Evangelism is not sales (again)

A recent post at The Ruthless Monk instructively epitomizes the evangelism-as-sales method. It even uses that word, “method.”

The post, by Leslie Keeney, is called “Why ‘Just Telling Your Story’ Is NOT the Best Way to Share the Gospel.”

I think it shows where you’ll wind up if you imagine that “sharing the gospel” is all about ABC — Always Be Closing. For Keeney, closers don’t tell their stories, closers argue to win:

Anyone who’s ever taken a class on how to share their faith has heard some well-intentioned teacher say, “You don’t need to learn a lot of big words. Just tell them your story. Just tell them how Jesus changed your life. No one can argue with that.”

And everyone sighs a big sigh of relief because they thought they’d have to spend time learning how to answer hard questions. Questions like “how do you know Jesus rose from the dead?” Or “how do you know the Bible’s inspired?”

I understand why this method of what we used to call “witnessing” is popular. Well-meaning pastors realize that people are scared to tell people about Jesus, and they want to find an easy method that they can use to teach their congregation how to share their faith without actually having to ask them to do anything — at least anything hard.

The problem with this method is that it doesn’t work — at all.

Like most Christians who seek a “method” that “works,” Keeney never explains what she means by “doesn’t work.” It seems that what she means is, as the popular evangelism manual put it, “Getting to Yes.” She means closing the sale.

And to close the sale, Keeney says, you’re going to need to learn to hurl “apologetic” talking points at your targets in a Gish Gallop of intellectual-sounding gobbledygook. You can be sure this will persuade any wavering doubters because, after all, this is the same mantra of “apologetic” slogans you endlessly recite to yourself in a desperate attempt to reassure yourself that it’s all true. And it works for you, right?

“While telling our story will often be the first thing we do when we begin sharing the gospel,” Keeney writes, “it has to be backed up with good apologetics.”

One gets the sense that “telling our story” doesn’t impress Keeney because she’s not in the habit of really listening to anyone else’s story. Why should she? Why should a Christian, who has absolute truth, listen to someone else who has only lies?

If that seems like an uncharitable reading of Keeney’s argument, well, it’s still far more charitable than her own dismissive disregard for the stories (and arguments) of non-Christians. “If I am talking to a Buddhist who claims to have experienced Nirvana …” she writes, which hints that while she may have “talked to” a Buddhist, she’s never listened to one.

Keeney’s “method” that “works” seems eerily similar to what I described last year as an approach to evangelism that “starts with a sales pitch and ends in an argument.”

And, like all such sales-based “apologetics,” it’s not really about the other person at all. It’s about using another person as a convenient foil in an exercise intended to reinforce for ourselves what we already believe.

Evangelism is hospitality. And hospitality is always focused on the guest. That means “telling our story,” but even more than that, it means listening to the stories of others.

Here’s a snippet from my June 2011 post on evangelism that gets at what bugs me about Keeney’s sales pitch for sales pitches:

Like improv, evangelism is usually more about listening than it is about talking.

The Cherokee Baptist theologian Bill Baldridge tells a story about white missionaries who arrived at the Indian settlement. “We are here to tell you the story of our God and of salvation,” they announced.

The elders welcomed them, brought them food, and gathered around to hear this story. The missionaries, pleased by this enthusiastic audience, decided to go with the Long Version. They started at the beginning and over the next several hours they told the whole great Christian saga of creation, fall and redemption.

When at last the missionaries were finished, the elders thanked them. “This is a good story,” the elders said. “Now we would like to share with you our story.”

The missionaries were furious. Hadn’t these people been listening? Didn’t they realize that they had just heard the One True Story and that their old story, whatever it was, no longer mattered?

The missionaries abruptly left, shaking the dust off their shoes and heading out to find some other group more receptive to to their message.

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  • Daughter

     It’s been a long time since I watched it (so I might not be retelling it 100% accurately), but this reminds me of the movie The Big Kahuna, in which three salesmen from the same company are on a business trip together. One of them, an evangelical Christian, is hoping for an opportunity to witness to his colleagues. His attempts to do so thoroughly alienate one of them, played by Kevin Spacey, who happens to be going through a lot of personal problems at the time. As the evangelical sits in confusion and frustration about his failure, the third colleague, played by Danny DeVito, pipes up. “You know,” he says, “if you really want to reach somebody, talk to him about his life. Ask him about his kids. And then listen.”

  • Carstonio

    While the tactic here is obviously more respectful, the agenda behind it is still disrespectful. The fundamental problem is the goal of wanting everyone to hold one’s religious beliefs. The assumption that whatever someone’s beliefs, they’re wrong if they’re not one’s own. (Anti-theists tend to have the same attitude.) In another thread I condemned Mother Theresa for believing she knew what was best for other people and seeking to help them on her terms, not on their own terms, and many arguments for evangelism seem to embody that belief to one degree or another. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It impossible to help a large number of people on their own terms individually. It cannot be done. I’m not a huge Mother Teresa fan, but this is one area in which I will absolutely defend her. 

    I am also… bemused by the idea that it is wrong to try to persuade others to your way of thinking. I think it’s pretty disrespectful not to take into account that everyone has different opinions that are not set in stone. How could any kind of scholarship exist, how could we possibly move forward as a society, how could we even have conversations without trying to persuade people of things? It’s infantalizing to assume others will not be able to withstand the supposedly horrible onslaught of civil argument. Persuasion is the only way anything happens. Everything else is masturbation — pleasant, useful in its way, but not particularly fruitful.

  • Carstonio

    Huge difference between seeking to change someone’s opinions and seeking to change his or her religious beliefs. The latter are so fundamental to an individual’s identity that outside attempts to change them are almost like replacing the individual. And in the case of evangelizing toward an entire minority or an entire society of a different religion, too much like pressure to assimilate.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    The latter are so fundamental to an individual’s identity that outside
    attempts to change them are almost like replacing the individual

    Haha what.

    Religious opinion is like any other kind of opinion. Some people are open to changing theirs, some aren’t. The issue, both with religion and with anything else, is that if someone makes clear to you that they’re not on the market for a different opinion right now and yet you keep pushing, you’re being an asshole.

    If you listen to the other person and care about what they want/need, you’re at a much lower risk of offending them. If their religious opinion is indeed that central to their identity, then either you’ll respect that, or you’ll press the issue anyway, in which case the main problem is that you’re not listening to them and thus making clear that you care more about talking than about them.

    But this is the same line you have to tread with politics, dietary habits, or any number of other things that some people identify strongly with. In that sense, evangelicalism is no worse or better. You can discuss politics with someone on the opposite end of the spectrum civilly, or you can walk into a room and shout “BOY REPUBLICANS SURE ARE ASSHOLES!” The latter is a legitimate opinion (in my opinion ^_^), but it’s also an unproductive avenue of discussion if you’re interested in anything other than reinforcing your belief that Republicans sure are assholes.

  • Carstonio

    The issue, both with religion and with anything else, is that if someone
    makes clear to you that they’re not on the market for a different
    opinion right now and yet you keep pushing, you’re being an asshole.

    You would have a point if we were talking about friends or relatives. My argument is about the deliberate targeting of acquaintances or strangers. That places the onus on the latter to say no. In the case of the missionaries story, these folks traveled thousands of miles uninvited to try to win converts, so it’s reasonable for the target societies to assume that the missionaries won’t be respectful.

    The mindset I’m describing is where a member of Religion A believes that all non-Aians should convert, no matter what the non-A religions are like or how the religions influence the behavior of their adherents.

  • vsm

    For Christians, trying to convince others to change their religious beliefs is actually part of their religion. By arguing against that, aren’t you seeking to change their religious beliefs?

    I do sympathize with you, though. I find the idea of trying to replace someone else’s worldview uncomfortable. Then again, people comfortable with theirs probably wouldn’t be very receptive to such attempts the first place.

  • Carstonio

     

    By arguing against that, aren’t you seeking to change their religious beliefs?

    I suppose I’m really seeking to change their beliefs about me, at least the generic me. What other people believe about themselves or their gods or their place in the universe is none of my business. That’s my attempt to show respect for their personal boundaries and their individual privacy. If they seek to convert me, they’re not showing the same respect.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t care if Christians try to convert people. Provided that every single person they attempt to convert is someone who has expressed interest in the possibility of converting.

    Most folks aren’t dissatisfied with their present religious beliefs and contemplating the possibility of new ones. And if the person this Christian wants to convert is a stranger, a casual acquaintance, or other personwho doesn’t talk religion with this Christian, then this Christian cannot know whether the person they want to convert is someone who might want to buy what they’re selling, and should therefore not attempt to sell to them.

  • Lori

     

    The latter are so fundamental to an individual’s identity that outside
    attempts to change them are almost like replacing the individual.   

    I find it confusing when people say this. Religious beliefs are foundational to the identity of some people, but I don’t think those people are the majority, let alone that this statement is true of people in general.

    Most people are simply whatever religion their parents are/were. A very high percentage of people I’ve known in my life can’t even make a start at giving an explanation for their beliefs that’s deeper than “Because”. A very high percentage of Christians I’ve known have clearly never read the book they claim to follow. And of course people do change their religious beliefs and doing so does not “replace” them.

    I fail to see how any of that adds up to “so fundamental to identity” . What I see is that part of the privilege granted to religion in our society is that we’re socialized to think religious beliefs are the one thing we’re not really allowed to question in polite company. As a result they make a handy catch-all for the stuff people don’t want or aren’t able to explain.

  • Carstonio

    Valid point about privilege. I would say that religious doctrine shouldn’t be exempt from questioning in polite company, while acknowledging that the boundary between doctrine and individual belief may not often be clear.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Huge difference between seeking to change someone’s opinions and seeking to change his or her religious beliefs.

    Really? Why? What’s so special about religion? My opinions on any number of issues are very important to me. And if any of them are wrong, I want to know about it. Please, discuss ideas. And that includes religious ideas.

    TRiG.

  • Carstonio

    Religious ideas in the abstract, yes. What those ideas mean for a particular believer’s life, that’s not something that one should inquire about uninvited.

  • ow lafaye

    Yes, but you are willing to admit that you are or might be wrong.

    Evangelicals narrow heads have a mirror attached over both ears.

  • Lliira

     Huge difference between seeking to change someone’s opinions and seeking to change his or her religious beliefs.

    No, not actually. I want to change plenty of beliefs that are centrally held by people and necessary to their self-image; the belief in women’s inferiority, for instance, or in their own country’s superiority. I also don’t understand why centrally held, important beliefs should be sacrosanct. Those are the most important beliefs to be tested.

    There is no ring of fire around religion. People consciously decide what religion to follow. If they have not consciously decided, then it’s even more important to test their beliefs. Beliefs that we hold important but do not understand why we hold are incredibly dangerous.

    It is infantalizing to treat people as if the mere act of civil argument regarding what they think is some kind of horrible intrusion.

  • Carstonio

     You’re talking about beliefs about how people should be treated, and yes, those are certainly fair game. I’m comparing attempts to convert, say, Jews to Christianity to attempts to convert gays to heterosexuality. Both have involved cruelty.

  • Lliira

    Oh also, I’ve changed my religion in my life, namely by losing it, partly thanks to arguments by other people. I have not changed who I am as a person. The idea that I am a COMPLETELY different person now than when I was 19 is utterly ludicrous. And I find it insulting. I was not a brainwashed zombie then and I am not now. Religion and lack-thereof were/are only one part of who I am.

  • Madhabmatics

    Even specifically in terms of religion, not everyone is in a faith that reflects their actual beliefs. If I know a dude who denies the trinity and I go “yo you believe in one God but don’t believe Jesus was god, have you considered unitarianism or islam or judaism or something like that” that’s pretty good, I appreciated it when people did the same thing with me.

  • Makabit

    I didn’t set out to persuade my husband that he needed to date and marry me through ‘civil argument’, and I certainly can’t imagine being part of anyone’s relationship with God through ‘civil argument’.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Back in the day, I used to watch Inside the Actor’s Studio a lot, and a pretty common exchange involved the interviewer asking “How important is listening?” and the interviewee replying that it was, of course, the most important thing. It became kind of a running joke for me.

    It was only years later, when I got into directing, that I actually appreciated the truth of it. When I’m actually paying attention it’s amazing how striking the difference is between someone who is actually listening, and someone who is merely pretending to listen.

    And the difference can be enormously powerful.

  • Foreigner

    Maybe we ought to be grateful that evangelism hasn’t quite yet descended into outright salesmanship. Buy one god, get two more for free.

  • http://twitter.com/pooserville Dave Pooser

    How do you think the doctrine of the Trinity came about?

    (Joking, joking, fairly orthodox Episcopalian here, no offense intended, etc.)

  • Eamon Knight

    So what does Keeney recommend when the mark (say, an ex like me) replies, “Thanks, but I’ve heard this pitch before — in fact I’ve *given* this pitch before. Let me explain to you why it’s all bullshit….”?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Listening is also the best way to sell things. At least that’s what I’ve found, and when I want to be, I am really good at sales. “Welcome. How may I help you?” *listen* “I believe this product will work for you, because xyz.” *listen* “Oh, I see, then try this one. And [higher priced product/more products] might also be what you’re looking for, I recommend them. [Honesty is necessary here, do NOT recommend products of which you do not approve.]” *listen* “You’re welcome, and thank you for visiting us.” Never ever push — if they walk out without buying anything this time, no big deal. So long as their experience with you is positive and the store isn’t off-putting, they will come back. 

    You also must be honest. The customer knows you want to sell them things, and you know they know it. Trying to shield it in “all I care about is your happiness and literally nothing else, you are the center of my life, I will do ANYTHING for you” is just as manipulative as the hard sell, and just as off-putting. Anyone who’s ever been flirted with by someone whose goal is to get them to a church knows how gross this is.

    Hospitality is about pleasing the person you are being hospitable to and nothing else, getting your own happiness from theirs. That is not what evangelism is. Evangelism wants something from the evangelized. Evangelism is a type of sales — there’s no way around it. As with selling anything, you have a choice about whether to do it ethically, leaving everyone involved feeling fine, or unethically, leaving everyone involved feeling dirty and used.

  • http://twitter.com/WayofCats WayofCats

    So often, the person trying to witness to me is only thinking of themselves; whether it’s a soul score-keeping thing, or just using me to shore up their doubts, it displays the opposite of what they are trying to convey.

  • Makabit

    This is an area that’s always baffling for me. I’m a fairly religious Jew, raised in a partly Catholic family, and familiar with much of the history of Christianity. 

    I am an occasional target for various sorts of evangelizing.

    I am a non-starter for evangelization. We can’t get there from here. First, I’m not going to become a Christian, and secondly, if I were going to become a Christian, I’d logically become a Catholic, so that’s about that.

    The methods used, nevertheless, usually seem crude, and totally removed from any understanding of what might be going on in my head, or what my understanding of my current religious practice is.

    My impression is that the folks trying to sell me Jesus believe very sincerely that I need Jesus, and that they are worried about me. This makes me sad, since I feel fine, and do not want them to worry. But I don’t know how to fix it, since all they want is something they can’t have.

    They seem like very nice people. But the Christians who’ve impressed me in my life haven’t tried to mind-whammy me into being a Christian myself. The ones who do seem naive, and rather lost.

  • ow lafaye

    apologetics:  The field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position, or of religious or occult doctrines

    If it were right and glorious, no argument or explanation would be necessary.

    Religion is defending a small hillock of faith surrounded by a world of reality.

  • Wingedwyrm

    To play the devil’s advocate, even with a sharing of stories, the stories do have their limits.  Every time someon “shares their gospel” with me*, I know three things.

    Thing 1.  Without any intent to decieve, the storyteller is exagurating the experience and zir certainty about the cause.  This is a natural aspect of any anecdotal data.  In trying to convince other people and in response to expectations built up of what our own experience should be, we tend to knock the certainty and the power up a notch, thus creating a grandeur inflation.

    Thing 2.  Again, without any intent to decieve, the storyteller is downplaying or leaving out aspects of zir experience that zie believes to have a negative response.  This will include people upon whom zie has turned zir back, actions that might be less than obviously good to all bystanders, and causes that just don’t track with normal morality.

