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Today is the birthday of Thomas Paine.  Paine named this country the United States of America.  And yet, even 100 years after his death, Theodore Roosevelt once referred to him as a "filthy little atheist."  With a man in the White House whose doesn't fit our tidy little boxes, maybe we have a chance to daylight some other long lived stereotypes.

Atheists are arrogant. Who hasn't heard it?

Arrogance is just one of their repellent qualities, of course. They are also ungenerous, cold, lonely, untrustworthy, amoral, and aggressive. You shouldn't leave them around children. When I spoke last week to a group called Seattle Atheists, the organizer positioned me far from the door, and I speculated aloud about whether I should be worried for my safety, given what we know about atheist ethics.

But the most common accusation hurled against atheists is that they are insufferably arrogant. In my experience, this accusation is rarely about a specific encounter: I was talking with Joan, my atheist neighbor down the street last week and do you know how I was treated by that insufferable witch?!

No, it is more like a mantra.

In Seattle, there's a chain of hamburger joints called Dick's. People who find themselves on the topic of hamburgers will say, "Dick's is great" almost as an opener, before they move on to the details of the conversation. Amazingly, I've heard this even from folks who have never eaten there. Dick's is great. Atheists are arrogant.

The accusation provides cover for those who want dismiss thinkers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens. I've often marveled that anyone could read Harris' manifesto--written as graduate student's post-9-11 cry of anguish, or Hitchens' litany of social corrosion and atrocity in the names of gods, or Dawkins' urgent appeal to evidence and reason, or Dennett's nerdy analysis of human information processing, and find themselves reacting above all to perceived arrogance. Images of people jumping from fiery buildings. Mutilated genitals. Radically cool glimpses of our mental circuitry - and the dominant reaction is disgust about arrogance?

Interestingly, the accusation also provides cover for those who agree with the Four Horsemen. Young non-theists writing even for edgy places like Wired Magazine or The Stranger go to some lengths to say I'm not like those atheist guys. We all can agree to loathe them. Mind you, they do make a decent point or two . . . . The ugly atheist stereotype is so strong, that people feel like they need to distance from atheism's iconic figures if they want a shot at being heard--or perhaps, even, liking themselves.

But what's underneath the stereotype? For years, as a practicing psychologist, it was my job to listen for the feelings and needs behind the tone, and I think a host of feelings and yearnings are obscured by the "arrogance" label. Below are some of the emotions I hear in the writings and conversations of self-identified atheists, and some my imperfect hypotheses about where they come from:

Resolve
Nobody self-labels as an atheist in our culture unless he or she is "out" for a reason. It's like looking white in Alabama and making a point to tell people about your black father. Freethinkers who adopt the label publicly have decided for one reason or another to take the heat, and they are not necessarily representative of the broad range of freethinkers who may choose other labels or none at all.

For some people, being out as an atheist is personality driven or developmental. (All of us know natural born contrarians; many of us experiment with identities on the way to adulthood.) For some it is political. For some it comes from a deep conviction that we must find some way to change the public conversation about what is good and what is real and how to live in community with each other. All self-labeled atheists are braced, steeled against the stereotype, but they have varied reasons for looking society in the eye and saying, This is who I am. What they have in common is a sense of determination and the willingness to pay a price.

Frustration
Theism gets a pass on the rules of reason and evidence that normally guide our social discourse. In a boardroom or a laboratory, we don't get to say, "I just know in my heart that this product is going to sell," or "This drug works even though the experiment didn't come out that way."

Cartoonist Wiley Miller captured atheist frustration perfectly in a recent Non Sequitur entitled "The Invention of Ideology:"

One caveman stands in the rain.
Another behind him under shelter comments, "Um, why you standing in the rain?"
"It not raining"
"Yes it is."
"No it not."
"Huh? Water fall from sky. That rain."
"That your opinion."
"Not opinion. Fact. See? Raindrops."
"Don't need to look. Already know it not rain."
"If it not rain, then why you wet and me dry?"
(Pause) "Define 'wet' . . . "
"Oww . . . Brain hurt!"

What does frustration sound like? When it doesn't sound like brain pain, it sounds impatient,sharp and distancing.

