You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
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Daniel is back with another montage of some of the awful things done in the name of God over the past month:
Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.
Awwww, and i’m all out of popcorn….
Stories like these make it clear that when a theist says “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion” as an excuse to inflict their beliefs on others, it is a physical threat and should be treated as such. Not that there isn’t some truth to the statement: there is just no way for so many people to have such crazy beliefs and not wind up hurting humanity. Beliefs are how we organize conscious action. Until theists learn to grow the hell up, it’s just more dead kids and chopped up mothers for everybody.
And I’ll say it again: you can’t defend more “moderate” faith without defending the extreme kind by inference. Either it is okay to believe things without good reasons or it isn’t, and by saying it is you are giving credibility to doing it in all cases and not just the ones that have outcomes you’re okay with. Liberal theists and faitheists are partly at fault for all this, too.
When I read your comment, I mentally replaced ‘faith’ with ‘alcohol’. To me what you said is akin to saying, “You can’t defend drinking wine at parties without defending extreme alcoholism.” Drinking wine in moderation can be good for your heart. Drinking too much can ruin your liver.
In this example, one is a social experience while the other can be attributed to malignant health. Religious faith in most cases is a social experience. People are taught their brand of religion by their families which itself is shaped by the people who form the communities around them. The vast majority practice a moderate and personal form of faith that ultimately has little negative effect in their daily lives.
Like alcoholism, religious extremist are themselves a symptom of a greater problem. This can be attributed to a range of issues from mental illness to economic disparity to an incredible lack of education and proper direction. If one were to just attack a symptom, they do little to absolve the underlying illness.
When I read your comment, I mentally replaced ‘faith’ with ‘alcohol’. To me what you said is akin to saying, “You can’t defend drinking wine at parties without defending extreme alcoholism.”
I’ve heard versions of this analogy before. The thing is, drinking in moderation and extreme alcoholism are not the same thing. Believing in something for no good reason and believing in something for no good reason are the same thing. Yes, some beliefs have more harmful direct effects than others, but “benign” religious beliefs are generally no more substantiated than more obviously dangerous ones.
If somebody believes that God wants us to love everybody, and you say that’s perfectly warranted, you are saying it is perfectly warranted to believe something that is completely unsubstantiated. It might sound fine on its face, but if it’s perfectly warranted to believe completely unsubstantiated things, then someone is also perfectly warranted in believing God wants us to kill gay people. Either we should require good reasons for believing things, or we should not.
If you’re going to take a relativistic position on truth claims, this has to apply consistently, not just to the cases that make your position seem more palatable.
Religious faith in most cases is a social experience. People are taught their brand of religion by their families which itself is shaped by the people who form the communities around them.
This is exactly my point. When a large consensus of people makes it more socially acceptable to believe things for no good reasons, it means more people are more likely to believe things for no good reasons. Not all of these things are going to be obviously evil, but many will.
The vast majority practice a moderate and personal form of faith that ultimately has little negative effect in their daily lives.
You could say the same thing about racists, homophobes and Holocaust deniers. Most of them aren’t going out and committing hate crimes every Sunday, but most liberal-minded people agree that it still isn’t okay to encourage racism, homophobia and Holocaust denial.
If one were to just attack a symptom, they do little to absolve the underlying illness.
I agree that faith is often a symptom of other things, like economic and educational disparity. But it’s also a problem in and of itself. By only criticizing the “extremists” and not criticizing people who perpetuate the notion of religious faith that rationalizes their extremism, you yourself would be attacking a symptom and not the underlying illness.
When I read your comment, I mentally replaced it with a badly though out analogy. From this I can only conclude that you hate grapefruit as much as you hate Mormons. I will now proceed to dance over your soundly out-logicked remains.
Therefore Jesus. Q.E.D
There was a phrase penned by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (Usually attributed to François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire) in the book ‘The Friends of Voltaire’ which was written to summarize the writer’s views on speech and liberty.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I’ll get back to that point in a moment as I address your reply.
–The thing is, drinking in moderation and extreme alcoholism are not the same thing. –
Perhaps not, but the consumption of the substance at the core of both is the same. Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to more than just liver and kidney failure. The alcohol itself can alter brain chemistry as well as the brain’s physical structure. Just as has been shown that various religious practices can affect the brain on a biochemical and hormonal level. Prayer and meditation can induce a placebo effect as well as increase dopamine levels to relieve physical suffering.