    Thing 3.  That nearly the exact same story could have happened for nearly any religion.  The truth of the claim of which they’re trying to convince me (“Jesus is the arisen son of God” “Mohammed is His prophet” “suffering can be undone by policing oneself to happy thoughts and reading oneself for Thetans is the way to achieve this.”) is irrelevant to that which they tell me.

    So, my response to the sharing of a testimony is usually “Good for you”, largely because I’ve learned that the testimony sharing method (and this goes back to advocating for Leslie Keeney) doesn’t really care whether or not Christ died for our sins on the cross, washed our sins away, rose on the third day, is either the way or the light, or even existed in the first place.  Any response I have to the order of “Well, that’s a nice story and I’m glad you’re happier, but none of that actually indicates anything about God or Jesus,” gets, at most, another testimony of the same kind.

    All in all, I find testimonies of the like people are told to share to be a matter not of convincing people of the truth of a belief, but instead to convince people to believe regardless of the truth value.

    * I put this in quotes because sharing should be voluntary on both sides and me trying not to be rude for whatever reason is not the same thing as me opting in on this experience.  Sometimes I’m interested in which case it really is sharing, sometimes I’m not in which case I’m trying to be polite and they either don’t know or don’t care, sometimes I’m actually working in a customer service position in which case they have convinced me that they’re still as thoughtless and selfish as they always were.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    I think too often evangelism is seen as “I’m right and other people are wrong and I have to change them by convincing them.” In reality, everybody is wrong about a lot of things. If I talk to someone coming from a different perspective than me, hopefully I’m going to learn something too. :) Of course I want to be able to tell them about Jesus and the gospel, if they haven’t heard, but I’m sure there’s a lot I can learn from them too.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The post of his own that Fred quotes makes very clear that it’s not something to be done to the unwilling, not something to be done to those with whom one does not already have a relationship which is based on a hell of a lot more than, “So I can evangelize them,” and something to be stopped the moment someone wants it to stop.

    Not when they say stop, if you’ve gone so far that they have to tell you to stop then of course stop but that means you’ve failed on so many counts I can’t begin to describe it without quoting the whole post but a key one would be paying attention to the person you’re talking with.  It should be clear long before they feel the need to speak out if they don’t want to be in the conversation.

    Fred’s idea of evangelism seems, to me, to have at its core the unstated belief that given a level playing field and sufficient transmission of information the truth will win out in the end.  So if Fred is wrong about his religious beliefs then the mutual sharing of stories with people of different beliefs will make him more likely to correct that wrongness, and if he is right then the sharing of stories will make more people more likely to be right, which means that whether he has The Truth or a pack of lies only good can come of the mutual sharing of stories provided that the participants are willing, honest, and each as open minded as they want the other party to be.

    All else being equal his “Let’s share our stories” approach (massive oversimplification) does make him as likely to convert as the person with whom he is sharing stories, but that seems more a feature than a bug.

  • ow lafaye

    About Evangelicals and especially FunDummies:  When their eyes start to bug out, I usually back off, pat them on the head and make my exit.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Also, at its etymological roots evangelism is about spreading good news, not persuading people to believe it.  The center of the word is messenger, not salesman.

  • Tricksterson

    I’ll be frank the idea of talking to someone about their beliefs for the specific putpose of changing their beliefs is bizaare to me.  Even when I was an Objectivist I never did that specifically.  When I became friends with someone, politics and religion usually came up in the process and then, yeah, I’ll admit I tried to sell them on it.  Nowadays when I ask someone what they believe its because I’m genuinely curious about the subject.  Nowadays though I don’t believe in any one way to be “saved”.  I don’t even believe that’s possible because that would mean a single definition of it for everyone and I think everyone is saved or damned on their own terms.  Then while I learn about their beliefs I’ll share mine in a give and take.

  • ow lafaye

    You are a patient person if you can listen to that silly jesus story so often.  I have lost patience with the idiocy that is jesus along with the canned music in elevators…it is an endless tape.

  • Madhabmatics

    “Hey dude you believe that attachment causes suffering and that the existence of God doesn’t really matter and that we reincarnate, have you considered looking at buddhism instead of being miserable in a SBC congregation that thinks all those things are heathenous”

    “how dare you try to convert this man”

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the way that conversation starts is ‘dude’ expressing dissatisfaction with SBC for the reasons first speaker outlines, then second speaker is out of line. If ‘dude’ hasn’t said squat (and for first speaker to know all that, ‘dude’ has probably talked about it), then first speaker is out of line.

  • Hth

    The linked article was among the most depressing I’ve read lately.  “After all, if you’re just talking about life — well, it might seem to…to almost anyone that someone who’s just as happy with their religion as you are with yours might…kind of have a sort of point, which — we know isn’t…can’t be….  Well, the point is — this stuff is complicated!”

    I don’t know if it was that 2011 post or not, but somewhere Fred wrote something that I really like, which is that if witnessing is one starving person telling another where he found bread, then “thank you, but I’m not starving and don’t need any bread” is a perfectly reasonable answer — and “okay, here’s where to find us if you ever change your mind” is an equally reasonable response to that answer.   If only it went like that more often.

  • http://www.lambpower.net/ Steve Dawson

     The problem is that some Christians will tell that person “Hey, I KNOW your starving, let ME feed you.”. Somewhere along the way we’ve taken on the opinion that WE are the  ONLY ones that can impart salvation. Boy, do we have THAT wrong!

  • ow lafaye

    I like the JWs that can barely read.  My wife, a graduate of Prairie Bible Institute and now a raging atheist, chews up pastors, ministers and priests and spits them up on the compost heap.

    I am working on a device that will make her smoke out of the ears and off the top of her head for the next JW that comes by…laughter

  • Guest

    The problem with Evangelising in a majority Christian culture seems to me to be that people already know the Christian message. It’s kind of hard not to if you live in a place that’s mostly Christian. It seeps in through osmosis. So, most of the time an evangelising Christian will be telling someone something they already know, and that’s quite an irritating thing to do.

  • Tricksterson

    Unfortunately too many evangelicals really do operate under the assumption that if you’re not one of them it’s because you have no knowledge of Christianity.  Jack Chick is an extreme example but not as much as you might think.

  • Makabit

    Unfortunately too many evangelicals really do operate under the assumption that if you’re not one of them it’s because you have no knowledge of Christianity.  Jack Chick is an extreme example but not as much as you might think.

    “I was raised in the United States, speak native English, and have a degree in European history. Despite this, I have somehow never heard the basic guiding narrative and principles of the Protestant denominations, and would love to have you clear that up for me. Is a Jesus a type of tropical frog?”But I never say this, because that would be mean.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    The problem with Evangelising in a majority Christian culture seems to me to be that people already know the Christian message.

    For the most part that’s true, but I’ve been surprised recently to learn that some of my friends really haven’t heard the stuff that most Christians think of as the gospel.  What they’ve learned of Christianity in America seems to involve avoiding unapproved sex, denying scientific consensus about things like the age of the earth and global warming, and trying to prepare for the end of the world.  Not surprisingly, they’re not convinced that they want anything to do with this religion.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Agreed. Around 2/3 of Australians are nominally Christian, and I’ve had quite a few experiences where a colleague/acquaintance has straight-up asked me “what’s [basic Christian idea X] about?” Often near Easter.

    @Carstonio:disqus — do you think religious views are such a fundamental part of a person that changing them would replace the individual if said views are “meh”. Because the most common religious view I come across in my peers is that religion is something they hardly ever think about one way or the other.

    I agree with the others who’ve said that religion can’t be singled out from other aspects of your individuality like you suggest. Heck, I’m religious but what you’d call my political views are just as intrinsic to my personality as my more traditionally religious views.

  • Carstonio

    Well, sure, there are many people who don’t think much about religion. With a stranger or an acquaintance, the evangelist cannot really know if this is the case. The person’s stance on religion isn’t the evangelist’s business no matter what the evangelist’s religion teaches. There are basic principles of privacy and personal boundaries that supersede any particular doctrine. The prudent course is to assume that the person wants to be left alone unless zie has said otherwise.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The thing is, you’re not putting yourself in the evangelists’ shoes. If you think there is no consequence whatsoever to a person’s beliefs, of course you would say that it’s none of your own business and that personal boundaries supercede doctrine. But we’re talking about people who believe that someone’s religious views are of great, even eternal, consequence. From their point of view your isolationist position could be seen as cruelly indifferent.

    The question of effectiveness is still completely valid when looking at things from the evangelists’ point of view. But that’s a different issue to whether evangelism is intrinsically wrong.

    I’m not a member of a classically evangelical denomination, so I have no personal dog in this fight. But your statements here fit in with a lot of other comments you make that suggest your moral worldview is one of extreme isolationist individualism. I lean towards the communitarian, so we’re going to have a hard time seeing eye to eye on anything much, I suspect.

  • Carstonio

    Cruelly indifferent to them? As if it weren’t cruel for some religious doctrines to threaten people with eternal suffering if they have the “wrong” religious beliefs. I doubt that the beliefs you describe are held by any more than a tiny minority of Christians. In my experience, most Christians either don’t believe in eternal suffering for non-Christians, or act like they don’t believe in it. 

    The latter exemplify the point that Fred was making about James Dobson. One would think that the hellfire and damnation folks would be clustering at synagogues and mosques and temples, begging people in tears to convert before it’s too late. No, their rhetoric is generally a more articulate version of Nelson’s mocking”Ha Ha” from the Simpsons, amounting to “Aw, you’re gonna be in so much trouble!” 

    If one wants others to accept as fact that their fates after death depend on their stance on the mortality or divinity of Jesus, it would seem reasonable for others to ask for evidence that souls or afterlives even exist.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Great consequences aren’t limited to “damnation in hell”, you know.

  • Carstonio

    Also, my moral worldview is more consequentialist than anything else, aiming to balance the rights of the individual with the interests of society. As a general principle, one should condemn an individual’s behavior only when that behavior harms others, and that one should refrain from deciding what’s best for others. The converse of this is the communitarianism that you mentioned – I’m a strong proponent of single-payer health care because individuals in a society have a responsibility to contribute toward a common good. That’s a case where individual action, such as refusing to share in the community’s cost of health care, does affect others. It should be possible to be against paternalism without also being against communitarianism.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I expect I have a much broader idea of what kind of behaviour harms others; also I’m as concerned about the positive as the negative. “Don’t actively, directly hurt anyone else” is a start; “Don’t hurt anyone else” is a better start, but they’re both just a start. First do no harm–but don’t stop there.

    I’m effectively an evangelist for social democracy, and I think more people should be social democrats. Is that deciding what’s best for others?

  • Carstonio

    In that case, you’re deciding what’s best for society, not for the individual. You’re not telling individuals how they should live.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Society and individuals are not so easily separated.

  • ow lafaye

    Easter is when Jesus comes back…but remember, he will be in a white Cadillac convertible and if Elvis and Colonel Saunders are not with him then it isn’t Jesus.
    Watch the McDonald’s in your area, this is where they hang out (Jesus likes to piss off the colonel)

    Beware the faux Jesus

  • stardreamer42

     Absolutely. My most immediate response to being asked, “Have you heard the GOOD NEWS?” (or any variant thereof) is, “Are you kidding me? How could I NOT, living in a society drenched in Christian privilege?”

  • ow lafaye

    Kudos to Guest…I moved to a remote small town mainly to get away from Xmas carols…only heard 2 this year!!

    My gate has many signs to warn you to KEEP OUT…Jehovah Witnesses top the list…But: all dogs welcome.

  • ow lafaye

    Guest said:  “The problem with Evangelising in a majority Christian culture seems to me to be that people already know the Christian message”

    Quite irritating and TRUE.  That endless tape regarding BeeJeebus is very annoying.  The most amazing thing is that non-believers know more about their religion than they do.

  • ReverendRef

    This is one reason I’m glad I’m a priest.  I am the world’s WORST salesman — “You looking to buy something?  No?  Okay, have a nice day.”

    Not that I’ve ever seen evangelism as a sales pitch, but it does entail talking to people, and that’s a hard thing to do for this introvert.

    However, when I walk into a place wearing my collar, I never have to start a discussion about religion or faith.  Other people will start that conversation, or they’ll wonder if it’s legal for me to have a beer.  And if they don’t want to talk religion or faith, I’m more than happy to talk football.

  • ow lafaye

    How about talking culpability, coercion, aiding and abetting, universal Catholic guilt, why Catholic claims regarding child sexual abuse statistics, while equal to stats in other institutions, overlook the 0% abuse expected of a “moral” church organization?

    And thats just getting started.

    If you are out there defending the Catholic Church then you are probably getting punched in the face a lot.  Yes, yes, YOU are just as guilty and YOU deserve to be punched in the face.

    And then again:  See The EXIT???  A real person would skedaddle as fast as their little legs would take them.

  • Launcifer

    I confess that I don’t really get this. I figure Yes is the answer and I get this. I guess I’m going wrong somewhere down the way, if only because nobody from that side of the argument could be soeaking in favour of something to which I’d willingly listen even on pain of eternal rebirth.

  • Launcifer

    Aaand I’ve done it again. Although the video wasn’t anything particularly informative, I’m a mite sick of screwing up the formatting every time I go anywhere near a keyboard.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com/ Rebecca Trotter

    Many, many years ago, I realized that if I wanted people to listen to my witness and take it seriously, I would have to be willing to return the favor. No more starting from the assumption that what I was being told was untrue or misperceived. No more assuming that the person talking with me was trying to peddle something. Just listen to what they had to say and try to take it at face value just like I would like someone to do for me. What happened, of course, was that I was forced to wrestle with my assumptions and even re-think my ideas about people and how life worked. Too much reality does that to us. But now when it is my turn and I have something to say – it might even make sense or be worth listening to because it is grounded in reality rather than wrong-headed assumptions and presumption.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    For some reason, the sentence that bothers me most from the essay Fred linked to is this:  Lives can be changed by any number of things, including anti-depressants, hypnosis, twelve-step programs, and what’s traditionally been called “brain-washing.”

    “Traditionally” called “brain-washing”?  Seriously?  A term that was first used around 1950 is considered traditional now?  I hope the author doesn’t object to the term “Happy Holidays,” because Irving Berlin wrote a song with that title in 1942!

    Of course the author could be a hipster using the term “traditionally” ironically.  In that case, I still hope they don’t object to the term “Happy Holidays,” because you can’t object to “Happy Holidays” without being ridiculous.

  • banancat

    In a way, it’s actually good to tell evangelists that their personal stories won’t effectively convert people.  They really shouldn’t be evangelizing in the first place, but a lot of people do and they’ve been fed a lie that their Truth is so amazing that everyone will be easily swayed. 

    I used to live in an area with too many churches and not enough butts to fill the pews (and therefore not enough money to line the collection plates).  So I got door-to-door evangelists even from denominations that don’t usually do that sort of thing.  And there was one poor boy, probably still a teenager, who just got so flustered when I started asking questions that he had no idea how to answer.  I asked him about his church’s beliefs on evolution and masturbation and he didn’t even know the standard party line tropes to bring out.  I’m fairly certain he was guilted into evangelizing in the first place and I can only hope that he sought answers to those questions and learned that his church wasn’t always right.

    But so many of these evangelizers came to my door with nothing but a personal story and the strong belief that it’s impossible to hear The Truth and not believe.  And they all left frustrated.  I suppose it wouldn’t have been much better for them to come equiped with cliched talking points but at least I might not have felt outright pity for them and it may have served as a starting point for a meaningful conversation.

  • stardreamer42

    I am convinced that the single most toxic meme-combination in the world is the set of One True Way and Proselytization. It’s astounding to consider how many of the world’s ills trace back to that combination. 

    On a different tangent, people who like to “tell their stories” should be very careful of one particular verbal tic — overuse of the word “share”. I used to have a co-worker who was unable to answer even the simplest question without starting out, “Let me share something with you about that…” and it was blindingly obvious that this habit came out of his religious community. The only reason that I never actually allowed the sentence, “You don’t need to share it, just TELL me,” out of my mouth was that he wasn’t a co-worker for very long.