Incredulity
Believers look at the dogmas of religions other than their own and see them as silly, and yet find their own perfectly reasonable. Atheists, except for those few with formal training in the psychology of belief, find it incredible, almost unbelievable that the faithful don't perceive some higher order parallel between their religion and others--and run the numbers, so to speak. Of course that's not how ideology works, and per cognitive scientist Pascal Boyer, rationality is like Swiss Cheese for all of us. But if you buy the Enlightenment view of man as a rational being, it's easy to get sucked in and expect rationality and then be incredulous when you simply can't get smart people to bind themselves to the obligations of logic and evidence.

Offense
It feels obnoxious to have people assume that you have no moral core, that you rejected Christianity because you wanted to sin without guilt, or that you are damaged goods, the object of pity. Fundamentalist Christians, when they have given up on conversion, treat non-believers as agents of evil who reject God, like Lucifer did, out of willful defiance. Modernist Christians express benign sympathy -- and look for early childhood wounding (in particular at the hands of fundamentalists that left the scarred freethinker unable to enjoy the wonder and joy of faith. Both fundamentalists and modernists often assume that freethinkers miss out on wonder, joy and a sense of transcendent meaning. Atheists take offense, even when these assumptions are couched kindly and are well intended.

Resentment
Atheists, along with the rest of America, listened to a presidential inauguration in which the preachers, combined, got almost as much talk time as the president. They help their kids figure out what to do with the anti-communist, "under God" line in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Go along with it? Stand silently? Substitute "under magic"? How about "under Canada?") They pay their bills with "In God we trust." They listen to born-again testimonials as a part of public high school graduation ceremonies and reunions. They do twelve years of training and then twelve hours of surgery and then read in the paper that a child was saved miraculously by prayer. Sometimes they get mad.

Pain
On websites like exChristian.net, doubters often lurk for months or even years before they finally confess their loss of faith. Because apostasy is so taboo, they struggle over how to tell their children, or spouses or parents or congregations--especially the fallen ministers. They wrestle with guilt and fear, just like their religions say they should. They deal with rejection, even shunning. Some of them come out at tremendous personal cost. See "When Leaving Jesus means Losing Your Family." Although this doesn't apply to all freethinkers, for those who are in the process of losing their religion, the pain is real. And pain has an edge. Try selling anything, including dogma, to a woman with a migraine.

Empathy
Not all atheist pain about religion is personal. Many nontheists feel anguished by the sexual abuse that is enabled by religious hierarchy, by women shrouded in black and girls barred from schools, by the implements of inquisition that lie in museums, by ongoing Christian witch burnings in Africa and India, or by those images of people leaping from windows. Even less dramatic suffering can be hard to witness- children who fear eternal torture, teens who attempt suicide because they are gay and so condemned, women who submit to their own abuse or the abuse of their children because God hates divorce. To the extent that we experience empathy, these events are can feel unbearable,  the more so because they seem so unnecessary.

Moral Indignation
Atheist morality is rooted in notions of universal ethical principles, either philosophical or biological, and often centered on compassion and equity. Since the point of atheist morality is to serve wellbeing, suffering caused by religion often triggers not only horror but moral outrage. Each believer sees his or her religion as a positive moral force in a corrupt world. Most think that morality comes straight from their god.  Because of this, believers  fail to recognize when atheist outrage is morally rooted. They don't understand that atheists frequently see religion as a force that pushes otherwise decent people to have immoral priorities. When, for example, the religious oppose vaccinations, or contraception, or they come to care more about gay marriage than hunger, an atheist is likely to perceive that religion undermines morality. When theism sanctifies terrorism or honor killings, atheists are apalled.

Love and Longing
What folks like Sam Harris and Bill Maher are saying, as loudly as they know how, is that they love  this imperfect world, and they fear for it.  They long to see that which they cherish most: natural beauty, global community, human rights, and the fruits of scientific discovery handed down to their children and ours.  But they believe wholeheartedly in the power of religion to destroy that which they hold dear. Why?

Need we even ask?  Think about the Twin Towers, the Taliban, the Religious Right's yearning for Armageddon, the geometric progression of our global population curve and the Church's opposition to family planning as a moral responsibility. Think about the trajectory of human religious history - what has happened in the past when unquestioned ideologies controlled government and military. Think abstractly about a social/economic/international policy approach that is unaccountable to data, one that sees doubt as weakness, agreement among insiders as proof, and change as bad. Think concretely about suitcase nukes in the hands of Pentecostals or Wahabis who believe that a deity is speaking directly through their impulses and intuitions.

