you think it so? show us some “atheists behaving badly” that *you* have encountered.

    remember, when one group is in a nearly all powerful majority in every way, and another is a tiny (if growing) effectively powerless minority with no protections from the majority’s wrath, comparisons of this form are essentially worthless. it’s like saying “some minnows can be no better than sharks” or “some chickens are as bad as Col. Sanders.” not a useful observation to make at all.

    • Theseus

      Agreed with most of what you said. I would quibble a just bit about parts of the last paragraph because it sounds somewhat similar to the” we can’t be racists because we don’t have the power” nonsense that I’ve heard before.

      Overall though, yeah good points. I would just say that the observation that some atheists can be assholes just like everyone else, is kind of a “no shit Sherlock” non issue in many ways. Proportionally on a scale is it reeeeally a serious issue that we should be overly concerned with? Not really.

  • rgcustomer

    There’s that false equivalence again. I will certainly attack individuals on the basis of their actions, motivated by wrong belief. Fred Phelps. Pat Robertson. W Bush. Yes. Yes. Yes.

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  • Zorntap

    Glad to know that attacking “doctrine” has not a thing to do with attacking believers. By the way, I consider atheism something shallow, idiotic, and irrational. Do you have a problem with that? Why, of course not, because I attacked atheism, not atheists.

    Glad we cleared that up.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Ok, that’s fine. Why do you consider atheism shallow, idiotic, and irrational? I’m sure you have reasons behind your attitude, and I’d like to know what they are. I disagree with your assessment (obviously!) but before responding with why I think you’re wrong, I’d like to know why you think you’re right.

      • Zorntap

        That was a hypothetical. I have no particular issues with atheism, save that it’s not at all the absence-of-belief stance peddled by Dawkins, et al. It’s a refutation of theism, not–as we’re told to believe–something neutral or “show me” in nature. Not being a “literal” Christian–i.e., one who regards scripture as factually true–esp. the bit about the supernatural, all-knowing God who looks over us and performs the occasional miracle–I consider the question of a literal God to be absurd. Absurd propositions don’t warrant belief OR disbelief, which is why I choose to be neither a literal Christian (call me a spiritual C.) or a literal disbeliever. This is where I differ most drastically from (what I see as) the neo-atheist view–namely, in my conviction that militantly disbelieving in something is as inane as militantly believing in it. We can’t argue what isn’t there. Neo-atheists insist on engaging literal Christianity on its own level, in its own language, all while declaring such a dialogue logically impossible. So why do they not only engage in such dialogue but aggressively encourage it?

        It’s the difference between endlessly debating the merits of believing in, for ex., ghosts vs. pointing out the evidence against their existence and/or the general lack of evidence FOR same. The former is inane, whereas the latter is 100-level skepticism. The distinction may be subtle, but it’s vital.

        By the way, how can you tell me why my views are wrong in advance of hearing them? In effect, you’re saying, “Tell me your views and then I’ll tell you why they’re invalid.”

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          You expressed conclusions, absent the evidence that led you to those conclusions. “Atheism is shallow, idiotic, and irrational” is a conclusion (well, three separate conclusions, but whatever). I wanted to know why and how you’d reached those conclusions- I already knew that I disagreed with them, but knowing the whys and hows of how they were reached is important. You can’t have a discussion or debate without knowing why the other person thinks what they think, after all! If you just lob conclusions back and forth, all you’re doing is yelling at each other. Examining premises, evidence, and logical constructions, on the other hand, can actually be constructive for both parties.

          Also, you were trolling, and it was a polite way to call you out on it.

          • Zorntap

            No, YOU’RE trolling. I noted that my “conclusions” were offered for effect–i.e., to make a point. So, naturally, you carry on as if I had meant every word. Either you can’t read very well, or you’re too busy playing Smarter Than Thou to notice such a tiny qualification as, “I wasn’t completely serious.”

            And, no, opinions are not scientific hypotheses. Your side constantly riffs on that absurd notion, all so that you can comically claim that YOUR views are based on (pick one) science, reason, logic, etc.

            In short, I don’t buy the neo-atheist pose. You would have us believe you are people serving the cause or logic, reason, science, critical thinking, and so on. But your actions (and claims) reveal you’re not remotely up to advocating for those disciplines. However I appreciate that this isn’t completely attitudinal on your part. Which is to say, those who can’t think can only make a show of doing so. You can’t expect anyone to do what he or she cannot.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Why aren’t opinions scientific hypotheses? Or at least, why should they not be treated as such? Some opinions obviously aren’t scientific- I don’t like avocados. That’s my personal opinion. I think they taste bad and the texture is … icky. I don’t need a logical and rational reason to dislike avocados. However, there is a big difference between “I don’t like avocados” or even “avocados are gross” and “no one should eat avocados”. If my opinion were making a claim that others should live by or that would change anyone else’s life, I’d damn well better have more reasons than just “I don’t like it”.