  • Naymlap

    I was on a plane to South America in August when I chatted up the person next to me.  She was a Baptist and on her way to a mission trip.  I told her I was Catholic.  So she tried to make a pitch at me.  And I told her, “no thanks, I’m good.”  We argued about whether or not I truly got the Word of God.  And I pointedly said, I believe that Jesus is our savior.  And she said, right, but…
    I never got people evangelizing to Catholics, but it works out because it gets people who are not doing alright (alcoholics, drug addicts, wife beaters) to turn their lives around and be decent human beings.  I mean, out reach to the people that need help is good.  And anyone willing to go to the worst parts of the world and help people both physically and spiritually deserve recognition, but this woman didn’t seem to get it and it really irritated me.

  • banancat

    But does converting actually help those people who are not doing alright?  There are tons and tons of religious people who are still wife beaters, and AA doesn’t have a very high success rate in spite of being overtly religious.  This myth of finding Jesus and turning your life around is really harmful, especially when it doesn’t work.  You won’t believe how many times I’ve seen abusers get away with terrible things because their church rushes to defend them, saying they’re good, God-fearing guys who could never do such a thing.

    Alcohol and drug abuse are serious problems and religion isn’t the answer to help people suffering from these things.  Maybe if we stopped perpetuating the myth that it’s all about will-power then people could get the treatment they need.

    As for abuse, that’s a completely different story than addiction.  Religion still isn’t the answer.

    Yes, plenty of evangelicals prey on these people and take advantage of them while they’re struggling.  And that itself is a sign of abuse.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    But does converting actually help those people who are not doing alright? 

    Why assume that’s the point?  Plenty of evangelizing Christians just do it because it’s what the religion instructs, not because they want to make anyone’s life better.

    Take the Left Behind books.  Many times some Tribber will get a new notch on his belt, and the new convert will ask, “So, what do I do now?”  The answer is always, “Tell somebody.”  The pyramid scheme starts immediately.

    I once reviewed a Christian movie where two teenage boys are talking about Christianity: Keith tells Frank that he just became a Christian one month ago (Keith is lying, but that doesn’t matter for this point).  Frank immediately asks if Keith has starting evangelizing.  Because it doesn’t matter how the decision has changed Keith’s life, it only matters how quickly Keith can pass along the story.

  • banancat

    Maybe I misunderstood Naymlap’s point, but they seemed to be implying that evangelism is ok or even good when done to people who need it because they have a tough life.  And my point is that it’s still not acceptable in those cases no matter what the intention is.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I would also make the case that proselytizers who accidentally or purposely target somewhat unstable people like drug addicts or alcohol addicts and manage to coax a conversion experience out of them are not being totally honest about their motives.

    For the proselytizer it’s another notch on their evangelical belt and a good vicarious tale to tell, to boot.

    For the substance abuser, it ends up sometimes replacing an addiction.

    I once was proselytized by one such former drug abuser, and while he couldn’t have known I thought him attractive and wanted to talk to him, it seems to me a bit impertinent to have used the occasion for small talk to evangelize to me when I clearly had no intention of converting. I even explained I had very personal reasons for no longer being a Christian and he seemed to take it as a bit of a challenge for a second try.

    So, yeah, nice fellow, but because his new life was full to the brim with Christianity this and evangelical that, it was obvious we weren’t going to see eye to eye on the letting mutually incompatible belief systems quietly rest and talk of other things.

  • Tricksterson

    What if they don’t want to be “helped”.  What if they’re as happy with whatever they believe (which in South America is most likely to be Catholicism) as you are?

  • Lliira

     Converting an asshole to Christianity makes them a Christian asshole. There needs to be a change a heck of a lot more fundamental than to whom they pray to actually change someone morally. I’ve known and learned about WAY too many people who found religion (any religion) and it only made them insufferable religiously as well as adding to their other insufferable qualities.

    People who are addicted to drugs get religion –> they become addicted to the religion, using it as a crutch in every circumstance, never taking responsibility for their actions and never actually changing. And that’s if they manage to lose the drugs. Also, the idea that there are not tons of Christians who are “wife beaters” (and I hate that phrase, it diminishes the abuse) is one of the more ignorant things I’ve ever seen. It’s also pretty gross to class drug addicts and alcoholics with people who physically abuse people whom they are supposed to love. One of these things is not like the other.

  • Leslie Keeney

    I have to admit that I’ve never been as totally smacked down
    as in this post. It’s been a huge learning experience for me—and I welcome any
    learning experience. I decided that the respectful thing to do was to respond
    on this blog first rather than to write a rebuttal post on mine.

     

    First of all, let me say that I went back to read your post
    “Use Words if Necessary” from 2011 and I agree with pretty much all of it.
    (more on that later) The point of MY post was never that we should not use our stories
    (I think I say that stories are a good place to start and that, as humans, we
    are natural story-tellers), but that if we do nothing but tell our stories, we
    are not addressing the underlying issue, which is whether there is one absolute
    truth that corresponds with reality.

     

    My primary point was that if Christians assume that all they
    need to do is to tell their story and people will believe in Christ—and that
    they don’t need to know the logical and historical support for Christianity—then
    they are implicitly agreeing that there is no one absolute truth that
    corresponds with reality. I happen to have a philosophical commitment to the
    idea that there is one truth that corresponds with reality, but I can see how
    this approach would be problematic for someone who doesn’t.

     

    If this was not the primary idea that came across, then it
    was a badly written post, for which I apologize.

     

    I would also like to return to the ideas from your 2011
    post. I agree with every single of the five headings. For the record, I have
    never walked up to a stranger and started talking about Jesus (I’m way too much
    of an introvert to do that) and have written several posts in which I suggest
    that no one can be “argued” into the kingdom of God and that apologetics is as
    much a matter of heart and imagination as it is of intellect. I’m not even
    particularly good at talking to my Buddhist, Wiccan, and agnostic friends (yes,
    I have them) about Jesus unless they ask. I’m also fascinated by what they
    believe often ask them about it (if it comes up naturally in conversation).

     

    Thanks for opportunity for letting me respond to your post. 

  • Andrew K

    It is to your credit that you replied here. Thank you. 

    I do note you are still thinking in dualisms. “I happen to have a philosophical commitment to the idea that there is one truth that corresponds with reality, but I can see howthis approach would be problematic for someone who doesn’t.”

    So, Fred does not have a philosophical commitment that there is one truth corresponding to reality? Or the rest of us who understand Fred’s approach also lack such a commitment? 

    Speaking only for myself, the issue is not what I believe to be true, but a recognition of the subjectivity of my understanding of truth. I can certainly use the doctrines of the church to demonstrate how Christianity corresponds to reality, but such doctrines act as interpretive frameworks, presuppositions. They are not proofs in and of themselves. Other human communities have experienced the same realities, and come to different presuppositions, which in turn are shaped by their subjective experiences.

    This is not to say that Christianity may not have an objective truth. Christianity may in fact correspond exactly to the nature of the universe and the divine. However, no amount of apologetics can prove that position. I would dare to say that apologetics is a waste of time better spent in missional service, of living out the truth of the Gospel instead of talking about it.

    Thank you again for responding in the midst of this community. 

  • Andrew K

    On reflection, I want to go a little further.

    When I talk about the subjective nature of interpretation of the truth, I would say this: we may have warrant and witness the Jesus rose from the dead. But so what? What does it mean to rise from the dead?

    The Resurrection can only have a “proof value” if it happened in the midst of a community that had such a concept. Amoung such a people, for Jesus to rise from the dead not only corresponded with what some of that same community (the Pharisees, for example) held as an expectation. Jesus in turn in rising both validated and radically altered such an understanding. But it only made sense in the context in which it happened. It cannot be used as a kind of universal trump card. 

    Which brings us back to why story has such value, for it is only in telling the story does the meaning have any grounding. To use an image from the late William Placher, the story has a primary place in the Scripture as the means that binds the Scripture together, so that Scripture, diverse as it is, can be properly understood as a unity.

    The particular then illuminates the universal. When a particular insight or understanding can in fact enable a person or a community to understand themselves and the world they live in, or indeed create the world (as a story can do) to inhabit, then we can truly be speaking of revelation, which illuminates everything.

    Where you, and others who hold your point of view will have to come to terms with, is that other people and other communities will have experienced the particular that illuminates the universal from a different set of stories and practices. As I stated earlier, for me, I stop at the point of just living the Gospel as true in service to others. Ultimately, although I might think my story corresponds uniquely to reality, what response am I to expect? Perhaps I should rather trust God to love those I serve, as I see God in loving service to all of what God has created.

  • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/ Leslie Keeney

    Andrew, this is in response to both of your previous comments:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond in such detail.

    To respond to your first (excellent) question: I actually don’t know what Fred or his reader’s philosophical commitment is to concept of the correspondence theory of truth; this statement was simply a bow to those who might not hold to this idea.

    And as in my previous post, I agree with your two primary paragraphs completely-they’re as articulate a description of common sense realism as I’ve ever read. I would also agree that apologetics can never “prove” anything and any apologist who says it can is over-reaching. (And I would be the first to say that there have been some really bad apologetics over the years).

    But how I use apologetics is to demonstrate that Christianity is AT LEAST as reasonable as other belief systems. I don’t think anyone can be argued out of their own belief system by words and ideas alone, but I do think a case can be made that Christianity is no less reasonable than other belief systems. Anything else is a matter of the heart and is out of my hands.

    I also believe that as humans we are natural story-tellers; that it is, in fact, a part of the residual image of God that resides in all cultures. And it is because our cultural narratives are so powerful—and often contain God’s general revelation—that we need to respect those narratives (and it may be here that we differ) and find the truth within them. (Although, I must repeat here again that I agree that we can never know the truth 100%.)

    Finally, I also agree that living missionally is the best way to live out the gospel. I try to do that in almost exactly the same way Fred way describes in his post “Use Words If Necessary.” Using reason in service of the kingdom is simply the task I’ve been given by God.

    Thanks again for the interaction. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity for conversation.

  • Andrew K

    You are welcome! Thank you for your kind response. 

    It seems we were talking in the middle of a much larger set of discussions! Have a Merry Christmas!

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

    Speaking as one of the “nones” (I identify with no spiritual/philosophical label, atheist, Christian, or otherwise), I find the goal to convert others to be incredibly off-putting. When I discover that a friend’s goal is to convert me to their religion (or religion-related philosophy), inevitably, that friendship winds up being damaged. My sense of spirituality and the universe are a deep part of me, inseparable from the core of my being. The goal to convert me to your way of being sends a rather strong message: you are telling me that my way of seeing and experiencing the world, myself, and those around me is fundamentally flawed and you think that I need to be more like you. Regardless of how gentle you are, the message you send is both offensive and arrogant. Once this message is sent, you will loose a part of my trust and recovering from that loss of trust takes a long time.

    Furthermore, I live in a country (the US) where Christianity enjoys a cultural hegemony over all other faiths and philosophies. That hegemony extends to politics, movies, newspapers, schools, holidays, and on and on. Christians have had their world view privileged above all others. I’ve had that hegemony and privilege foisted upon me for most of my life and I’m tired of it. I’ve encountered far too many Christians who think their way of being is the only correct way of being and that those who do not follow this way of being are somehow deficient or defective.
     
    Consequently, I find an attempt to convert not only to be insulting but also to be an abuse of cultural power. I am reminded of the reflexive, mindless conformity that so much of US culture tries to impose upon minorities who live within its boarders and upon countries with far less power. The attitude which underlies such actions reeks of cultural imperialism and conformist abuse.

    When you are a member of the dominant religion in a society, you don’t need to personally advertise your religion. It’s already all over the place and it has been a part of European colonialism and imperialism for centuries. Christianity hasn’t been a minority faith for ages. It has marched across the globe hand in hand with empire since the Romans ruled.  Conversion by sword and unrelenting social pressure has been a standard feature of Christianity for a long, long time.

    Ironically, I see the same flawed attitudes ported into the perspectives of New Atheists, the majority of whom are former Christians and reside in European-founded western nations. The belief of “I’m better than you and you need to convert to my beliefs” is as rife within the New Atheist movement as it is in Christianity. I see the negative aspects of New Atheism as a reflection of the negative aspects of Christianity. Letting go of power and cultural hegemony is a hard thing to do, regardless of whether you are a Christian or an ex-Christian. Power is sweet and wondrous and serves as the world’s greatest intoxicant. Christians collectively get their fix daily and anti-theist New Atheists wish for the intoxicating rush of power that Christians now enjoy. Anti-theism aspires to achieving cultural dominance and Christianity aspires to maintaining cultural dominance. Both play games of power and superiority.

    So, that’s my 2¢ on the matter.  If you are Christian, atheist, or embrace some other belief system, don’t bother with me unless you want to annoy the heck out of me.  I’m not interested in converting to your “morally beneficial” way of being and I’m likely to respond in a rather negative way (just as I have in this thread).

  • Carstonio

     I call the New Atheists “anti-theists” to proper categorize their stance that there should be no religion, to separate them from the majority of atheists who merely disagree with religion. As a matter of principle, their goal of conversion is just as objectionable. The difference with them is that atheism lacks cultural hegemony to be abused.

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

     I agree.  Given what I’ve seen of New Atheism, most people who fall under that classification are anti-theist and are hoping to foster a world in which there is little to no belief in deities or supernatural phenomena. 

    However, remember that there are atheists who are Pagans, atheists who are Buddhists, etc.  I would guess that many of those folks wouldn’t want to do away with religion and as such, are not opposed to religion.

    Either way, I find New Atheism/anti-theism to be inimical to pluralism unless it’s their  version of pluralism (diversity is good except when it comes to religion).  I shudder at the message anti-theism sends to other religious/philosophical minorities: “we’re hoping to get rid of you all, no matter how big or small.”   It’s particularly offensive when those religious minorities are cultural minorities whose religion is an integral facet of their culture.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    “we’re hoping to get rid of you all, no matter how big or small.”

    Wow. That is the most Seussical message of oppression ever.

    (That said, please don’t say that it’s bad for atheists to proselytize, or they will come here and kill us all.)

  • Carstonio

    I don’t understand how someone who believes in the Pagan or Buddhist supernatural entitles could be an atheist. Unless you’re taking about people who follow the philosophies of those religions, similar to some Christians who believe Jesus to be mortal.

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

    Well, Paganism is a huge umbrella term covering a wide variety of beliefs and practices.  I’ve read of atheists who, for instance, practice pagan rituals, embrace nature as a center of their spiritual connection, and yet, believe in no gods and goddesses.  Some see the notions of goddesses and gods as useful archetypes but do not literally believe in their existence.

    As for Pagan Buddhists, I’ve attended attended a Buddhist gathering on and off for a while and I’ve heard no mention of deities as part of the practice.  Although, I imagine this is a very western version of Buddhism.

     Just Google “atheist Buddhist” or “atheist Pagan” to get an idea.  I imagine those folks can explain things in their own words far better than I can.

    There are also a number of atheist Jewish people who don’t believe in deities but attend synagogues and engage in Jewish cultural practices.

  • Tricksterson

    Okay, I can see using the dieities as philosophical/psychological archetypes, I do that myself, I just happen to believe that they’re  also real.  In fact I believe that the deities reality and form are created by the mass subconcious.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Seems like it would not be unreasonable for someone to define “atheism” as the lack of belief in gods specifically, but not necessarily ruling out supernatural entities other than gods.

  • Carstonio

    I suspect most Western atheists don’t believe in any supernatural entities.

  • Tricksterson

    I know one atheist who believes in both ghosts and fairies.

  • Tricksterson

    Speaking as a pagan no I don’t see how you can be a pagan and and atheist.  Not a buddhist, although I admire a lot about Buddhism, but from what I can tell whether or not you can be both depends on whether you consider it a religion, which many Buddhists do or a philosophy, which at least some Buddhists do.  Any actual Buddihists here can feel free to tell me I’m full of shit.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I don’t understand how someone who believes in the Pagan or Buddhist supernatural entitles could be an atheist.

    Hm.

    On your view, can someone who believes in ghosts be an atheist?
    Elves?
    Unicorns?

  • Carstonio

    I wouldn’t label those creatures as supernatural, partly because they come from folklore and not religion, and partly because the supernatural involves a plane of existence different from this one. I can imagine an atheist believing in such creatures, but it would seem to go against the principle of “pics or it didn’t happen” that informs much of atheism.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     OK, fair enough… I think I understand your model of atheism now. Thanks.