The prophets of the godless are crying out that 21st century technologies guided by Bronze Age priorities may bring about a scale of suffering that our ancestors could  describe only as hell. You might not agree with them, but to understand their in-your-face stridency as anything more complex than arrogance, you have hear the depth of their urgency.

Desperation
Have you ever had a dream in which, no matter how hard you try no-one can hear you? Many freethinkers feel like that whenever they try to talk about their journey of discovery.
"Hey," say former fundies. "Guess what I found out. The Bible contradicts itself. Do you want to see where?"
"I never meant to end up godless," say former moderates. "Do you want to hear how it happened?"
"'A theory' isn't something we dream up afterhours," say biologists. "Can we tell you what a scientific theory is to us?"
"We think we've figured out how those out-of-body experiences and bright lights work - at a neurological level," say neuroscientists. "Care to know?"
"Religion may increase compassion toward insiders at the expense of outsiders," say sociologists. "Are you interested in finding out?"
"What if we can no longer afford beliefs without evidentiary basis?" ask the bell ringers. "What if unaccountable belief inevitably produces some that are dangerous?"

It's not the fundamentalists they are hoping to engage. It is moderate, decent people of faith--the majority of the human race. But are moderate believers open to such questions? Many outsiders think not, and people who feel hopeless about being heard either go silent or get loud.

So, let's come back to arrogance.

Yes. Atheists are susceptible. They think they have it right. (So do we all.) And yes, those nonbelievers who underestimate the power of viral ideologies and transcendent experiences tend to think that belief must be an IQ thing, meaning a lack thereof. And yes, dismay, pain, outrage, incredulity and desperation all make people tactless, sometimes aggressively so.

But I don't think any of these is why frank talk from atheists so consistently triggers accusations of arrogance. The unflinching tones adopted by the Four Horsemen are not more harsh or critical than what we accept routinely in academic debate or civic life. It is the subject matter that is the issue.

I would argue that atheist talk about religion seems particularly harsh because it violates unspoken norms about how we should approach religion in our relationships and conversations. Here are some of those rules:

  • It's plain old mean to shake the faith that gives another person comfort and community, so don't do it.
  • If you doubt, keep it to yourself.
  • Practice don't-ask-don't tell about unbelief.
  • Be respectful of other people--respecting people means respecting their beliefs.
  • If someone tries to convert you, be polite because they only mean well.
  • Remember that faith is good and even a brittle, misguided faith is better than none at all.
  • Outspoken atheists break all of these rules. They do and say things that are verboten. They insert their evidences and opinions where these are clearly unwelcome. Is this the height of self-importance?

    Recently I interviewed former Pentecostal minister Rich Lyons about his journey out of Christianity. We found ourselves laughing about the velvet arrogance of our former beliefs: that we, among all humans knew for sure what was real; that we knew what the Bible writers actually meant; that our instincts, hunches and emotions were the voice of God; that we were designated messengers for the power that created the galaxies and DNA code -- and that He just happened to have an oh-so-human psyche, like ours. What other hubris could compare, really?

    Maybe it is time for all of us glass-house dwellers, theists and freethinkers alike,  to move beyond conversations about arrogance and onto much needed conversations about substance.

    Originally posted to Awaypoint on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:13 PM PST.

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    Comment Preferences

    •  I follow the Obama Dictum (17+ / 0-)

      If the Godly bring a knife, I bring a gun.

      Al que no le guste el caldo, le dan dos tazas.

      by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:15:40 PM PST

    •  Freedom From Religion Foundation (13+ / 0-)

      A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

      by raatz on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:16:38 PM PST

    •  I think Dick's Hamburgers are actually crappy (13+ / 0-)

      and I'm an atheist.

      also, like such as. also.

      by ghostlawns on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:18:40 PM PST

    •  this shall be an interesting diary to watch... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, Larsstephens, ArtSchmart

      (0.12, -3.33) ONE America! and I am Unanimous in that!

      by terrypinder on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:24:43 PM PST

    •  I hang with atheists all the time (10+ / 0-)

      Never really think they are arrogant. I think Dennett and especially Dawkins are shallow, however.
      Why not referece a serious defense of atheism, such as Michael Martin's? Even Nietzshe, for all his bluster and genetic fallacy, is a fun read.

      I am always up for rational debate.