              My opinions on economics, Syria, North Korea, Germany, economics, abortion, gay marriage, church and state separation, God, taxation, and military spending, on the other hand, need to be rational. Opinions inform policy, which in turn affects everyone’s lives. I need evidence to back up my views on those issues. I need consistent basic premises and logic to weave all these disparate issues into a general worldview, and I need enough intellectual honesty to deal with the inevitable contradictions that will arise when two basic values conflict. That doesn’t automatically make me right, either. It just means I have a rational basis for my views. Other people can (and do) come to wildly different conclusions about events than I do. That’s an acceptable outcome. We start with different premises, we weight values differently, so of course facts slot into place differently for each person. At some point, however, some positions will become clearly wrong, at which point it is the responsibility of the individual to change their mind.

              Also, many atheists (though certainly not all), think of their disbelief as a failure to reject the null hypothesis. I, for one, am not 100% absolutely sure there isn’t a Supreme Being of some sort. I am really freaking close to that, though, because of the sheer lack of evidence and logical impossibilities such a being would entail. I admit the possibility; I also admit the possibility of ghosts, unicorns, yetis, and fairies. That doesn’t mean I think any of them are real, just that I can’t absolutely 100% disprove them. Given that I live my life as if there are no fairies, ghosts, unicorns, or yetis, I see no reason to live my life as if there was a Supreme Being either. I’m quite sure that if there is a Supreme Being, though, it’s definitely not the Christian version. The absurdities in that particular iteration of a deity take it straight to impossible.

              • Zorntap

                Interesting to see that “disbelief” is defined as such by some disbelievers. In my honest opinion, there’s way too much alternate-defining of words going on in the atheist camp, but that’s just my take.

                A big problem I have with using reason as the basis or guide for forming opinions is that many of my views (all progressive) are based on morality, on notions of right vs. wrong. A great example is my support for universal health care in the U.S., which I consider morally necessary. It would, however, be more reasonable to do away with any and all govt.-backed health care, given the incalculable sums of dough it would save. An immoral point of view but hard to argue with. It’s often correctly pointed out that we (the U.S.) end up paying a great deal more because of our broken system that we would with universal health care. Utterly true, but it presumes a requirement to provide health care. Do what the Republicans insist (i.e., drop all health care that isn’t paid for through the nose), and, heck yes, we’d save untold amounts of money.

                Therefore, the liberal solution is less reasonable than the inhuman stance taken by our serve-the-rich Republican friends. Yet it’s infinitely more moral, more humane.

                In fact, I think the primary divide between left and right, at least in my country, is a moral divide. The Republican party knows this and it manipulates voters by appealing to greed, to selfishness, They divide and conquer by turning groups against groups, by exploiting the human tendency to identify one’s own tribe as human and valuable, and to hell with everyone else. And they do one heck of a great job. In every sense, they’re taking the more practical route in their approach to human nature–the more reasonable route. But their route stinks.

                Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that the common good, love for all, universal human worth, and so forth, are remotely natural impulses. These are concepts that have evolved over who-knows-many thousands of years, and at present are still fairly alien to human nature, given the ease with which tyrants exploit tribal-based selfishness. And given how easily people can be controlled with fear of other people, other ways, etc.

                Morality has been a long, long time evolving, and I happen to believe religion has been a very positive part of that process. So, even though I don’t believe in a Supreme Being (unlike you, i have no doubt as to the nonexistence of same!), I’m no atheist.

                Not to skirt past your pleas for reason as a basis for forming opinions, but with so many of my views being based on the deep inner notion that all humans are equal in value, I can’t say my core liberal values derive from logic. More like heart, which I place on a higher shelf.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  So we agree on that. Mine, too, start from that illogical point. “All humans are equal in value” is almost word for word what I’ve said in other discussion on this very blog. I can argue all day for why this is a valid starting point, but it certainly isn’t a purely logical one.

                  Where we disagree is the value of religion. I think it’s been, overall, a moral negative for humanity while you think it’s been a moral positive. I think it’s certainly untrue, and should be recognized as such: comforting lies are still lies. They impede our ability to see the world as it is and decide what it should become. To my mind, religion has been one of the biggest contributors to the idea that all people are not equal.

                  That said, if the presence or absence of God is our biggest disagreement, I’ll happily work with you and be friends with you. I won’t even roll my eyes (ok maybe a little) if after a major, hard-fought policy victory you thank God for it. My atheism isn’t the biggest facet of my identity, though it is a major one. My feminism, my progressivism, even my straight-up socialism are more important by far, because they affect real people and real problems and offer real solutions to them. Join me in that, and philosophical differences on something as meaningless to suffering people as Truth can just be fun drunken arguments.

  • Ned Carter

    there is no God. is an attack. Your Bible was written by man. is an attack. Asking for proof is an attack. Let’s not coddle these people. They truly believe that we deserve to spend eternity in pain and suffering if we do not do as they say and believe as they do. Fuck their feelings.


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