  • Lori

     

    Either way, I find New Atheism/anti-theism to be inimical to pluralism unless it’s their  version
    of pluralism (diversity is good except when it comes to religion).  

    Oh for Pete’s sake, it’s not about pluralism or diversity. Their point is that religion is not true and that’s it’s not good for people to base their decisions on untrue things. That’s not the same thing. You can disagree with them, but do it honestly.

     

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

    Their point is that atheism is not true and that’s it’s not good for
    people to base their decisions on untrue things. That’s not the same
    thing. You can disagree with them, but do it honestly.

    Have you heard that one before?

    To someone who is not an atheist/anti-theist, this is what your statement looks like.  It’s another version of, “Your religious beliefs and practices are different from mine and my beliefs are the only valid source of ethics in the world.”  It hardly sounds different from a Christian who is telling a Pagan, Jew, or Muslim how damaging their beliefs are.  Given that the goal of anti-theism is to become the majority, your approach is alarming.

    I’m not being dishonest.  The message deeply intersects with issues of pluralism.   No doubt, folks who are anti-theistic will frown on such unflattering perceptions.  That’s not my problem.

    And yes, I’m aware that you think science says your beliefs are true.  There are plenty of folks in other belief systems who think science says their belief are true too (or at the very least, believe that science has nothing to say about their beliefs).

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I haven’t read all your comments on this topic, so my apologies if I’m retreading old ground, but a question: if there are two people, both of whom are trying to modify public discourse to create more space for their beliefs and practices, in the full awareness that doing so creates less space for the others’ beliefs and practices, is it necessarily true that they should be considered equivalent from a pluralistic point of view?

    Because I don’t believe that at all.

    For example, if you and I are both trying to move public discourse to devote more space to our respective beliefs, and public discourse is already 95% devoted to my beliefs and 5% devoted to yours, it seems to me that a true pluralist joins you in trying to create more space for your beliefs in the public square, and less space for mine.

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

     Dave, I don’t have a problem with people trying to create more space for their beliefs.  However, when a group actively states their goal is to rid the world of all other religious/religion-related belief systems outside of their own, that’s a problem.  There will inevitably be tension between supporting a diversity of religions and non-religious paths and striving to get rid of all other ways of being.  The two do not work well together.

    To create and analogy, how are LGBT people creating space for themselves?  We have created outreach on a public level and on a personal level.  “I’m trans/lesbian/gay/bisexual and my life is not a threat to yours.  I am human just as you are.  My life has much in common with yours.  I have as much right to exist as you do.” Accordingly, we have striven to ensure that the law protects our right to exist just as effectively as it protects other sexualities and gender identities to exist. The approach was not “I’m trans/lesbian/gay/bisexual and my way of being is more valid.  I am striving toward ridding the world of heterosexuality and cis gender identities.”

    Striving to share who you are and get people to understand that you are as human as they are is very different from telling them that they should be like you in order to be a decent, functional human being. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I agree that if I go around telling everyone that they need to be like me, whether that be in terms of my sexuality or my religion or my profession or my native language or my taste in TV shows, I’m kind of an asshole.

    That said, well, OK… let’s look at your analogy.

    There are a lot of people out there who believe that queer people and queer relationships are not as good as straight people and relationships. For convenience, I’ll refer to those people here as “heteronormatives”, or HNs.

    When I and other supporters of queer equality alter public institutions to be just as supportive and inclusive of queer folk as straight folk, we make those institutions more representative of our beliefs and less representative of HN beliefs. This may not be our goal, but it’s what we’re doing. The fact that my husband and I are married is an indication that legal marriage is a less HN-compliant institution than it was ten years ago, when we were not permitted to marry.

    And there are plenty of folks who argue that when we insist that laws and institutions change to treat queers as normal and socially acceptable, we are therefore being disrespectful to HN beliefs, being anti-pluralist and anti-inclusive, and therefore that anyone who cares about pluralism and inclusivity ought to oppose us and support the HNs, or at least stay out of it and not actively oppose the HNs.

    I think this is nonsense.

    And the reason I think this is nonsense is because the HNs generally and historically have all the power, and the queers have only recently even managed to be visible. So when someone says, as some people do say, that we queers ought to be more tolerant of the HNs, and allow them the freedom to believe what they want to believe and not force them to act according to our beliefs (by, for example, forcing them to raise their children in a world with married queer couples like me and my husband), that  person is taking the side of the relatively powerful against the relatively powerless.

    And that’s not how pluralism and inclusivity work.

    Do you agree or disagree with this, when it comes to being queer?

    Because it seems to me that in a very similar way, the practitioners of conventional religions (for example, Protestants in the U.S.) generally and historically have all the power, and the atheists have only recently even managed to be visible.

    So when someone says, as some people do say, that atheists ought to be more
    tolerant of religious folk and allow them the freedom to believe what they
    want to believe and not force them to act according to atheist beliefs (by, for example, insisting that public institutions not make explicit reference to God), they are similarly taking the side of the
    relatively powerful against the relatively powerless.

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

    So when someone says, as some people do say, that atheists ought to be more tolerant of religious folk and allow them the freedom to believe what they want to believe and not force them to act according to atheist beliefs (by, for example, insisting that public institutions not make explicit reference to God), they are similarly taking the side of the relatively powerful against the relatively powerless.

    Dave, I have no problems with atheists (or any other religious/religion-related minority) fighting to keep religious belief from being endorsed by the government. I’ve said this already to Lori. This is quite different from striving to eliminate all other belief systems from one’s culture.

    Similarly, striving to broaden the legal system to ensure LGBT rights is entirely different from declaring LGBT ways of being as superior and then advocating for the elimination of heterosexuality and cis identities. Advocating legal protections and legal recognition of gay marriage is entirely different from advocating the abolition of different sex relationships.

    Trying to compare legal reform which strives to broaden civil rights with reflexive bigotry simply doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about a minority or a powerful majority. Bigotry and prejudice are still bigotry and prejudice. Wishing for the disappearance of the group you are prejudiced against is awful in both cases. The only difference is that the more powerful group actually has the resources to accomplish genocide, if they so choose. The minority usually does not. The spirit of ill will and tribalism however, is still destructive. I do not believe that adding to a culture’s existing levels of prejudice and tribalism with even more prejudice and tribalism is a constructive approach to improving the well being of society.

    The problem I see with New Atheism/anti-theism is the same problem I see with a number of other religions/religion-related belief systems: there is a form of exclusivist prejudice built into the system of belief. Declaring all religion or non-materialistic belief to be intellectually and ethically inferior and then advocating the elimination of all of those belief systems only reproduces this tribalistic mentality. So, the problem here is that certain aspects of variations of the world’s religions ***and*** variations of atheism are anti-pluralistic. As such, I advocate challenging inter-religious prejudice rather than the elimination of all religion.

    The irony I see in all of this is that anti-theists often complain of the destructive tribalism they see in religion and then, sadly, they reproduce their own form of tribalism in response.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Wishing for the disappearance of the group you are prejudiced against is
    awful in both cases. The only difference is that the more powerful
    group actually has the resources to accomplish genocide, if they so
    choose. The minority usually does not.

    Yes, precisely.

    And if you want to argue that a powerless person threatening a powerful
    person with a threat they cannot implement is equivalent to a powerful
    person threatening a powerless person with a threat they
    can implement… well, OK. I completely disagree.

    As I said elsewhere in this thread: power matters.

  • Lori

    This is quite different from striving to eliminate all other belief systems from one’s culture.  

    And we’re back to “striving” again. What exactly do you mean by “striving” in this context?

    The irony I see in all of this is that anti-theists often complain of
    the destructive tribalism they see in religion and then, sadly, they
    reproduce their own form of tribalism in response.  

    Man, “both sides do it” is just the false equivalence that never gets old, isn’t it?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I thought the “both sides do it” argument was an attempt to justify bad behaviour of one side by saying that the other side does the same thing. That’s pretty different from saying that crap behaviour is crap because of the behvaiour, not because of who’s doing it–not to justify one side as less guilty, but to say that the behaviour itself is not OK for any side to engage in.

  • Lori

    In practice I haven’t noticed any meaningful difference between these two positions. Context, like power, matters.

    The number of fundies trying to take make/keep their religious beliefs the law of the land is quite large and they are churning a massive amount of money in pursuit of their goals. Whenever anyone trots out the freedom-hating anti-theist stuff it’s always the same handful of examples of Highly Visible Atheist Guy saying something shitty. That’s just crap, even if Highly Visible Atheist Guy actually did say something shitty.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    OK, well I should probably bow out from here. As you say, context matters and my context appears to radically different from most of the rest of you, plus I think the nuances are important. I don’t really feel like getting into a fight today; it’s too hot and this is a difficult time of year.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The problem I see with New Atheism/anti-theism is the same problem I see with a number of other religions/religion-related belief systems: there is a form of exclusivist prejudice built into the system of belief.

    Boy, sure is a good thing that your special-snowflake “spirituality” allows you to condemn all other viewpoints equally.  Whatever would the rest of us do without the followers of the fallacy of the golden mean to guide us?

  • Anton_Mates

     

    My sense of spirituality and the universe are a deep part of me, inseparable from the core of my being. The goal to convert me to your way of being sends a rather strong message: you are telling me that my way of seeing and experiencing the world, myself, and those around me is fundamentally flawed and you think that I need to be more like you. Regardless of how gentle you are, the message you send is both offensive and arrogant.

    Wheareas, for me, I assume that my way of seeing and experiencing myself and the world is fundamentally flawed, just like everybody else’s, and I appreciate it when people who see it differently try to make a good case for why I should revise that part of myself.  Not that I cheerfully and patiently cooperate with every conversion attempt, of course–usually I don’t have time or interest–but I approve of the principle.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to feel as you do, and if someone does, it’s certainly rude and pointless to try to convert them.  But I wouldn’t blame an evangelist for putting out feelers to find out if their target does feel as you do, provided they can do so politely and subtly.

    Either way, I find New Atheism/anti-theism to be inimical to pluralism unless it’s their  version of pluralism (diversity is good except when it comes to religion).  I shudder at the message anti-theism sends to other religious/philosophical minorities: “we’re hoping to get rid of you all, no matter how big or small.”  

    Pluralism doesn’t generally require that the population be evenly divided between all possible points of view.  On the contrary, many pluralists want them all to be advocated so that the public can listen and eventually throw its support behind the best candidate.  It’s the whole marketplace-of-ideas dealie.

    If New Atheists are saying that we need to stamp out the last five believers on Earth or something, yeah, that would be non-pluralist.  But I don’t know of many who are.  Hitchens, Dennett, PZ Myers and (I believe) Harris are all on record as saying they don’t want religion to go extinct.  Of the big names, Dawkins comes the closest to your characterization–he apparently would want to deconvert the very last believer in the Abrahamic faiths, but he’s fine with Jainism and Taoism and whatnot.  I still disagree very very strongly with Dawkins’ position here, but it’s not as anti-pluralist as you imply.

    And yes, I’m aware that you think science says your beliefs are true. 
    There are plenty of folks in other belief systems who think science says their beliefs are true too (or at the very least, believe that science has nothing to say about their beliefs).  

    Good for them.  Informing our beliefs is what science is for; if we didn’t try to hash out what we should believe based on its results, science would merely be an expensive form of recreation.  (I agree that there are some beliefs about which science has nothing to say, but I think that question is itself worth arguing over.)

    To create an analogy, how are LGBT people creating space for themselves?  We have created outreach on a public level and on a personal level. 

    LGBT isn’t a belief system, though, and you can’t convert people to it barring mad-sciency hormone treatments and brain surgery or something.   It would be a closer analogy to talk about people who accept evolutionary theory, or believe in progressive taxation, or believe (like Dave said) that LGBT folks should have just as much legal and social support for their relationships as straight folks do.  A lot of those people (like me) not only want the right to hold and express those beliefs, but we want to persuade others of them too–I think society would be a better place if most people held them.  That doesn’t mean we’re not pluralists, because we also hold that people should have the right to hold and express different beliefs.  It’s probably a good thing for society if at least a few people will always be arguing against evolution and progressive taxation and SSM as loudly and articulately as they can.  But I’m not ashamed of hoping that there eventually won’t be that many of them.

    Again, I do not hold a similar position re: religion or theism.  I’m just saying that those who do aren’t automatically required to turn in their pluralism badge.

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

     And just to be clear, I’ve had plenty of conversations with people of a variety of faiths and belief systems simply because we were friends and wanted to get to know each other better.  We shared our respective beliefs and outlooks, asked each other questions in order to understand each other better, and that was that.  These kinds of conversations can be pretty useful toward creating a deeper bond between people because ideally, it can create a space for greater understanding of each others differences.  Hopefully, we can add to each others respective ways of seeing the world.

    However, sharing who you are doesn’t have to incorporate the end goal of  striving for cultural dominance person, by person.  In my opinion, if you are “sharing” with friends with the goal of wiping out their beliefs and replacing them with yours, you aren’t truly sharing, you are trying create clones of yourself… and you aren’t being such a great friend, either.

  • Lori

    And yes, I’m aware that you think science says your beliefs are true. 
    There are plenty of folks in other belief systems who think science says
    their beliefs are true too (or at the very least, believe that science
    has nothing to say about their beliefs).  

    Don’t try to make this about me. I personally don’t give a flying fuck what you or anyone else believes as long as you don’t try to make your beliefs legally binding on me and others who don’t share them.

    I’m not one of them and I don’t speak for them, but I strongly suspect that if religious people stopped trying to bind their beliefs on others (in all the many, many ways large and small that they currently do) the “anti-theists” that are so wounding  your sense of pluralism wouldn’t care much about people’s beliefs either.

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

    Lori, I embrace no labels.  I’m not a member of any religion.  I do not hold beliefs for or against the existence of gods.  Because of this, I too, am completely opposed to people making their religious beliefs legally binding.

    However, being a spiritual minority of one person, I don’t relish efforts by any religious or non-religious group of believers to call out others as inferior and actively strive for cultural domination.  That’s a frightening sight, regardless of who the players are.

    Btw, at first, I assumed you were an anti-theist and then thought better, and changed the some of the wording of my comment.  My apologies for the mistake.

  • Lori

    However, being a spiritual minority of one person, I don’t relish efforts by any
    religious or non-religious group of believers to call out others as
    inferior and actively strive for cultural domination.  That’s a
    frightening sight, regardless of who the players are.  

    If “striving for cultural domination” involves using the law (as it all too often still does) then I’m with you. If it doesn’t, I have a long list of things I find frightening and only so much energy to devote to worrying about/fighting against them and impotent cries of  “God says we’re better than you” are never going to make it to the top of the list.

    People trying to take away my rights = scary and worth fighting

    People saying rude, stupid crap = not my fight

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

    I agree, Lori.

  • Lori

     

    Although, I would point out that prejudice and the violence that can
    accompany it are transmitted from generation to generation via verbal
    attacks (among other ways).   

    I agree, which is why will continue to disagree when people start in on “God says you’re bad”. I just don’t feel personally wounded by it when people say it to me and within pretty broad boundaries, I don’t t think it should be illegal for rude, stupid people to express their rude, stupid opinions.

  • Carstonio

    Except that “God says you’re bad” is an assertion of purported fact about purported authority and not an expression of opinion. In theological terms, it’s comparable to asserting that Congress or Parliament has revoked your citizenship. 

  • Lori

     

    In theological terms, it’s comparable to asserting that Congress or Parliament has revoked your citizenship.    

    Is someone asserted that Congress or Parliament has revoked my citizenship and I had no reason to think that there was any such thing as Congress or Parliament and did not consider myself a citizen of any entity controlled by such a group then I wouldn’t care about that assertion either.

    Like I said, I fully respect the fact that some people are very offended or hurt when someone says they’re going to hell. Because I know that people feel that way I think it’s a rude thing to say and people shouldn’t do so. However, I personally don’t care at all and if someone says it to me to be shocking or hurtful or to try to persuade me to accept their religious beliefs it’s totally not going to work.

    Contrary to the assertions of pretty much every fundie I’ve ever met, I really don’t “know” deep down that there’s a God*. I really, truly believe that there isn’t, at least not of any sort that has any interest in or interaction with humanity, which really precludes any belief in the smiting, hell-sending sort ofGod that such people are invoking. I really, truly don’t care any more about assertions that I’m hell-bound than I care about someone telling me the the boogie man is going to get me. For me those two statements are exactly the same and they have exactly the same effect.