        •  Is atheism the fallback position? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Larsstephens

          maybe, but there are all sorts of arguments for theism. Personally, I think the cosmologicaly argument is undervalued, as is the argument from religious experience and the argument from the bankrupcy of current materialist orthodoxy (which is the strongest--I am much more certain that naturalism is false than I am that theism is true, in fact (why? becasue naturalism fails to due justice to objective moral truths, to logical (as opposed to causal) relationships, to consciousness--witness how people like dennett poo-pooh first person subjective experience.... and so on.

          I think the ontological argument, in its best version, is question begging, but it still needs to be taken seriously.

          You cannot just ignore 2000 + years of natural theology.

        •  Says who? (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, kalmoth, OJD, Larsstephens, terabthia2

          I don't see any need to prove anything to you.  Nor do I see any need for you to prove anything to me.  I don't even think it's possible to prove, in either direction.  Occam's Razor isn't a proof, it's a tool-- and a postulate (to avoid the word "faith") of atheists not shared by theists in this instance.

          •  Re (10+ / 0-)

            Of course, you have your own standards for what to believe personally, but there is only one way to think logically, which is to use the scientific method. You use the scientific method in every other part of your life: I merely use the same method you use everywhere else here. It isn't about proving anything to me, it's about whether you're using the scientific method or not.

            In science, there is no "proof" of anything at all. you are never 100% certain of any fact, no matter how obvious it may seem. There is always doubt. Some facts, like the fact that the earth travels around the sun, have such a high probability of being true that we can simply discount the slight probability that it is not true.

            And my statement above had nothing to do with Occam's Razor. You literally need a reason, some reason, to believe that something is true before you can even consider the idea. No affirmative reasons means gods are in the same category as pink unicorns.

            •  A better life beyond? (0+ / 0-)

              That's my affirmative reason.

              Go ahead and laugh, but I stand by it.

            •  What reason do you have (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kalmoth, Larsstephens

              to believe that I exist?

              •  I understand... (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dabize, tommymet, crose, Larsstephens

                ...how computers work and have a lot of experience using them. The probability that you actually are a human being instead of some other phenomena manifesting itself on my computer screen is high enough that other explanations can be safely discounted.

                •  Not enough (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AlanF, kalmoth, The Werewolf Prophet

                  So you trust your memory of experiences and your senses.  Both can be tampered with and fail.  You could be a brain in a jar, being fed false information by who knows whom.  This could be a holodeck.  This could all be a diseased hallucination.

                  The point is, you have to start with some baseline assumptions or you can't function at all.  Since you talk about probability, I'll bring up mathematics: mathematical systems have to begin with some basic postulates before anything can be proven (Euclid's postulates for geometry, the Peano axioms for number theory, etc).  A person who starts with a different set of postulates can derive vastly different theorems (cf non-Euclidean geometry).  Without postulates, your probabilities don't exist.

                  My postulates include the existence of God.  Yours don't, presumably.  So it goes.

                  •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    tommymet

                    So you trust your memory of experiences and your senses.  Both can be tampered with and fail.  You could be a brain in a jar, being fed false information by who knows whom.  This could be a holodeck.  This could all be a diseased hallucination.

                    If your senses do not reflect a good approximation of reality, you are crazy and cannot understand anything at all, including how to brush your teeth and when to go to work in the morning. In this case, any wild-ass fantasy of yours might be true, it might be a god or it might be elves or gremlins or candy marshmellow monsters.

                    The point is, you have to start with some baseline assumptions or you can't function at all.

                    I completely agree. Reasonable assumptions are "my senses work", or else don't bother going to work tomorrow morning (the world isn't real, man!).

                    My postulates include the existence of God.  Yours don't, presumably.  So it goes.

                    Just because you claim that something is a valid logical postulate doesn't make it so. Or else you can send that million bucks I assume you owe me to my address in Cambridge.

                  •  By that logic, (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk, Philoguy, tommymet

                    no hypothesis, however outlandish, can ever be discarded. Simply presuppose any lunatic notion to be true, and you can declare that you and your notion are just as well-founded as pretty well everything everyone else believes--because we all make the outlandish guess that we're not brains in vats.

                    In a word, nonsense. Those of us who actually function in the world (which is to say
                    --I think--all of us) all rely on the general reliability our memory and our senses. We rationalists consistently recognize that, indeed, both memory and senses are fallible and therefore are incapable of supporting mathematical-proof levels of certainty. (Unlike notions that rely on the unquestioning and absolutist silliness of religious faith, rationalist confidence is honest about its own limits. See, for example, Sparhawk's central reference above to probability, rather than certainty.)