Not to say that prayer in itself is a replacement for medical treatment. It most definitely is not! Understanding how meditation works, even a person with secular views can turn inwards and train themselves to block out physical reactions to pain. The basic techniques are the same, whether or not a person holds a belief in the divine.
– If somebody believes that God wants us to love everybody, and you say that’s perfectly warranted, you are saying it is perfectly warranted to believe something that is completely unsubstantiated. It might sound fine on its face, but if it’s perfectly warranted to believe completely unsubstantiated things, then someone is also perfectly warranted in believing God wants us to kill gay people. Either we should require good reasons for believing things, or we should not. –
So what if someone wants to believe that their deity loves everyone? Who does it harm? In what way does someone’s personal beliefs affect me personally or society at large? Once again you jump from the moderate position to the extreme and equate them as being the same.
The issue comes when people act on their belief and actually bring harm to others. This is where the extreme element comes into play. This is the alcoholic who beats his wife and children, or the religious fundamentalist that bombs a school. This is not the Soccer Mom that heads a bake-sale for her church.
– You could say the same thing about racists, homophobes and Holocaust deniers. Most of them aren’t going out and committing hate crimes every Sunday, but most liberal-minded people agree that it still isn’t okay to encourage racism, homophobia and Holocaust denial. –
And this brings us back to my opening statement about Voltaire. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
See, freedom of speech and freedom of belief are protected, by law, in the United States and many other countries. However those freedoms do not come without consequence. Just as people are to be free to promote homophobic views, (WBC comes to the forefront) or racism, (ie. the KKK) others are free to express their condemnations towards those groups and individuals that espouse those views. Today we see that small WBC protests spawn much larger Pro-GLBT rallies. At one time KKK marches used to be front page news. Now they’re hardly mentioned without derision and are completely forgotten by the next day.
Still, there’s another highly unpopular viewpoint that the majority would rather not see projected into the public: That of atheism. By allowing the bigots to speak with legal impunity, we too are given the freedom to express our own unpopular views. You can be good without god. You can live without god. You can heal without god. God does not interact with the natural world. The Biblical God as he is written is a genocidal, sadistic, and evil being. Science flies us to the moon while religion flies us into the side of buildings.
It is only when those who hold extreme viewpoints act upon their belief do we have a problem. To counter that, there is a system in place, both social and legal, to punish those actions.
– I agree that faith is often a symptom of other things, like economic and educational disparity. But it’s also a problem in and of itself. By only criticizing the “extremists” and not criticizing people who perpetuate the notion of religious faith that rationalizes their extremism, you yourself would be attacking a symptom and not the underlying illness. –
It’s been demonstrated that when you treat the social illnesses of poverty and poor education, those who are affected by such social illness have little to no need to turn to religion. Many religious views are a byproduct of ignorance. Educate someone, and they lose their ignorance. When someone loses their ignorance, perhaps they’ll lose their religion. Just like the thousands of faithful who after reading the Holy Bible, no longer consider themselves as such solely because of the content of that particular book.
I respect that you took the time to write a longer response to my already long comment, but I hope I can cut it down a little bit with this response. I think it’s pretty clear that I never said anybody’s right to have or verbally express beliefs should be infringed, nor do I dispute that there are complex psychological reasons behind belief structures. I wanted to ignore what you wrote about these subjects entirely and focus on the relevant points we disagreed about, but upon re-reading your comment, this is the vast majority of what you wrote, which makes it seem like you’re addressing strawmen instead of my points.
For example, you argued earlier that most individual religious beliefs didn’t cause people to inflict direct harm. I pointed out that the same was true of racist, homophobic and Holocaust-denial beliefs, but most liberal-minded people still understand that these are still harmful in a broader sense. You responded by going into a long diatribe about freedom of speech, which I think I mostly agree with, but is a complete non-response to my point. Saying beliefs are bad is distinctly not the same as saying they should be repressed by law.
I’ve re-read your comment a few times, and I think you write two paragraphs that are relevant responses to what I wrote:
I feel like I addressed everything here in my previous response in great detail, and didn’t get a real response to my response, but I’ll repeat myself, much more succinctly this time:
Perpetuating beliefs that are overall harmful to humanity is bad, even if the people perpetuating those beliefs don’t commit crimes because of them. This is why racism is still bad even if you aren’t a violent criminal. Perpetuating the notion that believing something with no rational basis is warranted is harmful because it contributes to the prevalence of that idea, which contributes to the consequences that occur from people acting on it.