    *It does tick me off when people say that I believe in God deep down. That implies that I’m either a liar or that I don’t know my own mind, neither of which is true. They are allowed to tell me what they believe, even if it’s that I’m going to hell, and I really don’t care. They do not get to tell me what I believe.

  • Lori

    Except that “God says you’re bad” is an assertion of purported fact about purported authority and not an expression of opinion.  

    The more I think about this, the less I understand it. Or maybe the less I can relate to it. Why in the world should I care about “purported” facts? Someone can claim that a thing is a fact, but that has zero actual effect on it’s truth value.

    If you believe that you are not going to hell (either because you don’t think hell exists or you think it exists, but you aren’t going there), then why does someone else’s assertion that you are make any difference to you? By your standards, your belief that you aren’t going to hell  is just as much a purported fact as their belief that you are. How are dueling, untestable perported facts any different in practice from opinions?

    Assuming that religious beliefs are not given force of law and therefore being labeled by someone as hell-bound has no real effect on your day to day life then I don’t understand why this difference of perception is so extra special distressing. I can understand why it would be upsetting if it effects your life. I can understand why it would be upsetting if you don’t feel confident that you’re not going to hell and therefore you worry that this “puported” fact is an actual fact. I can understand why it would be upsetting if it makes you (or marks you as) an outsider in a group whose membership is important to you. If none of those conditions apply then I don’t think I understand why saying, “You’re going to hell” is worse than saying “You’re an asshole”.

  • Carstonio

    How are dueling, untestable purported facts any different in practice from opinions?

    Because opinions are about matters of value. It would be nonsensical to say, “In my opinion, the Christmas holiday is celebrated on September 1.” A real statement of opinion would be something like, “”In my opinion, the Christmas holiday should be celebrated on September 1.”

    I hold no belief as to whether I’m headed for hell because I don’t know if it exists or if heaven exists. Obviously I don’t want it to happen, but that has no bearing on whether it will happen or not. The issue is that I can’t prove the claim to be wrong and that I don’t have the knowledge to rule out its possibility.

    No, this doesn’t affect my life to any great extent. I suppose it’s just a point of honor, a term that I disagree with philosophically but I don’t know of a better alternative. Since the hellfire folks can’t prove their claim, or else refuse to prove it, they’re engaging in slander and defamation of character. And since no one can prove their claim wrong, they’re more or less getting away with it, and there seems to be no way to embarrass them into silence.

  • Lori

     

    It would be nonsensical to say, “In my opinion, the Christmas holiday is
    celebrated on September 1.” A real statement of opinion would be
    something like, “”In my opinion, the Christmas holiday should be celebrated on September 1.”   

    This is why I noted that the hell issue is a non-testable assertion of fact. We have ways to definitively prove when Christmas is celebrated. It is not September 1. We have no way to definitive prove whether hell exists and if it does, who is and is not going there. That means that as a practical matter it’s no different than an opinion.

     

    I hold no belief as to whether I’m headed for hell because I don’t know
    if it exists or if heaven exists. Obviously I don’t want it to happen,
    but that has no bearing on whether it will happen or not. The issue is
    that I can’t prove the claim to be wrong and that I don’t have the
    knowledge to rule out its possibility.     

    So you feat that it may be true and you’re just upset that people are reminding you of it?

  • Carstonio

    The existence of hell is sorta kinda testable, in the sense that one would find out only when it’s too late to do anything about it.

    So you fear that it may be true and you’re just upset that people are reminding you of it?

    No, it’s actually about the numbers of people who believe in hell. It may be natural for people with minority views to doubt their senses or judgment. If I’m not able to discern whether heaven or hell exist when millions believe in these, maybe there’s something wrong with me. It’s possible that they do have testable evidence and I’m too obtuse to grasp it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It may be natural for people with minority views to doubt their senses or judgment.

    ‘May be’ nothing. It is. Which has precisely fuck all to do with who’s right. There was at least one study done–something to do with straight lines of differing lengths and picking the one that matched a particular line outside the set, and people who did this on their own were a lot less likely to pick a wrong-length line than people who’d just seen a supposed other test subject pick a wrong-length line.

  • Lori

     

    It’s possible that they do have testable evidence and I’m too obtuse to grasp it.   

    The nature of the question is such that they really don’t, so you really needn’t be concerned about this aspect of the issue.

  • Carstonio

    Shorter version – “You’re going to hell” is an accusation of guilt, at least according to the accuser’s theology.

  • Lori

     

    “You’re going to hell” is an accusation of guilt, at least according to the accuser’s theology. 

    And if you don’t share the accuser’s theology why do you care? What power does someone else’s theology have over you?

  • Makabit

    And if you don’t share the accuser’s theology why do you care? What power does someone else’s theology have over you?

    My faith and ethnic community has a long and unpleasant history of other people’s theology having the force of law where we were concerned. That this is not the case in the United States is a lasting moral glory of this society, but it does not stop me from having a deep gut reaction about the kind of ingrained privilege that allows someone to inform me I’m goin’ to hell, or even that they can get me into heaven.

    I do not take it well.

  • Carstonio

    That also works on the personal level, but in a different way. If someone believes that you’re on hir god’s naughty list, it’s reasonable to suspect that zie might feel justified in mistreating you. 

  • Lori

    I get that. It does sound like the issue is still about the law part, not the theology part and that’s the only point I’ve been trying to make.

  • Carstonio

    The theology could be factual and I wouldn’t know it. Facts are facts no matter what anyone believes or doesn’t believe about them.

  • Lori

    The theology could be factual and I wouldn’t know it. Facts are facts no
    matter what anyone believes or doesn’t believe about them.  

    Yes, obviously. That’s why I made this point earlier. As far as I can tell people saying that you’re going to hell is an assault on your deepest self because you’re not sure they’re wrong. I can understand why that would be uncomfortable and, as I said, I don’t support people telling you that you’re going to hell.

    Based on personal experience I would suggest that as a matter of self-defense you not have this conversation with proselytizers.  IME your uncertainty and resultant discomfort is pretty much the condition that they’re looking for. In their view, if you’re not certain about your own beliefs you’re potentially open to theirs and if you’re at all afraid that you might actually be going to hell that’s a lever they can use to move you.  They don’t tend to hear things like “I wouldn’t be any more certain or have any fewer vague concerns if I adopted your beliefs because I’m aware that we can’t know.” 

  • Lliira

    In theological terms, it’s comparable to asserting that Congress or Parliament has revoked your citizenship.

    Oh please.

    “Theological terms” mean jack and squat, thanks to the fact that we have separation of church and state (mostly). There are people trying to take away my right to my own body, and using religion to try to do so. If someone thinks something nasty about what they think is my immortal soul, it does not affect me in any way. I got over the idea that it’s bad for people not to like me when I was a teenager.

    There are people trying to take away my right to my body. We’re steeped in rape culture, misogyny and racism and classism and homophobia and ableism take away people’s rights and do violence to them on a minutely basis, and you’re worried about people’s feeling being hurt because someone tries to change their religious beliefs. Really, your whole opinion on this is severely steeped in privilege.

  • Carstonio

     

    I got over the idea that it’s bad for people not to like me when I was a teenager.

    What are you talking about? It’s not bad in and of itself, but it’s bad when the dislike motivates people to hurt you, and dislike and hate are arguably THE reasons people hurt each other. The people trying to take away the right to your body do so because they hate women. You’re describing two different varieties  of the same phenomenon.

    This isn’t necessarily about hurt feelings. The hellfire and damnation folks are essentially saying that dislike as a motivation for harm is a good or normal thing. You don’t meet God’s expectations? Into the pit with you. It’s almost like they want everyone to feel hopeless and despair about the impossibility of meeting others’ expectations or being free of those expectations. And the people who dispute that theology are ascribing a trait to their god that doesn’t have an analogue in human behavior, one that seems unlikely at best because too good to be true.

  • Lliira

    People trying to take away my rights = scary and worth fighting

    People saying rude, stupid crap = not my fight

    This.

    And I don’t care about religious plurality. I don’t think it’s a good in and of itself. I think some religions as they are practiced need to go away, yesterday. Because they hurt people. And not “oh I’m so very very hurt by someone trying to change my beliefs and telling me I’m wrong”. I’m talking religions that teach that women exist to be used by men, marry teenage girls off, and claim that husbands cannot rape their wives. Stuff like that.

    And damn right I will try to change the beliefs of anyone who thinks that stuff. I don’t care whether they use religion or something else as an excuse for it. This ring of fire around religion is absurd, and it allows horrific things to keep happening in the name of religion.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     So if my position is that religion is True,  then it’s okay for me to fight against religious pluralism?

  • Lori

    This is probably going to sound snarkier than I mean it, but if you’re not using the law/power of the state and you’re not waging actual war then why should I care if you fight against religious pluralism? Without the law and/or guns your “fight” is just some guy running his mouth about crap. The world is stuffed to the gills with folks running their mouths about crap and AFAICT one more or less isn’t going to make much difference.

    As long as you’re not trying to use force then you’re entitled to wage whatever campaign you want. I will pay not one wit of attention to your belief that religion is True because I don’t agree. When it comes up I’ll tell others that I don’t agree and why. You can happily spend your whole life running your mouth about crap and I’ll shake my head and let you. I’ll think that you’re ignorant and, depending on your exact tactics, possibly evil and I’ll likely say so in a number of different ways, but I won’t try to force you to stop running your mouth. Stupid people saying stupid shit is part of the whole ‘freedom” deal and I long ago made my peace with that. However, the minute you try to give your crap the force of law and use it against me or anyone else then we’re going to throw down.

    It may be worth noting here that I respect that fact that other people are bothered by religious folks saying that they’re going to hell or whatever, but I don’t share the concern. It’s probably simply burnout after hearing it all my life, but I don’t care if someone thinks I’m going to hell any more than I care if someone thinks Big Foot is going to ear me or the grays are gong to swoop down in their spaceship and kidnap me.  Think what you want, I don’t care. Try to take away my legal rights and it’s on.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     When a group points out that they are underpriviliged and ought to be treated more equally and have more power, they should at least try not to publically cackle and say “And then once we have the power, you’ll see REAL oppression Mua Ha Ha!”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ross: Try not reiterating the standard fearmongering tactic that the socioeconomic Number Ones like to winknudge at publicly.

    The Number Twos usually are just freakin’ happy not to be treated like Number Twos anymore.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Atheists who are fine with the existence of religion will be perfectly happy not to be treated like Number Twos anymore. Atheists who want to eradicate religion…not so sure.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Fair enough. OTOH, not treating atheists like Number Twos relative to religious people will probably tend to reduce one of the factors contributing to the existence of atheists who want to eradicate religions.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The Number Twos usually are just freakin’ happy not to be treated like Number Twos anymore.

    Then they shouldn’t be making the argument against treating them as equals. It’s like if a gang of abolitionists had been using the slogan “Free
    your slaves so they can murder you for revenge as you so rightly
    deserve.”

    Also, I find something deeply problematic about the attitude “It’s okay for group X to do things which are morally reprehensible when the hegemons do it because group X is unprivileged.” because it treats “not being the privileged class” as some kind of get-out-of-jail free card where you can just silence anyone with a different position by shouting “Check your privilege! Microaggressions! Spoons!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re going to have to define some terms there. Because everything I can think of offhand that’s all right for someone without a particular privilege to do but not for someone with that privilege, the thing that makes the action bad is the action’s use in conjunction with privilege for purpose of (at mildest) enforcing that privilege. Like, the N word, white person saying it is (intentionally or not) calling back to the whole history of white people using the word to reinforce their superior societal position. Black person saying the word, not so much.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I find something deeply problematic about the attitude “It’s okay for group X to do things which are morally reprehensible when the hegemons do it because group X is unprivileged.

    I’m not sure it’s OK for an eight-year-old to hit me, but I’m certain that it’s much less OK for me to hit an eight-year-old.

    Power matters.

  • vsm

    If that eight-year-old keeps hitting everyone, including other eight-year-olds, there’s probably something wrong with them that should be corrected as soon as possible, because it’s going to be much more difficult when the eight-year-old grows up.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I’m not quite sure what that has to do with my point, so if
    you actually intended to address my point I would appreciate some
    clarification.

    OTOH, if we’re leaving my point aside altogether and just free-associating, I certainly agree with you that an eight-year old who keeps hitting everyone needs to be corrected. Not only because it will be more difficult later, but because it’s unacceptable now.

    It’s also true that if that eight-year old is hitting me with an electric cattle prod, or something covered in poison, or shards of broken glass, or something to which he or she has set fire, there’s a serious tactical concern I need to address right now.

    It’s also true that I like pie.

  • vsm

    In your analogy, the eight-year-old trying to hit you is a non-privileged group acting in a shitty way. Good examples would be islamophobic new atheists or the more toxic strains of (internet) social justice activism. You suggested their shitty behavior is not necessarily wrong or worth attention, because they are not in a position of power.

    I suggest this is a bad idea for two reasons. First, these groups do not necessarily only act shittily towards white heterosexual protestants in their country clubs (you in that analogy), but other non-privileged groups and individuals. See new atheist intellectuals dehumanizing Muslims for the benefit of US imperialism, or that time social justice warriors bullied an obviously unstable person into cutting themself.

    Secondly, there’s always the chance these groups actually become influential (grow up). Lots of people here have talked about the demographic shift that will dethrone the religious right. When that happens, won’t someone like Sam Harris be the ideal Republican? Cool with gays and blacks, knows science works, believes in secularism, doesn’t think all those folks living on top of oil reserves are quite human. This probably won’t happen with social justice activists.

    Just to clarify, I don’t think most social justice activists or atheists, new or old, systematically act in a shitty way towards others. However, these tendencies do exist within those movements and I rather dislike it, sharing plenty of ideas with both.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    OK, thanks for clarifying.

    IIRC, what I said about the 8-year-old was that I don’t know if it’s OK for them to hit me, but I know it’s way less OK for me to hit them. My point being that the same behavior is not necessarily “just as bad” when the powerful do it to the powerless, then when the powerless do it to the powerful, which was the claim I was responding to.

    It’s not just the behavior, who does it to whom matters. Power matters.

    But, yes, leaving my actual point aside, I absolutely agree that if, in addition to saying nasty things about the powerful, one is at the same time abusing the powerless, that’s a problem that needs addressing; I don’t get a free pass for being abusive to people who can’t defend themselves against me just because other people are abusive to me.

    And I also agree that some people within the social justice movement and the atheist movement (as well as every other movement I know of) systematically act in a shitty way towards others, and I rather dislike that sort of behavior as well.

  • Anton_Mates

     

    Secondly, there’s always the chance these groups actually become influential (grow up). Lots of people here have talked about the demographic shift that will dethrone the religious right. When that happens, won’t someone like Sam Harris be the ideal Republican? Cool with gays and blacks, knows science works, believes in secularism, doesn’t think all those folks living on top of oil reserves are quite human.

    I’m pretty sure Harris’ opinions on taxation, health care, public education, and the environment disqualify him from the Republican Party for about the next thousand years, demographic shift or no demographic shift.  If the GOP did evolve to the point where Sam Harris was its ideal, I’d be down on my knees weeping with gratitude.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    It’s like if a gang of abolitionists had been using the slogan “Free
    your slaves so they can murder you for revenge as you so rightly deserve.”

    Well, since you bring up the analogy between anti-slavery forces and anti-religion forces…

    I have no doubt that, when abolitionists were arguing against slavery, there were any number of slaves making angry statements against their masters. In fact, I bet a number of real, physical threats got made against the slave-owning class… not just nasty words in the press, but attempts to kill them.

    None of which changes the fact that the anti-slavery forces were right.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Also, I find something deeply problematic about the attitude “It’s okay for group X to do things which are morally reprehensible when the hegemons do it because group X is unprivileged.” because it treats “not being the privileged class” as some kind of get-out-of-jail free card where you can just silence anyone with a different position by shouting “Check your privilege! Microaggressions! Spoons!”

    And intersectionality makes things very complicated.