                    You presume, at least provisionally, that you are not merely a brain in a vat. We presume, at least provisionally, that we are not merely brains in vats. We share this reliance on such postulates.

                    But you now demand respect for an additional postulate, one which we (that is, millions of us) are able to function quite well without. That won't fly. If reason is to mean anything, postulates like the ones that conveniently "prove" your case cannot simply be called into existence ex nihilo. I can't claim that I'm the fastest man alive and then, when Usain Bolt leaves me in his dust, explain that I win because my notion of "fastest" is just the inevitable consequence of my "postulate" that I'm it. The caveman in the Wiley Miller cartoon Ms. Tarico cited above can't get away with his "it not raining" declaration merely by presupposing that there's not a cloud in the sky (or that there's no such thing as rain).

                    In short, appeals such as yours are simply intellectually dishonest demands that no proposition about the world around us, no matter how devoid of supporting evidence, may ever be rejected as irrational. Theism wins because no idea can ever, ever lose.

                    No: reason means something, and some ideas about the world around us are better founded than others. A fortiori, you're wrong.

            •  For starters, try applying ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Alexandra Lynch

              ... the scientific method to logically explain a strong emotion (hate, grief, joy, etc) and you'll see just how fast your requirement falls apart.

              But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

              by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:13:59 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  your belief is showing (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LihTox, bushondrugs, Larsstephens

          there is no knowing whether there is a creator or not.

          if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

          by le sequoit on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:44:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No (11+ / 0-)

            In science there is never certainty. But the evidence suggests that the probability of any kind of "god" as defined by most religions is so low it can be safely ignored (as you ignore the probability that Zeus exists).

            •  I often tell people (7+ / 0-)

              I believe in the gods of Greek Mythology and I get some good looks.

            •  No/Yes (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LihTox, Larsstephens

              In science there is never certainty. But the evidence suggests that the probability of any kind of "god" as defined by most religions is so low it can be safely ignored

              This is your conclusion based on your life experience and the "evidence" that you have gathered in your life. Fine. All well and good. But...

              This your subjective opinion as a subjective human being. This is not fact, since in science as you say, or anything else really, there is never certainty.

              •  yes, but there is overwhelming evidence (9+ / 0-)

                in science, and testable hypotheses.  Verification. Replication. Self-correction.

                Religion has none of this.

                •  so then (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Larsstephens

                  is it expanding this year or shrinking?

                  Or is it that planes thing?

                  I forget.

                  if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

                  by le sequoit on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:10:02 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  "clever". You sound like a climate change (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Philoguy

                    denier.

                    The point is that scientists continually evaluate new evidence.  They test and check. They confirm and reconfirm.

                    Religion - not so much.

                    The fact that science can learn and grow is the hallmark of science.

                    Your "remark" shows a basic ignorance of how science works and a complete disregard for it.

              •  Okay. (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk, Philoguy, tommymet, Larsstephens

                Was that your response to An Inconvenient Truth? ("That arrogant ass Al Gore. How dare he call his opinion on global warming 'Truth'?")

                How about this "recession" that Mr. Big Guy Thinks He's So Cool New President claims to be responding to? As you point out, "there is never certainty," so obviously it's stupid (and arrogant!) for him to be spending $800 billion to solve a problem he isn't even certain exists, right?

                And I presume you aren't willing to say or believe that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or (as mentioned above) Zeus don't exist, because, y'know, "subjective opinion" and all. Right? You reserve judgment. If you hear someone saying something crazy like "Santa Claus is just a myth," you sneer at her the same way you're sneering at us, right?


                It consistently floors me how many otherwise reasonable people think it's fine and dandy to apply silly philosophical gambits (most often absurdly high burdens of proof) to atheism, and atheism alone, that they would never dream of applying to any other perspective on anything in the world. Scientific findings, ordinary observations of the outside world, simple common sense about absurd hypotheses--all these pass by without a yawn, but when it's an atheist questioning the existence of gods (or, rather, currently popular gods), then whoa! Suddenly you demand a signed and notarized affidavit from Himself swearing that He doesn't exist before we're allowed to mention that we shockingly don't believe He does.

                Cut it out. We're not here to kowtow to our society's inflated sense of deference toward (certain privileged) religious notions.

