Comment roundup 12/14.

This week’s comment comes from John Sunderman.

Amazing…so Santa Claus is not a myth?? And of course Athiests have to insult Christianity…can’t just believe in whatever it is they believe (which is pretty much nothing), Athiests have to impose their beliefs on everyone else in society–pathetic.

No, John.  The billboard categorizes Santa and Jesus both as myths.  The difference is that atheists can be consistent with our myths.  No jolly fat man rides a flying sleigh pulled by floating reindeer.  Similarly, no Canaanite dude rose from the dead and flew into the sky either.  Believing in one is just as shameful as believing in the other.

And we can believe what we believe, which is actually a lot.  I, for instance, believe most of the things on wikipedia.  We can also make us of the same rights as Christians: to vocalize our beliefs.  It’s not only the religious that get to say the other side is wrong (and often threaten us with hell right after), atheists get to do that too.

And just how do we impose our beliefs on everyone else in society?  Do we pass laws trying to restrict who Christians can marry?  Do we march into churches insisting that Sunday schools teach evolution (or try to pass laws to that effect)?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John-Henry Beck

    I think I was the first to visit. So I’ll be the first to comment, too. Whee. Vacuously, though, since it’s not exactly controversial around here.
    I certainly agree we should be exercising our right to be just as vocal as the theists. If they want to run around by the millions asserting their particular myths really are real, we can point out those myths are just as silly and irrational as everyone else’s mythologies.

  • RuQu

    My wife and I do not have kids yet, but we plan to.

    She loves Christmas, and Santa Claus. My condition, which she fully supports, for the exception to my policy against lying to children or teaching them to believe false things is that we will provide evidence for Santa Claus. This is actually already a tradition in her family, with grandparents writing letters “from Santa” in July to check up on them and comment on a few naughty and nice things they did, and then providing “from” tags for gifts in the same handwriting for Christmas itself.

    This allows them to engage in the fun of the idea, but without it being irrational. They have evidence to back up that belief. As they get older and question the magic of flying reindeer, they then get to enjoy the pleasure of putting the pieces together for themselves and realizing the truth.

    Christianity provides no such evidence. There is no rational basis to believe any of it, and once you are an adult you should have outgrown reflexive belief in the absurd.

    • Jonathan

      I don’t know that I object to this at all strongly; in a world rife with unsupported beliefs, this could well serve as a comparably safe learning experience. I do wonder after its efficacy, though: conflict will presumably arise between the evidence they represent and friends who out the lie (or friends who have received vastly less evidence), necessitating ever more parental deception to maintain the facade. Worst case, I suspect, is one in where little but distrust is learned and friends are alienated. But that might not be at all likely. I don’t know.

      My parents were also against lying to children or [knowingly] teaching them false things–they told me the truth about Santa for precisely those reasons. They were also sincere Christians; and they taught me what they thought was true.

      My purpose in responding is to submit that religion can provide a similar sort of evidence. For example, when I prayed for my cat to come home safely or for my parents to remain alive, and they did, chalk one up for God, right? Similarly, when you’re taught to think in certain ways, to get yourself into a certain state of mind, and taught how to interpret those experiences–you can have profound-seeming experiences that appear to validate what you’ve been taught.

      Granted, none of this comes anywhere near intellectually defensible belief, but I submit that it is of similar character to the sort of evidence you would provide your children. When they receive letters from Santa, they might not wonder after the authorship or realize the possibility (or motives) of deceit. Just so, a child will commonly fail to realize that prayer is rigged or that experience need not validate interpretation.

      If evidence of the Santa-sort provides children with rational reasons to believe in Santa, then similarly shoddy evidence would seem to provide rational reasons for a child to believe in, say, Christianity.

      In close, I’ve realized that my issue is with the assertion that the Santa-belief would be rational, while [a child's belief in] Christianity could never be. I contend that neither are [rational]; and that one cannot be deemed so absent the other.

      As far as learning experiences go, though, I’m in favor of deliberate deception/Santa. Even if it fails, it’ll fuck them up far less. And it could prove quite valuable.

      Take care :)

      • RuQu

        It’s true that you can only provide, at best, shaky evidence. However, I’d suggest that the difference between “letters from Santa” and “my cat came home after I prayed” is two-fold:

        1) It is direct evidence. You cannot dismiss a letter from Santa where he shows knowledge of some of your actions as coincidence.
        2) Repeatability. Every July they get a letter, and if they write one back you can ensure it arrives at your accomplice and gets replied to.

        One of the hardest things, and where I certainly agree with you, is that children are naturally trusting have no reason to question the truth statements of adults, even if they involve the absurd or magical. Teaching them to say “show me the evidence” early is helpful, even if it is still in the context of a magical belief.

  • Atheistmorons

    we really enjoy your atheist blog

    do a search on youtube for skepticality

    a little souvenir

    it is the video about the PIGS

    • baal

      You’re farming up hits? There were 99 on this gem: You can link stuff and save folks the query. I have a hard time understanding how painted James Randi and then painitng a mountain over him (old man in the mountain?) makes a point. You also have this, “how the divine pen of michel N. annihilated the skeptic movement:”. Grandiosity is not a good thing. It’s a sign actually that you should reconsider your views. Also, if you’re going to do a drive by trolling, at least take a stab at commenting on the OP.

      I’d love to see bills introduced to require teaching geology and how it shows the age of the earth into every bible class :). See, Atheistmorons – it’s easy.

      • Rob

        That all sounds like vintage Mabus. I thought he was back in custody though.