    It’s tricky for me to join in these sort of discussions because the social relationship between Christianity, other religions and atheism is very different here to what it seems to be in the US. Christianity is privileged to a degree, but it’s a sort of secular Christianity where Christmas is a national holiday but the “true meaning of Christmas” is “family” and anyone who mentions having a relationship with Jesus will be given the side-eye.

    Anyway, I find discussions of privilege interesting but also very complicated, and occasionally people will try to simplify things into “X are privileged and Y are oppressed” as if they’re universal constants.

    I read descriptions here of Christians as interchangeable with older white men and, while I won’t argue with anyone’s observations of their environment, it’s interesting to me because it’s incongruous to my own experience. The various parishes that I’ve been a member of have been, compared to the wider neighbourhood, disproportionately female, disproportionately lower class, disproportionately ethnic minorities, disproportionately of the less powerful age groups (the very old and very young), and in particular, disproportionately living with severe disabilities. I’ve been part of a lot of diverse social, cultural and professional groups in my life and people with significant intellectual disabilities have always but only been a large cohort of the community in church groups.

    So I’m against any idea that otherwise unacceptable behaviour* is OK if done by Group X against Group Y because Group X is relatively unprivileged. It’s going to end up with a whole lot of disadvantaged members of Group Y getting an extra kick in the face and being told to suck it up.

    tl/dr: No crappy behaviour by anyone, please.

    *Attempting to ward off the protest at the pass: no, complaining about injustice is certainly not unacceptable behavious. Neither is getting angry or being impolite or anything like that.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    So I’m against any idea that otherwise unacceptable behaviour* is OK if done by Group X against Group Y because Group X is relatively unprivileged. [..] Attempting to ward off the protest at the pass: no, complaining about injustice is certainly not unacceptable behavious. Neither is getting angry or being impolite or anything like that.

    On your view, is taking power away from Group Y and giving it to Group X the sort of unacceptable behavior that you’re against saying is OK if Group X is relatively unprivileged? (Or relatively powerless, if that means something different to you?)

    Or is it more like complaining, getting angry, and being impolite?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m a lefty–I definitely don’t think redistribution of power to the less powerful is, in and of itself, a bad thing! It can be done in unacceptable ways but as to the act itself–play on.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Cool. That’s the most important example to my mind of the class of actions that, if Y has a lot more power than X, are acceptable for X to do to Y but not for Y to do to X. If we agree on that, we can probably agree to disagree on the rest of it, if indeed we even disagree.

  • Lliira

     Yeah, I think you’re coming from a context that means you can’t necessarily understand what’s going on in the U.S. regarding this. Which isn’t a bad thing — other points of view can be very refreshing. It makes me jealous as all heck, though.

  • Makabit

    If ‘check your privilege’ means, ‘you’re calling me out for not checking mine and I don’t like it’, you’re doing it wrong.

    People do it wrong sometimes.

  • Lori

    “And then once we have the power, you’ll see REAL oppression Mua Ha Ha!”   

    Yeah, those New Atheists. Mustache-twirlers of the first order, the lot of them.

    “I think religion is untrue, serves as a bad basis for human decision-making and on balance has caused more harm than good. I wish it would fade into oblivion” does not in any rational world equal “And then once we have the power, you’ll see REAL oppression Mua Ha Ha!”. Especially when “once we’re in power” isn’t coming in the lifetime of anyone able to read this. I really have no idea how to respond to your comment except to roll my eyes.

  • Nathaniel

     Right. Which is why we meanie new atheists so firmly oppose separation of church and state, so that someday the government can outlaw religion altogether. And why at every turn we have sided with right wing Christian’s to drive out mosques and Muslims, as a small but worthwhile start to getting rid of worship altogether.

    Pluralism: I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  • Madhabmatics

     yo you joke about that but Dawkins literally posted on his blog “Maybe we should think about siding with right wing christians to drive muslims out of africa”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Does it matter whether it actually happens… or even, for that matter, whether the idea has support among atheists? Or is the fact that Dawson literally (by which of course you mean figuratively… I assume you’re referring to this?) posted that sufficient to conclude that Nathaniel is incorrect?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I don’t think Dawkins should have tried stepping in that briar patch. Fundamentalist Christians come with their own set of problems, as evidenced by Uganda’s situation.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (nods) I agree. I’m also unsurprised; Dawkins often says stuff I disagree with.

  • Madhabmatics

    Hey posted it as some obviously exaggerating thing that was supposed to be clear that atheists New Atheists wouldn’t consider, I pointed out that a relevant New Atheist actually pitched it. So yeah, it matters.

    If someone posts “Yeah atheists would never side with christians to try to harm muslims” it actually does matter that atheists have said “hey guys maybe we should support christians to harm muslims”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     OK. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Lori

    If someone posts “Yeah atheists would never side with christians to try
    to harm muslims” it actually does matter that atheists have said “hey
    guys maybe we should support christians to harm muslims”  

    A New Atheist saying something appalling means that a New Atheist said something appalling, not that New Atheists as a group are all just waiting to get a little power or looking to form a coalition that has power in order to oppress some other group.

    Some New Atheists have gone off on appalling Islamophobic screeds and they’ve gotten some support from other asshats. However, those views have not been embraced by the community as a whole and, in the highly unlikely event that atheists of any flavor achieve power in my lifetime there’s really no reason to think that such views would become policy.

  • Madhabmatics

     Did you even read my post before you decided to post this, because I didn’t say it was policy or that New Atheists were trying to take over or any of that stuff. I don’t know where you are reading that, but it’s certainly not from anything I posted, so go back and take a look

    Nathaniel was making fun of the idea that New Atheists would choose to side with Christians to harm muslims, it’s something that totally wouldn’t happen ya’ll, New Atheists would never do that. I was pointing out that, yeah, the idea of supporting Christians so you can take out Muslims isn’t some idea that is foreign to New Atheists (like VSM pointed out, Harris and Hitchen’s both jumped on that bandwagon, too)

    where in that discussion did I rage about how we are an inch from a new atheist takeover or whatever you are mad at me about

  • Lori

    Yes, I read what you wrote. We are making different assumptions about what it means to say “New Atheists wouldn’t do that”. You seem to be taking that to mean “No New Atheist would do that” and provided a counter example. I take it to mean “New Atheists as a group would not do that” and said that a few New Atheists being willing to do it does not mean that the group is willing to do it and that in fact evidence suggests that the group is not and is not likely to be.

  • vsm

    It’s difficult to talk about New Atheists as a group when so few identify as such. If we understand the term to more or less mean the followers of the Four Horsemen, or Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris, I think there’s a very good reason to think they could be persuaded to lend a hand in oppressing Muslims, or else there’s a strong disconnect between the intellectuals and their fans. If New Atheism is seen as a broader tendency, the issue changes.

  • Madhabmatics

    What evidence suggests that and is more convincing than the collective works of Harris and Hitchens beating the drums of war + Dawkins literally suggesting this very thing?

    edit: putting aside that there isn’t really “New Atheism as a group” since there are a ton of different “new atheist” groups. Atheism+ people certainly aren’t chomping at the bits to do something like this, but the idea that it is an anathema is silly and doesn’t represent the diverse views of New Atheists.

  • Lori

    And we’ve hit the point of talking past each other since we now seem to be making each other’s points while disagreeing.

  • Madhabmatics

     Yeah I think so. I’m not trying to smear all New Atheists or even suggest that most are islamophobic, I’m just saying that “New Atheists would not do a thing” is way, way overbroad because it encompasses a LOT of different groups. I mean just in the Atheism+ split, we see that there are both feminist New Atheist groups and MRA New Atheist groups, and those are super different. It’s no surprise that there would be both “Groups that think allying with the dominant powers against a minority is dumb” and “Groups that think allying with the dominant powers against a minority is smart.”

    like if I said “You don’t see Muslims siding with atheists against Christians, do you” I would expect someone to not let that go unchallenged because “Muslim” is a broad enough group of people that there are a bunch of examples of Muslims siding with atheists against Christians in history.

  • vsm

    See also Sam Harris on Islam. Or better yet, don’t.

    However, I’ve understood that Harris’s (and the late Hitchens’s) islamophobic screeds are often not all that well-received at atheist conventions.

  • Anton_Mates

    yo you joke about that but Dawkins literally posted on his blog “Maybe we should think about siding with right wing christians to drive muslims
    out of africa”

    Yeah, no, he literally did not post anything of the sort.   He posted “Maybe we should think about helping Christian organizations convert more Africans, because majority-Christian societies are better than majority-Muslim ones, but I think we still shouldn’t actually do it.”   Which I happen to think is wrong on 85 different levels, but it’s not even in the same time zone as exiling Muslims or outlawing mosques or whatever the hell.

    Dawkins thinks Islam is OMG WORSTEST THING EVER yet he still isn’t advocating legal suppression or persecution of it here. That’s evidence against the idea that the New Atheists are planning to oppress everyone else just as soon as they get the power. Use Harris next time.

    If someone posts “Yeah atheists would never side with christians to try to harm muslims” it actually does matter that atheists have said “hey guys maybe we should support christians to harm muslims”

    Yep, so you should find an example of that.  Which you can, it’s the Internet.  This ain’t one such, though.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Exactly.  ‘Tis the season of Wintermas, a holiday celebrated in Jerry Jenkins’ Soon, in which our favorite RTC writer makes it quite clear that atheists are just waiting to take over the entire planet and outlaw praying and reading Bibles and going to church.

    It kinda sucks that this idea is not limited to RTCs.

    But hey, it’s good that every single time Fred writes a piece on something that evangelical Christians do wrong, several Christians or pagans or “spiritual minorities of one” will immediately show up to remind us all that atheists are just as bad!  They are!  One time an atheist was insufficiently deferential to “spirituality,” so that means they want to force me to read Breaking the Spell at gunpoint!

    Accursed nonbelievers.  A pox on them.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Anti-theism aspires to achieving cultural dominance and Christianity aspires to maintaining cultural dominance. Both play games of power and superiority.

    Speaking of beliefs, the belief that “the one side is just as bad as the other” is rife as well.  You know, liberals are just as bad as conservatives, pro-choicers are just as bad as pro-lifers, atheists are just as bad as Christians.

    Of course, atheists aren’t likely to achieve anything close to dominance even within the lives of our great-grandchildren.  Still, the golden mean fallacy can be enticing…

  • Carstonio

    I might prefer being called stupid by an anti-theist to being called deserving of eternal suffering by a fundamentalist. At least the former is expressing a subjective personal opinion and not an objective claim from his or her god. It’s the equivalent of Muhammed Ali’s famous quote about the Viet Cong.

  • Madhabmatics

    redundant

  • caryjamesbond

    How Evangelical Christians want to eliminate other beliefs:
    EC: *Presents series of arguments that are moral, theological, personal and lead inevitably to the conclusion that Christ is lord of the universe and savior of mankind*
    Non-ECs: “Gee whiz!  I will now stop being [non-EC] and become an EC instead! Huzzah for Jesus!”

    How Atheists want to eliminate other beliefs:
    Atheist: *Presents series of arguments that are moral, scientific, logical, personal and lead inevitably to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a supernatural deity. Like, at all.*
    Non-Atheists: “Gee whiz! I will now stop being [non-Atheist] and become Atheist instead! Huzzah for science!”

    Evangelical Christian/Atheist response to  non-Evangelical Christian/Atheist rejection of arguments. 
    EC/A: “You sure, brah?”
    Non-EC/A:”Yeah.”

    EC/A: “Ok, here’s my card if you change your mind.”

    How Hitler wants to eliminate other beliefs:
    Hitler: *Presents series of Zyklon-B canisters.*
    Non-Hitler: *dies*

    Hitler’s response to non-Hitler’s rejection of Hitler’s arguments:
    Hitler: *Blitzkrieg*

    So maybe if everyone could stop shouting”ELIMINATE” like a confused Dalek, we could stop talking past each other. If either New Atheists or Evangelical Christians succeed completely, THERE WILL BE THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE. Given the current distribution of both Christian and atheist beliefs that takes in every possible permutation of political/social belief or taste, I’m inclined to think that the world wouldn’t be that different. The difference is that everyone would either believe or disbelieve in the same sky-daddy.

    And unless you think that your friend who converted to [BELIEF] after being a lifelong member of [OTHER BELIEF] has fundamentally become someone totally different, instead of being fundamentally the same with a different paint-job, I don’t really think that “conversion” is the same as “elimination.”  So maybe everyone can back up a little with the “ATHEISTS ARE A-GONNA ELIMINATE US ALL!” thingy? Mildly offensive, is what I’m sayin.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Well, except that frequently, that third argument goes more like

    EC: You sure?
    Non-EC: Yeah
    EC: I’m off to pass laws that will restrict your freedoms.
     
    or

    A: You sure?
    Non-A: Yeah
    A: Grumble. I wish I had the clout to pass laws that would restrict your freedoms.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yes, indeed.  It is just as the RTCs have told you: atheists want to outlaw religion and ban Bibles.  We want to use the laws only to our own advantage, and if we say we support separation of church and state, we are lying.  Just like pacifists really want war, and advocates of a woman’s right to choose really want to kill all babies. 

    Always listen to the RTCs, especially about the evil atheists.  After all, why in the world would they lie about us?

  • Lori

    Grumble. I wish I had the clout to pass laws that would restrict your freedoms.  

    The only way that this is remotely realistic is if we all agree to define “your freedoms” as Christianity having a place of incredible privilege and hegemonic power that basically exempts believers from having to deal in any meaningful way with the fact that many people are not Christians and have no interest in being Christians.

    If you’re not going with that RTC-style definition then this scenario is basically a persecution fantasy. The fact that you keep repeating it doesn’t make it more true.

    If you are going with that RTC-style definition then A) you’re right, I want to restrict your freedoms and B) I don’t honestly give a crap if you don’t like that.

  • Nathaniel

    “A: Grumble. I wish I had the clout to pass laws that would restrict your freedoms.”

    Citations.

  • Tricksterson

    I don’t know, have Dawkins, Harris et al expressed a wish to actually outlaw religion?  Mind you, I’m no fan of theirs but i haven’t heard that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Richard Dawkins has suggested that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse. Now, technically perhaps he believes that some forms of child abuse should be legal, just like how pro-lifers believe abortion is mass murder but that the apropriate response is to vote republican.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It can be.

    Consider some of the more insular cults out there which’ve been around long enough for some followers to have children.

    Would you agree that such a place is a safe and good place to raise a child?

  • Lori

    Even when it’s not an insular cult I think there’s a point at which “As long as you’re under my roof you’re going to church” becomes at best sort of problematic and at worst abusive. I don’t think we can or should be legislating against that, but I think it’s bad.

    Contrary to what Ross implied, it’s perfectly possible to think that something is abusive, as in an abuse of parental power, and think that it should still be legal. Of necessity parents have wide latitude in how they raise their children. Thinking that some child rearing practices are quite bad (my list, let me show you it) doesn’t mean thinking that those things are all appropriate targets for legal control.

  • Lori

    Oh look, it’s yet another sighting of Highly Visible Atheist Guy saying something (that might be considered) shitty.

  • Anton_Mates

    Richard Dawkins has suggested that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse.

    More accurately, he’s suggested that:

    a) teaching children certain potentially traumatic religious beliefs, such as the constant threat of eternal damnation, and

    b) labeling children by the faith of their parents before they are old enough for informed consent, and telling them that they are obligated to believe the tenets of that faith

    are forms of child abuse.  He has said that neither of these should be outlawed, though, and he thinks it’s a good thing for religious parents to teach their children about their own beliefs and the beliefs of various other faiths.

    Now, technically perhaps he believes that some forms of child abuse should be legal, just like how pro-lifers believe abortion is mass murder but that the apropriate response is to vote republican.

    Or how most of us believe that parents can do various abusive things to their children, which are unethical but can’t feasibly be prohibited by law without unacceptable interference with familial autonomy.  Plenty of examples here re: education, medical decisions, etc.

  • Lliira

     Now, technically perhaps he believes that some forms of child abuse
    should be legal, just like how pro-lifers believe abortion is mass
    murder but that the apropriate response is to vote republican.

    Right, someone SAYING the way they feel about something is precisely the same as someone attempting to take away the right of women to our own bodies through the power of the state. And often succeeding — do you have any idea how difficult, even impossible, it is to get an abortion in certain states?