            •  Sincere question (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ahianne, bushondrugs, Larsstephens

              What do you mean by:

              the evidence suggests that the probability of any kind of "god" as defined by most religions is so low it can be safely ignored

              This seems like a weird way to frame the issue.  What evidence are you thinking of?

              I could understand if you were arguing that, say, history tells us the Bible was constructed in a very political process, and therefore you conclude it is not the "word of God."  Or if you were saying that the evidence suggests a "creator" is unnecessary.  But you know of scientific evidence that excludes the probability of the mere existence of God???

              •  "excludes the probability" was awkward phrasing (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                snakelass, Larsstephens, Vladislaw

                More accurate might be "reduces the probability to nearly zero," but that's also pretty awkward.

              •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bushondrugs

                This seems like a weird way to frame the issue.  What evidence are you thinking of?

                The lack of any scientific evidence that supports the claim of the existence of a deity.

                I could understand if you were arguing that, say, history tells us the Bible was constructed in a very political process, and therefore you conclude it is not the "word of God."  

                Why bother to go to such lengths to research such an outlandish idea? Poring through ancient history and texts?

                Or if you were saying that the evidence suggests a "creator" is unnecessary.

                The evidence merely doesn't have to require a creator.

                But you know of scientific evidence that excludes the probability of the mere existence of God???

            •  thats a pretty big qualifier (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Larsstephens

              "as defined by most religions"

              if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

              by le sequoit on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:07:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  What's our alternative? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk, Philoguy, tommymet

                "God" is just three letters. It's a sound that we associate with a concept, or a certain range of concepts.

                Without some kind of specification of which concepts we're talking about, there's no way to evaluate the question "Does God exist?"


                If we define "God" as "The chair I'm sitting on," then I assure you that God exists, and the only way to defend atheism would be to defend Matrix-style solipsism.

                But that's not how we self-described atheists define "God," nor is it how anyone else does. So there's no need for us to evaluate (disprove, disbelieve in) God-is-my-chair-style theism.


                Meanwhile, a minority of religions representing a miniscule proportion of the religious people in the world define "God" in a manner that makes the statement "God exists" either (1) trivially true--just like my-chair-ism--or (2) incomprehensible. Insofar as they're relevant to a discussion like this one, that minority of religions are doing little more than playing silly word games.


                The word "God" means something--something coherent enough that the thing's existence can meaningfully be debated--to the vast majority of people who speak English (among many other languages), whether they're religious believers or atheists. So limiting the discussion to that very large proportion of humanity is not, in fact, a "big qualifier" at all.

          •  I have faith there is no God. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LihTox, Larsstephens, rossl, Vladislaw
          •  Those making extraordinary (10+ / 0-)

            claims have the greater share of the burden of proof.  The believers are the ones making the extraordinary claim and therefore the burden of proof is on their side.  By contrast, since the 17th century naturalistic explanations have been wildly successful and therefore there is every reason to suppose that we will continue to be successful in explaining the universe naturalistically without having to posit the existence of occult and supernatural entities.

        •  Sorry... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, OJD

          ...but since you can't prove a negative, this is a fail.

          I don't believe out of default necessity. I believe because...well, that's where my THINKING path led.

          I mean, can't you see the "arrogant" point?:

          Atheism is the default assumption

          I mean, HUH??? For YOU, buddy, that's all well and good but maybe not for some others.

          And some of us others really DO believe and think at the same time.

          I realize you guys need to stick together out of necessity, and that's understandable. (already notice you're up to 17 recs with that one!!!), but we're not all out to get you. Really!

          •  Could you trace (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snakelass, Larsstephens

            your thinking path for us?  I'm not trying to be confrontational, I've just always wondered and I've never had the nerve to ask my mother.

            With that said, if it gives you comfort to believe, all the more power to you.

            •  Nothing major, no smoking gun... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              snakelass

              just a very generic holistic gathering of sensing, feeling, observing, experiencing, thinking, making conclusions, introspection, and so on. Hard to really explain in words. A small number of experiences are/were so extraordinary or unexplainable that they jacked up faith even more. I didn't think there still couldn't be a rational/scientific explanation for them but I didn't rule out the possibility that something else could be at work, as well.

              •  Wow (4+ / 0-)

                that sounds like a "feeling" path, not a "thinking" path.  