Like I said, I elaborated much more fully above, so if you want to continue this debate, I only ask that you try to understand my points fully and directly address them. Thanks.
Then I shall try to be as simple as I can: I stated in so many words that if you properly educate people then they won’t need religion. And that moderation and extremism are not the same thing.
The rest wasn’t attacking strawmen. It was illustrating my own beliefs as well as addressing your post point-by-point. It would appear that there’s just a superficial disagreement about the content so I see no further need to continue to quibble.
I agree that this needs go no further. Just as a polite suggestion, though, you would be a more effective communicator if you would focus more on what you were actually replying to and trying not to stray off-topic so much.
When I read your comment, I mentally replaced all the e-s with x-s. Your comment is now very badly written and it makes no sense.
Does this seem strange of me to do?
Well, unless you want to classify religion as a medical condition, so is you replacing faith with alcoholism.
Maybe it’s because I just wrote a long-assed, serious reply to the same comment, but those first two sentences made me laugh out loud.
Except I compared extremist religion to alcoholism. However to your next point, there was an article published back in April that you might find interesting. Read below:
People who believe in an angry, punishing God are much more likely to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, a scientific study published in the April edition of Journal of Religion & Health finds.
(Link to the original study found within the article)
From the article: “We are not looking at a causal effect here.”
You’re still equating extremist religion to a medical condition, so unless you have something about religious extremism being a medical condition, I’ll keep saying your analogy is faulty.
I am not however equating those who hold an extremist viewpoint towards religion with the everyday moderates. Such as the person I originally replied to insists upon doing.
I can think of very few analogous comments which don’t have flaws. If you have a better comparison, I’d like to see it.
Religious Extremism is to Moderate Faith as _____ is to _____.
In this case, I used “Alcoholism” and “Drinking at Parties.” I suppose I could replace that with “Binge Eating” and “Fine Dining,” or “Hoarding, ” and “Stamp Collecting.” Yet if you have a better idea, please share!
Thanks Hemant for your hard work…Cheers
There is no horror that cannot be, and hasn’t been, justified in the name of God, religion, and/or morality.
There is no horror that cannot be, and hasn’t been, justified in the name of scientific innovation, and/or progress.
Scientists these days have ethics review boards and do have to modify their tests in order to get approval. Scientists have learned from their mistakes (which never included wars or child abuse thank you) and are trying to do better.
There is no horror that cannot be, and hasn’t been, justified in the name of milk, and/or cookies.
There is no horror that cannot be, and hasn’t been, justified in the name of milk, and/or cookies.
You might want to actually think before you try substituting things like that.
Don’t confuse the DISCOVERY of a scientific principle with its USE. Just because it was scientists who learned about the massive amounts of power unleashed when the atom is split, doesn’t mean it was scientists who decided to package it up and drop it on cities from an airplane. Scientific principles, such as fission, are simply “lying around”, waiting for anyone to discover them. We can either be at the forefront of that research, working to understand and control these principles, or we can allow someone else to discover them first and let them decide what to do with them.
Looks like someone forgot to tell Mengele and his ilk …
One of the most shocking things to me will always be the fact that the perpetrators of these deplorable acts believe that they have done nothing wrong. The exception may be the clergy sexual abuse cases (how the hell would you think you were in the right?), but that does nothing to lessen the horror they caused.
“Religion” must be a pretty scary creature. How big is he? Does he have sharp fangs and claws? Or is he composed of meatballs and spaghetti?
You guys speak of religion as if it is a material thing. I assume that you guys are smart enough to know that religion does not actually do anything. Humans commit atrocities. And I also assume that you know that humans do so whether they believe in God or not and that humans concoct many excuses to perform such acts such as:
God told me to do it.
The ends justify the means.
This group of people is not as useful as that group of people.
I also assume that you are educated in history enough to know that those that are religious and those that are atheists have concocted one or the other argument to justify their evil behavior.
If my assumptions are correct then you must also know that this is propaganda. If it is propaganda then it is misleading information used to push your agenda by smearing the dignity of the opposing side. It serves to win the argument based upon an emotional response rather than reason. Shame on you advocates for reason. (Wagging my finger at you right now.) Obviously, I am joking and being sarcastic but not completely off target I would say.
Allow me to translate: “Blah blah blah. Stalin! Blah blah blah.”
I am equally appalled by all this perpetrated falsely in God’s name. It fuels my contention not with true religion but false religion. True religion has always been nothing but a blessing for all of mankind.
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