    You just crossed a line twice.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The really hilarious thing (not really, but sometimes you just have to laugh or you’ll cry) is that several American states still have laws on the books prohibiting anyone who denies the existence of God from holding public office.  The Boy Scouts, who receive enormous federal support, do not allow atheist scouts or leaders, at least by official policy.

    Yet apologists and “spiritual” folks of every stripe go on and on about how awful the atheists are, how if we only had power, boy, then you’d see some oppression.

    It’s sort of like the fevered imaginings of “they’re coming to take our guns!” or supposing that legalizing same-sex marriage is the first step towards forcing people to marry someone of the same sex.

    Because the idea that people merely want equal rights is just silly.  Obviously anyone professing interest in such a thing really wants absolute power and to persecute everyone else.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Because the idea that people merely want equal rights is just silly.  Obviously anyone professing interest in such a thing really wants absolute power and to persecute everyone else.

    Only the ones who go on the chat show circuit telling me that I’m mentally ill and abusing my children.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Can you clarify the relationship between saying nasty, unjustified things about you in public on the one hand, and on the other hand seeking political power to not just equalize the currently unequal power distribution in favor of certain religious denominations in many jurisdictions but to establish an similarly unequal power distribution in favor of atheists?

  • Lliira

    Only the ones who go on the chat show circuit telling me that I’m mentally ill and abusing my children.

    “Waaah, people said nasty things about me on TV! No one should ever say nasty things about me! I’m Too Important to have nasty things said about me!”

    A popular, wealthy pop psychologist said women who wear pantsuits are conflicted about their gender. Every day, popular, wealthy, privileged, powerful men rail against the idea I could be human because I’m a woman, poor, and/or disabled. There are about 5 Christian radio stations where I live, and I’ve never even heard of an atheist radio station.

    Cry moar.

  • Anton_Mates

    I don’t know, have Dawkins, Harris et al expressed a wish to actually outlaw religion?

    No.  Harris has said that it might be ethical for a government to kill people in self-defense for holding and expressing certain religious beliefs.  E.g., if it were impossible to capture Bin Laden or Zawahiri, it might be ethical to assassinate them in order to prevent them from inspiring further Islamic terrorism, even if neither man actually pulled a trigger or detonated a bomb himself.

    But Harris has also said that it shouldn’t be legal for a government to do such a thing, and neither he nor Dawkins has suggested that religious practice or belief should generally be outlawed.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Harris has said that it might be ethical for a government to kill
    people in self-defense for holding and expressing certain religious beliefs.  E.g., if it were impossible to capture Bin Laden or Zawahiri, it might be ethical to assassinate them in order to prevent them from inspiring further Islamic terrorism

    If you have the quote handy somewhere, I’d be interested.

    Not that necessarily I doubt you, as Harris says all kinds of nonsense, but I’d like to understand whether Bin Laden or Zawahiri are being used here as examples of “people holding and expressing certain religious
    beliefs” or as examples of some other group.

  • Anton_Mates

     Here you go.

    This link also bears on something you and Tonio were discussing earlier in the thread; Harris could very properly be called a Buddhist atheist.  He doesn’t believe in a personal God, but he considers Buddhism to be an exceptional source of moral and psychological wisdom, and he’s fairly receptive to Buddhist-related paranormal claims, e.g. reincarnation, psychic powers, and the possibility of achieving medical miracles through meditation.

    I’m not sure he identifies as atheist at all right now, actually; he’s certainly argued that we should abandon the label.  I kind of suspect this is because he’s noticed that both his Islamophobia and his acceptance of the paranormal are turn-offs to the majority of self-identified atheists (though not to all of them, of course.)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Thanks for the link.

    And, yes, I would agree with your characterization that he’s talking about potentially killing people because of the threat they pose by virtue of holding certain religious beliefs… that is, on Harris’ view it’s not just the nuclear weapons, which don’t require pre-emptive slaughter when held by secular forces, it’s the nuclear weapons in the hands of believers in the afterlife.

  • Anton_Mates

     

    that is, on Harris’ view it’s not just the nuclear weapons, which don’t require pre-emptive slaughter when held by secular forces, it’s the nuclear weapons in the hands of believers in the afterlife.

    And to be fair, it’s only believers in one particular afterlife.  Most nukes are in the hands of some brand of believer, and that doesn’t worry Harris over-much–it’s just the “kill a bunch of people and you’ll go to paradise” believers that would pose a real threat.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    And to be fair, it’s only believers in one particular afterlife.

    I’m less willing to count on that.

    Whether Harris intends it to be used this way or not, his basic argument — that mutually assured deterrence is ineffective against an enemy who isn’t afraid to die, and therefore pre-emptive strikes are necessary to ensure safety from such an enemy — applies just as readily to any believer in an afterlife who thinks God’s will includes the elimination of the enemy.

    The flavor of the month today is “OMG the Arabs with their fanatical Islamofascist leaders and terrorists and whatnot!” but in twenty years it could as easily be something else.

  • Anton_Mates

     Dave,

    Whether Harris intends it to be used this way or not, his basic argument
    — that mutually assured deterrence is ineffective against an enemy who
    isn’t afraid to die, and therefore pre-emptive strikes are necessary to
    ensure safety from such an enemy — applies just as readily to any believer in an afterlife who thinks God’s will includes the elimination of the enemy.

    You could make that argument, but I don’t think Harris would.  He certainly finds most forms of faith to be dangerous to some degree, but he holds Islam to be exceptional in a) explicitly offering heavenly rewards for military violence within its scriptures, and b) having a lot of modern adherents who actually believe that part.

    You could also argue that the best people to hang on to dangerous weapons are afterlife-believers who think God forbids unprovoked aggression, but I don’t think he’s done that either.

    The flavor of the month today is “OMG the Arabs with their fanatical
    Islamofascist leaders and terrorists and whatnot!” but in twenty years
    it could as easily be something else.

    Seems unlikely to me. Harris has a really specific thing about Israel being awesome and Islam being the world’s worst religion for the last several centuries.  I can’t see the geopolitical landscape changing so much in the next twenty years that he’ll be forced to change his focus.  Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/Hindu militarism may still kill people and topple regimes, but unless it starts doing it mostly to us, I don’t think he’ll worry much.

    caryjamesbond,

    There is no perceptible difference between the democratic leaders of
    France, the US, and England and the Ayatollah Kahmenei or King Abdullah.
    Those two are noted for their responsible leadership and leading roles
    in the international search for world peace.

    Not sure which Abdullah you’re referring to, but Iran’s record on world peace is about ten times better than the US’s.  Islamic extremism is dangerous and harmful in all kinds of ways, but in terms of waging wars, stockpiling weapons, financing other people’s conflicts, and escalating to the brink of military suicide, it can’t come close to capitalism and communism.

    If Kahmenei and the rest of the Iranian leadership really wanted to head to paradise and score their virgins, Iran and Israel would both have been smoking craters long ago.  They are in fact incredibly interested in self-preservation.

    I would also like
    to note that, despite the fact that their is actually a clear cut
    Catholic hierarchy with the Pope at the top, no one is particularly
    shocked to discover that individual catholics disagree with the pope on
    various issues. 

    At least, not if you count Jack T. Chick as “someone.”  But why would you want to?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > You could make that argument, but I don’t think Harris would.

    Sure, you may well be right.

    I’m mostly not concerned with Harris qua Harris; he’s a guy who says some often-stupid stuff. There are may such people. What I’m saying is that the argument he’s making can be applied more broadly.

    But, sure, if we’re more interested in Harris as an individual for some reason than we are in the broader context of his ideas, then that’s irrelevant.

  • Anton_Mates

     

    I’m mostly not concerned with Harris qua Harris; he’s a guy who
    says some often-stupid stuff. There are may such people. What I’m saying
    is that the argument he’s making can be applied more broadly.

    And I quite agree.

  • Lliira

     I have never in my life seen an atheist say they wished they had the power to pass laws that would restrict someone’s freedom.

    Look, I despise Dawkins. He’s a bigot, a misogynist, a rape culture advocate, and he’s lived up his own ass so long he’s incapable of seeing anything but his own greatness. I’ve seen other atheists go over the edge (in my opinion), and even argued with them here about it. But give me a break. The only “freedom” I’ve seen atheists want to remove is the “freedom” for religionists to shove their religion into every facet of life. That’s taking away privilege, not freedom.

  • Andrew K

    Look, I despise Dawkins. He’s a bigot, a misogynist, a rape culture advocate, and he’s lived up his own ass so long he’s incapable of seeing anything but his own greatness. 

    I have not followed your entire conversation, but I just loved this. Very funny and sadly spot on.

  • PatBannon

    Dammit, I am convinced I should not be laughing so hard at the thought of Hitler murdering people with poison gas, but the way you put it is just hilarious.

    Just…”Non-Hitler.”

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

    One last thought: not all religions exist within a place of power in a culture.  So, all of those arguments about anti-theism’s bigotry being excusable when it’s directed toward religion do not work well when the prejudice is directed toward religious people who also experience religious oppression from the dominant belief system. 

    It’s always a disheartening sight when several oppressed groups turn their anger upon each other.

    Not that this observation will matter.  Human beings love to gather together in groups to share their hatred of others.  In fact, nothing builds in-group cohesion quite like finding a common group of people to hate together.

    It works well for everyone, religious and non-religious alike.

    Those with the most survivors win…

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    So, in essence, you’re arguing that atheists are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

    This is not an uncommon argument, even coming from a special-snowflake minority of one.  If atheists criticize religions other than Christianity, we’re picking on the oppressed and just as bad as RTCs and oh so mean.  If we confine our criticisms to Christianity, then we just hate Jesus and hate Christians and are buying into Christian privilege and would probably be very content and less meeeeean if we became pagans or deists or special snowflake people with “spirituality.”

    A related point: you persist in throwing around vague and undefined terms loaded wih emotion but no specificity: bigotry, anger, hatred.  It seems to me that you are continuing to confuse legitimate criticism and discussion with actual acts of oppression.  This is understandable, because if you judge atheists and Christians by the same standard, your argument falls apart.  But being an atheist writer with an online presence, and being a RTC trying to maintain Christianity’s cultural dominance with the rule of law, are actually two quite different things.

  • caryjamesbond

    Or how most of us believe that parents can do various abusive things to their children, which are unethical but can’t feasibly be prohibited by law without unacceptable interference with familial autonomy.  Plenty of examples here re: education, medical decisions, etc.

    Or perhaps, like every other public speaker ever in the history of time, he’s using rabble-rousing terminology to make his cause sound better and the opposing cause sound worse.  According to people on the tv, weaning too early/too late, spanking/not spanking, grounding/not grounding, etc. are all child abuse. (My personal opinion is that children evolved to survive the rigors of sub-Saharan Africa, and thus are probably not too put out by a poorly timed weaning.)

    “Child abuse” like “facism” or “racism” or  every other word with a negative connotation, is pretty much thrown around willy-nilly to score points in debates. Treating the inflammatory statements of  Atheist Dude On Tee-Vee as representing any significant fraction of the atheists would make as much sense as treating the inflammatory statements of  [GROUP] Dude On Tee-Vee as representing any significant fraction of [GROUP]. When people claim that Rev. Wright speaks for all black people, it’s silly. When people claim that Pat Robertson speaks for all Christians, it’s silly. But whenever Dawkins opens his cray-cray Limey mouth, suddenly all the atheists are sitting at home taking notes. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But it’s vitally important that christians police their own if they don’t want others to assume Pat Robertson speaks for them. And “where are all the moderate muslims decrying the acts of extremists?”

  • Lori

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Have you not noticed that the atheists right here don’t agree with the stuff you’re all up in arms about and have said so? What exactly would you like us to do? Not buy their books? I haven’t. Speak out against them? I have. Stone them in the public square? Right after you stone your nutters.

    All this strikes me as a prime example of what my grandpa used to say—“It just depends on whose ox is getting gored.” When other people are genuinely getting mistreated you’re all “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t control those people.”, but when you’re offended it’s a tragedy.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    All this strikes me as a prime example of what my grandpa used to
    say—“It just depends on whose ox is getting gored.” When other people
    are genuinely getting mistreated you’re all “What do you want me to do
    about it? I can’t control those people.”, but when you’re offended it’s a
    tragedy.

    Yes, because I’ve always said “WHat do you want me to do about it? I can’t control those people,” and I’ve never taken folks like Pat Robertson to task, and 99.9% of what I post here isn’t me being angry at dominionists and plutocrats. I only ever complain about atheists, and I act like it;s a tragedy, rather than just calling you out on your shit the same way everyone else gets called out.

  • Lori

    So we’ve both complained about our nutters. You’re nutters are more actively dangerous than mine and yet we have to have this “atheists are just as bad” discussion on a semi-regular basis. Why is that again?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Is it “just as bad” or “also bad”?

  • Lori

     

    Is it “just as bad” or “also bad”?   

    OK, to be fair it probably is intended to be “also bad”, not “just as bad”. Irritation trips my hyperbole generator.  I still say the whole comparison is just crap.

    The “look at the terrible atheists” stuff always seems to be a rehash of old news about the same 2 or 3 people. If you take away the references to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens there’s be a whole lot of not much left. By contrast some fairly high profile Christianist says some new horrible thing all the damn time. The same dozen or so assholes provide a disproportionate number of those horrible things, but there are always new faces in the jerk crowd. Some state legislator that no one outside his district has ever heard of before or a judge no one outside his state knows about or some wanna be mega church pastor that no one outside the bubble has previously encountered and then wham!, there they are. Getting their 15 minutes of fame saying something appalling that insults and frequently flat out threatens non-Christians or women or racial minorities or GLBTQ folks.

    My point is that there’s no comparison so attempts to make a comparison just come across as butthurt at best and actively shitty at worst.

  • Anton_Mates

    Or perhaps, like every other public speaker ever in the history of time, he’s using rabble-rousing terminology to make his cause sound better and the opposing cause sound worse.

    Or that, yeah, but Dawkins makes sufficiently detailed arguments on the subject that I don’t think he’s just trying to score drama points.  He really does think (correctly, IMO) that indoctrination in concepts like hell can cause worse and more lasting trauma to kids than some of the actions we legally define as abuse.  He then blunders all over the place when he gets into the specifics because he has no expertise whatever in this area, but anyway.

    When people claim that Rev. Wright speaks for all black people, it’s silly. When people claim that Pat Robertson speaks for all Christians, it’s silly. But whenever Dawkins opens his cray-cray Limey mouth, suddenly all the atheists are sitting at home taking notes. 

    I think that’s partly because Dawkins is not considered generally cray-cray.  The public thinks of him as a reliable authority on evolution and other forms of science, and a lot of nonbelievers who disagree with some of his politics still appreciate his theological arguments and his support for church-state separation.  That makes it more plausible to claim that he represents the atheist mainstream in all aspects of his thinking–you wouldn’t have to be insane to endorse him unreservedly, just suffer from the same blindspots that he does.

    Of course, people also claim that Dawkins is our pope because of hypocrisy and monolithizing the Other and an intentional smear campaign. But I think honest ignorance plays a part.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    He really does think (correctly, IMO) that indoctrination in concepts like hell can cause worse and more lasting trauma to kids than some of the actions we legally define as abuse. 

    Are you denying that religion can be a component of the emotional abuse of children?

    Because it sounds like you concede it, and then immediately backtrack by saying:

    He then blunders all over the place when he gets into the specifics because he has no expertise whatever in this area

  • Anton_Mates

     Invisible Neutrino,

    Are you denying that religion can be a component of the emotional abuse of children?

    Nope, that’s why I said “correctly.”  I am denying that Dawkins is justified in the speculations he goes on to make about the relative harmfulness of various forms of religious indoctrination and sexual abuse.  If he just said that religious indoctrination can be an element in emotional abuse, and that this can be more damaging than sexual abuse for some people, that’d be fine.  But when he says that the typical Catholic victim of an abusive priest is “arguably” more damaged by growing up Catholic than by the abuse itself, or when he heavily implies that sexual abuse has no long-term effects unless it’s violent and painful, and that older abuse victims of the Church are profiting from litigation awards that they don’t deserve, he’s off the rails. 