                •  Part of the "thinking" comes in the form of (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  snakelass, kalmoth, Larsstephens

                  asking ourselves whether our "spiritual experiences" should be weighed as valid evidence.  I know that humans are often misled by our feelings.  I know that makes my spiritual experiences potentially suspect.  And I do have doubts -- most believers do from time to time.  I have sometimes made a conscious decision to believe my experiences.  

                  •  "And I do have doubts" (0+ / 0-)

                    And therein lies the difference between us theists, the a-theists we get along just fine with, and the arrogant anti-theists incapable of entertaining the notion that they might be wrong. As bad or worse than the fundy Christians, in fact ...

                    But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

                    by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:24:17 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  "spiritual experiences" can be "real" but (0+ / 0-)

                    it could mean that you have gas just as much as it means God exists.

                    Some people hear God's voices in their heads.  It might just mean they're schizophrenic.

                  •  Not the point. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    kalmoth, Philoguy

                    The question is not whether your experiences were real; no serious atheist advocate would argue that they weren't. Of course you should "believe your experiences." They are your experiences. I'm an atheist, and I believe you.

                    The question is what can be validly inferred from those experiences. Hard as it is for many to accept, the rational conclusion can only be that religious experiences can say plenty about the experiencer--his or her biochemistry, psychology, and the like--but that, without considerable additional evidence (which, of necessity, must be located outside of the experiencer's head), they can't rationally support broad inferences about the nature of the universe.

                    One just can't rationally extrapolate from an individual experience--no matter how intense or moving--to the kind of vastly broad notions that religious systems routinely posit. That's just basic Occam's Razor, which is just basic reason.

                    Again, though, it needs to be reiterated that religious experience is real. It isn't crazy or stupid, and indeed atheists have similar experiences (though we don't tend to call them "religious"). The irrationality comes not in having the experience, taking it seriously, or finding it important, but rather in stacking the kinds of unsupported inferences on top of it that religions invariably do.

                    •  Let me maybe rephrase it a bit? (0+ / 0-)

                      One just can't rationally extrapolate from an individual experience--no matter how intense or moving--to the kind of vastly broad notions that religious systems routinely posit. That's just basic Occam's Razor, which is just basic reason.

                      Perfectly reasonable... however, Occam's razor is not the only selection criterion between hypotheses that can be postulated - it just happens to be the most practically useful one.

                      The irrationality comes not in having the experience, taking it seriously, or finding it important, but rather in stacking the kinds of unsupported inferences on top of it that religions invariably do.

                      Can I suggest a different reading of the bolded part?

                      ...but rather taking it too seriously.

                      •  Heh! (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        kalmoth, Philoguy

                        Perfectly reasonable...

                        ...Which is a very great compliment, from my perspective, of course. Thank you! :-)

                        however, Occam's razor is not the only selection criterion between hypotheses that can be postulated - it just happens to be the most practically useful one.

                        Quite so--though I guess I think you're damning with faint praise.

                        Certainly there are other selection criteria imaginable; I might even find some of those theoretical criteria attractive. But I have a hard time understanding how anyone could make sense of the world around him or her while ignoring Occam's Razor. I suppose it would centrally require a lack of imagination about all of the potential ("multipliable") entities out there.

                        More prosaically, I imagine one could just indulge in constant special pleading, applying Occam's Razor where it suits one's prejudices but abandoning it where it doesn't. But then that seems the very opposite of reasonable.

                        ...but rather taking it too seriously.

                        Well, I don't know. I suppose it would depend to a large extent on the specific facts of the case, but I can certainly imagine a person who took a particular "religious" experience that she had as the most significant event of her life--without drawing any irrational inferences about the universe around her. (In which case, of course, I wouldn't consider it a religious experience at all--thus the quotation marks above--but that's at least a semantic issue.) Perhaps she'd conclude that the experience had revealed things to her about her own psyche and her own perspective on the world that she had not previously understood.

                        I wouldn't find that kind of experience, or reaction to same, troubling at all. To the contrary, I think it'd be great to have such a (secular) "religious" experience, and I would take it extremely seriously.

                        So it seems to me that it's not the level of "seriousness" in the experiencer that is the central matter of concern. As P. Diddy said:

                        It's all about the inf'rences, baby.

                        •  ok... I think we're on to something... (0+ / 0-)

                          It's not whether the mystic in question takes his or her vision too seriously, it's about whether he or she takes himself or herself too seriously.

                          I shall ponder this mystery... or go play some more World of Warcraft.