    Ruby_Tea,

    Actually, he uses very specific stories, both of himself and other
    people.

    In the writings of his that I’ve read, he invokes two stories.  One, a woman who was abused and taught about the damnation of unbelievers and found the latter to be more traumatic.  Two, he himself was abused and he thinks that if he had been taught about the damnation of unbelievers, that would be more traumatic.  That’s basically N=1.5 .

    He doesn’t equate anecdata with data, and he doesn’t hold
    himself out as an expert in the field of child abuse.  He’s simply
    making a point that not all abuse is created equal.

    Sure, he absolutely does not claim to be an expert on this stuff, nor that his positions are proven.  But his claims are sufficiently strong–and sufficiently potentially hurtful–that I don’t think he’s in the clear just because he says “I suspect” and “arguably” and “it may be” a lot.

    Again, if what he actually said was just “Hey, not all abuse is created equal, and I think we overlook the harm due to religious indoctrination, which may be very severe, more research needed,” I’d have no problem. 

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Sure, he absolutely does not claim to be an expert on this stuff, nor that his positions are proven. But his claims are sufficiently strong–and sufficiently potentially hurtful–that I don’t think he’s in the clear just because he says “I suspect” and “arguably” and “it may be” a lot.

    Again, if what he actually said was just “Hey, not all abuse is created equal, and I think we overlook the harm due to religious indoctrination, which may be very severe, more research needed,” I’d have no problem.

    That is basically what he said.  I find it fascinating that he was incredibly clear on what he meant, but people still feel the need to twist themselves into pretzels to find ways to hate Dawkins.  (Cue 4,521st Elevatrogate discussion this month, to show that Richard Dawkins is The Worst Human Being on the Planet.)

    I’m also interested in your phrase “sufficiently potentially harmful.”  How so?  How is encouraging a discussion on different types of abuse harmful?

    You know, people made (and sometimes still make) a similar argument about other different kinds of abuse: “Emotional abuse?  Emotional???  How dare you say that saying mean things to someone is the same as hitting him, you monster!”

    This tends to happen when people try new ways of thinking about things.  But it’s not actually a bad thing by definition–even if it does come from The Worst Human Being on the Planet.

  • Anton_Mates

     

    That is basically what he said.

     

    No, it’s not.  What he said–basically–was that sexual abuse often isn’t as bad as everybody thinks it is, and that belief in hell is more traumatic than “mild” sexual abuse that isn’t “violent, painful, repeated.”  And that the Catholic abuse victims who are bringing lawsuits actually suffered more from being brought up Catholic than from the sexual abuse, and are opportunists looking for “lucrative redress” by bringing up “long-forgotten wrongs,” and are complaining about the damage to their faith because they want the sympathy of the jury.

    And yes, he said that these claims were “arguable,” and only applied to “many” victims, and more research necessary, etc.  Somehow that doesn’t seem to me to make it alright.

    Oh, and, “Nobody thinks the physical injuries of sexual abuse could possibly last decades.”  Ahahahano.

    I find it fascinating that he was incredibly clear on what he meant, but people still feel the need to twist themselves into pretzels to find ways to hate Dawkins.

    Yes, yes, we all hate Dawkins, which is why we’ve been arguing that he’s not as bad as the leaders of the religious right for the last four pages of this thread.

    I’m also interested in your phrase “sufficiently potentially harmful.” How so?  How is encouraging a discussion on different types of abuse harmful?

    “Let’s have a discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of various socioeconomic systems!  Arguably, black people are generally better off as slaves!  Further research needed!”

    Not all “discussions” are created equal.  When you open a discussion by throwing out hurtful and destructive claims with minimal evidence, and then fail to provide citations to the actual literature that bears on your topic (seriously, there are studies of the impact of non-violent sexual abuse), you belong on Fox.

    You know, people made (and sometimes still make) a similar argument about other different kinds of abuse: “Emotional abuse?  Emotional???  How dare you say that saying mean things to someone is the same as hitting him, you monster!”

    Yeah, and if someone replied, “Well, I was smacked around a little by my father and being beaten by your parents isn’t that bad.  I bet it’s usually better than having mean things said to you and we need to stop worrying about kids being beaten so much,” I’d be complaining about him too.

    If you want to raise awareness of Abuse Type X, put up all the data you can find about why Abuse Type X is prevalent and harmful.  Don’t start talking about how everyone worries about Abuse Type Y, but really it’s usually not as bad as Type X and people need to stop obsessing about it and invoking it to rake in the lawsuit winnings.  You can highlight one kind of abuse without trivializing another.

    This tends to happen when people try new ways of thinking about things.

    Trivializing sexual abuse is not a new way of thinking about things.  It is, in fact, very very old.  And it’s a hallowed tradition in the very church Dawkins is attacking.

    He did the same damn thing when he said that the “Jewish lobby” monopolizes US foreign policy.  If you tilt your head and squint you can sort of see the legitimate point he was trying to make, but the actual statement that came out of his mouth was flatly false, and perpetuated a very old and harmful slur that’s normally made by people he rightly despises.

    Look, Dawkins has done lots of good stuff.  He’s an incredibly effective public science educator (I tend to think he’s excessively adaptationist when he talks biology, but that pales next to the sheer number of people he’s gotten interested in the topic.)  He’s done lots to make atheists more visible, more outspoken, and better organized.  He’s on the right side of almost every church-state issue.  He does good charity work.  It’s just that he also periodically makes hurtful, overgeneralized, inflammatory claims on topics in which he has no expertise.  That doesn’t make him the Worst Human Being on the Planet, it just makes him significantly less helpful than he would be if he didn’t do it.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If you want to raise awareness of Abuse Type X, put up all the data you can find about why Abuse Type X is prevalent and harmful.  Don’t start talking about how everyone worries about Abuse Type Y, but really it’s usually not as bad as Type X and people need to stop obsessing about it and invoking it to rake in the lawsuit winnings.  You can highlight one kind of abuse without trivializing another.

    I just wanted to highlight this because it’s true, easy to miss in the back-and-forth, and seemed worth emphasizing.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    As far as “sexual abuse not being as bad as all that”, I offer hundreds, if not thousands, of Aboriginals who grew up in Canadian residential schools and the concomitant alcoholism and drug abuse that characterizes conditions on many Indian Reserves as a counterpoint.

    Granted, the remainder of the abuse also had to do with purposeful cultural and linguistic suppression, but put all of it together and it’s not at all trivial. (-_-)

  • Anton_Mates

    Granted, the remainder of the abuse also had to do with purposeful cultural and linguistic suppression, but put all of it together and it’s not at all trivial.

    Exactly–put all of it together.  Presumably, not all those types of abuse (and of course religious indoctrination was a big element in the cultural suppression part) were equal factors in causing that social damage.  But I don’t know which types of abuse were most destructive, and if I were going to speculate about that in my writings for the general public, I’d want to do some serious research first.  And if certain Aboriginal abuse survivors claim that the sexual element was the most destructive part for them, I’m going to let them be the judge of that unless I have very good reason to think I know better than they do.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Or that, yeah, but Dawkins makes sufficiently detailed arguments on the subject that I don’t think he’s just trying to score drama points. He really does think (correctly, IMO) that indoctrination in concepts like hell can cause worse and more lasting trauma to kids than some of the actions we legally define as abuse.

    I happen to agree with both you and Dawkins on this point.  And Dawkins makes it clear that this is only the case with some children, and depends on the severity of both the teachings and the sexual abuse.

    He then blunders all over the place when he gets into the specifics because he has no expertise whatever in this area, but anyway.

    Actually, he uses very specific stories, both of himself and other people.  He doesn’t equate anecdata with data, and he doesn’t hold himself out as an expert in the field of child abuse.  He’s simply making a point that not all abuse is created equal.

    (btw, for those who hop on the bandwagon of, “The atheists just want to use the Force of Law to OPPRESS US!!!” I would like to point out that Dawkins doesn’t even believe the courts should be used for most of the abuse cases at the hands of the church.)

    Actual citation:
    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/118

  • caryjamesbond

    But it’s vitally important that christians police their own if they don’t want others to assume Pat Robertson speaks for them.

    Yes. There was that series of like, ten posts on the 3d page where me and lori and Ruby and every other atheist ritualistically kissed dawkins feet.

    Wait, what?  That never happened? Pretty much every mention of Dawkins, Harris and their ilk has been either condemning or filled with language suggesting that we think they’re nutters?  Gee.  It’s almost as though all the atheists here have been policing their own before you lectured us with your infinite Rossian wisdom.  

    No one, including, I might add, Dawkins and Harris, wants to take away your right to believe whatever you believe. Every single atheist I have ever met, and every book by Dawkins et al I’ve read has been STRONGLY in favor of religious rights.

     Now, some of us may want to CONVERT you. And if you can’t handle that- honestly, go cry me a river. People trying to convert you to their particular brand of stuff is what people do. And given that if I were to say, for example, that I was anti-abortion or pro-flat tax, a lot of people wringing their hands about the mean ol’ evangelizers (both atheist and Christer )would be on me like white on rice….I’m not really too worried about the negative effects on you of the occasional street preacher or Dawkins soundbite. 

    (Oh, but these ideas are HARMFUL, I hear you say. Gee, you know. When Dawkins suggested that teaching your child they’ll burn in hell if bad was harmful, some people here got all “HE’S A-GONNA OPPRESS US” about it.   Sauce for goose, sauce for gander. I’m anti-abortion* and if you try to CONVERT me you just want to ELIMINATE ME AND CALL ME A CHILD ABUSER. Or something. I’m really not sure what the issue here is, to be honest.)

    *not really.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Now, some of us may want to CONVERT you. And if you can’t handle that- honestly, go cry me a river.

    I don’t think Ross has complained that anyone attempting to convert anyone else to something is a deeply evil thing. Could be wrong, but it doesn’t sound like something Ross would say.

  • caryjamesbond

    Is it “just as bad” or “also bad”?

    The entire problem there is that even Lori is talking about comparing “Christian nutters” to “atheists.”  Not “Atheist nutters.” There is a strong cultural trend in America to do this. If I tried to say Pat Robertson spoke for all Christians, I’d be ridiculed. Yet either overt or implied suggestions that Dawkins speaks for all atheists is seen as fine, and when atheists demand that we at least get equal treatment, we get…well, all this. 

    Are their atheists that want to ban religion? Undoubtedly. There are 300 million people in the US alone. About 10% are atheists.  That’s thirty MILLION people. Which means that, statistically speaking, there are atheists who believe just about any bs you can imagine. There are flat-earth atheists and hollow-earth atheists and probably geocentric atheists. There are racist atheists and lottery-winning atheists and atheists who are allergic to water and so on.  Trying to speak of atheists as a group, as many people in this thread have done, is as stupid as trying to speak of any other group as a monolith. 

  • Lori

     

    The entire problem there is that even Lori is talking about comparing “Christian nutters” to “atheists.”  Not “Atheist nutters.”   

    No I’m not. If it read that way I apologize. I was responding to the fact that Ross’ comments often seem to talk about “atheists”, but quote the same 2 or 3 jerks every time.

    To be clear:

    Ross’ nutters = Christian nutters

    My nutters = Atheist nutters

    I wouldn’t dream of denying that we have some idiots. Every group does. I wouldn’t speculate about nutters per capita, but in absolute terms there are obviously far fewer atheist nutters because there are far fewer atheists and clearly they have no real power. They can yap on chat shows all they want, but no one is going to take away someone’s kids or refuse to allow them to adopt because they’re Christians and bringing a kid up in a religious household is abuse. (Which, as noted, isn’t even what Harris wants to do).

    The day people start talking about giving the state contract to manage adoptions to an agency that refuses to place children in religious homes I will be right there. Do please keep me on the list of folks to call for the rally when that happens. I don’t anticipate ever getting that call, but if it happens I’ll do my bit.

    Until then I don’t even begin to have the energy to waste on the fact that a member of a nearly powerless minority said something that got up the nose of a member of the very powerful majority. It’s rude and stupid and more than a bit hypocritical, and once that’s been said I really don’t see the point in discussing it further. I certainly don’t see the point in bringing it up long after the fact as part of a “You do it too.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Agreed. Treating any incredibly diverse group as if it were homogenous to better help you dismiss the whole group is a crappy tactic.

  • caryjamesbond

    The flavor of the month today is “OMG the Arabs with their fanatical Islamofascist leaders and terrorists and whatnot!” but in twenty years it could as easily be something else.
    Yes. Harris is an idiot. There is no perceptible difference between the democratic leaders of France, the US, and England and the Ayatollah Kahmenei or King Abdullah. Those two are noted for their responsible leadership and leading roles in the international search for world peace.   Are all muslims terrorists? Of course not. But the majority of people who LEAD Islamic countries I wouldn’t trust with a cap gun, let alone the potential to end the world.  (And I’m not all that fond of the Russian or Chinese leaders either, but at least I’m sure they just want money and power instead of 72 virgins.)

     people also claim that Dawkins is our pope I would also like to note that, despite the fact that their is actually a clear cut Catholic hierarchy with the Pope at the top, no one is particularly shocked to discover that individual catholics disagree with the pope on various issues.  

    It’s essentially the same issue that any minority population faces. I’m pretty sure I read a shakesville article laying it out.  Essentially, whenever a member of the majority population expresses an opinion, it’s their personal opinion. But statements by members of minority groups are routinely treated as being the opinion of that entire group. (I know I’ve made this mistake- it’s very tempting to turn to your black, or gay, or whatever friend and go “so what do you guys think about X issues?”)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > it’s very tempting to turn to your black, or gay, or whatever friend and go “so what do you guys think about X issues?”

    The temptation, when asked this sort of thing, to make up the most ridiculous shit I can think of is enormous.

  • caryjamesbond

    I’m comparing attempts to convert, say, Jews to Christianity to attempts to convert gays to heterosexuality.

    And if your average Evangelical/Atheist used tactics at all comparable to either the Spanish Inquisition or the de-gaying industry, we’d have an issue. But handing out tracts, reasoned debate, or street preaching are not similar tactics to brainwashing and physical violence. They aren’t even the same species. Hell, one is eukaryotic and the other is prokaryotic. 

  • Carstonio

    While you’re right that the tactics aren’t the same, that has little to do with my point. The evangelists using those tactics want something from the person they’re targeting. The person has no assurance that the evangelists won’t use those worse tactics if they don’t get what they want. Again, it comes down to  how the person meets their expectations and how the others will treat the person based on those expectations.

  • caryjamesbond

    The person has no assurance that the evangelists won’t use those worse tactics if they don’t get what they want.

    Errrrr….how?  I mean, anti-gay initiatives work two ways- parents send their kids their, using that parental authority, or people check themselves in, they just don’t grab people off the street. What you seem to be saying is that you’re concerned that people will escalate from non-problematic tactics to problematic tactics, and I’m not sure how that would work, legally. Anything stronger than just engaging you in conversation, you can just walk away from.  Evangelicals of any religion aren’t kidnapping you. 

    The evangelists using those tactics want something from the person they’re targeting. 

    So do television ads. Do you find those immoral?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > Evangelicals of any religion aren’t kidnapping you.

     That’s true. Neither are anti-gay activists.

    Anti-gay activists are backing legal and cultural forces that make it not OK for me to be gay. And some evangelicals are backing legal and cultural forces that make it not OK for me to be atheist. (Or, in some cases, Jewish.)

  • Carstonio

     

    What you seem to be saying is that you’re concerned that people will
    escalate from non-problematic tactics to problematic tactics, and I’m
    not sure how that would work, legally.

    Sure, it sounds unworkable in practice. I’m just suggesting that it may be natural to be fearful when people want something from you, particularly if you’ve had negative experiences of that sort. Not a fear of kidnapping, obviously, but simply an nameless emotional association. Corporations that want your money wouldn’t necessarily be in the same category, because that’s a far more understandable desire.

  • caryjamesbond

    And some evangelicals are backing legal and cultural forces that make it not OK for me to be atheist.

    Yup.  Which is a problem with those people, not with the act of attempted conversion.  The entire argument here is whether or not trying to convert someone is a bad, negating-them-as-a-human-being action. Some of the people trying to convert other are bad, yes. But so are some of the people selling insurance. That doesn’t make selling insurance wrong.  


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