                    •  I understand your argument. (0+ / 0-)

                      I absolutely do.  But what I am trying to say is that, when I reflect on the experiences I have had, and consider the possible causes, I don't think the evidence supports the hypothesis that the experience came from somewhere inside of me.  

                      The commenter above you snarkily suggested I could be schizophrenic.  If the options are that God exists or I am crazy, then Occam's Razor would lead h bridges to conclude I must be totally bonkers.  I get that.  

                      But I know that I am not schizophrenic.  I know that I am not having LSD flashbacks.  I also know that I experience doubts, which soothes me that I am not devoid of the ability to reason.  

                      Do you see what I am getting at?  My experiences could be merely neurons in overdrive.  But they could also be "real" in the way that I mean real.  And it is here, at this point, that believers take the step beyond pure scientific reasoning and allow faith into our lives.  

                      I have no quarrel with you for choosing not to take that step with me.  But I wish you could recognize how that step is a rational choice for me.  As long as my experiences keep pointing me toward good things -- love, connectedness, humility -- I am willing to keep taking them seriously.

                •  It's both, actually... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AlanF, kalmoth, OJD

                  like science and faith, I don't believe thinking and feeling have to be mutually exclusive. You feel things, you experience things, and then you think about what you feel, what you experience.

            •  A book recommendation (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ahianne, Larsstephens

              for anyone who is really interested in how believers can reconcile their faith with science:  Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller.  He's a good guy -- has provided testimony in court that kept creationism out of public schools.  Most of the book centers on evolution, but he touches quite a bit on astrophysics, too.  He explains that his study of science is not merely compatible with his faith, but bolsters it.

              •  And then, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Philoguy

                Miller is indeed "a good guy" who has provided valuable services in the fight against creationist lunacy. But when it comes to his attempts to connect his religious notions to science, less credulous scientists have appropriately shredded his post hoc rationalizations:

                Finally, it is abundantly clear that the evolution of human intelligence was a contingent event: contingent on the drying out of the African forest and the development of grasslands, which enabled apes to leave the trees and walk on two legs. Indeed, to maintain that the evolution of humans was inevitable, you must also maintain that the evolution of apes was inevitable, that the evolution of primates was inevitable, that the rise of mammals was inevitable, and so on back through dozens of ancestors, all of whose appearances must be seen as inevitable. This produces a regress of increasing unlikelihood. In the end, the question of whether human-like creatures were inevitable can be answered only by admitting that we do not know--and adding that most scientific evidence suggests that they were not. Any other answer involves either wishful thinking or theology.

                Miller opts for theology. Although his new book [Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul] does not say how God ensured the arrival of Homo sapiens, Miller was more explicit in Finding Darwin's God. There he suggested that the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics allows God to intervene at the level of atoms, influencing events on a larger scale:

                The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.

                In other words, God is a Mover of Electrons, deliberately keeping his incursions into nature so subtle that they're invisible. It is baffling that Miller, who comes up with the most technically astute arguments against irreducible complexity, can in the end wind up touting God's micro-editing of DNA. This argument is in fact identical to that of Michael Behe, the ID advocate against whom Miller testified in the [Kitzmiller] trial. It is another God-of-the-gaps argument, except that this time the gaps are tiny.

                - Jerry A. Coyne, Seeing and Believing: The never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail, The New Republic, February 4, 2009

                Miller has done great scientific work, but his attempts to support his religious beliefs with science don't stand up to scrutiny.

                •  Miller doesn't argue that humans were inevitable. (0+ / 0-)

                  His theology is that God wanted to create sentient creatures in some form, and that He had all of time to wait for it to happen according to the laws of nature.  

                  As for his thoughts on quantum mechanics, those are not fundamental to his theory of creation, which probably explains why he doesn't discuss it in the new book and Coyne had to pull a quote from Finding Darwin's God.  In FDG, Miller suggests that quantum physics may be God's means for on-going intervention in our lives -- the source of spiritual experiences, for example.

                  •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

                    Miller doesn't argue that humans were inevitable.

                    Is that a (trivial) nitpick about Coyne's use of "humans" in that sentence rather than "some theoretical human-like creature that evolution could (or, according to Miller, inevitably would) have produced"?

                    Again, less credulous readers see through the evasion. Here's Miller (quoted by Coyne) refuting you:

                    But as life re-explored adaptive space, could we be certain that our niche would not be occupied? I would argue that we could be almost certain that it would be--that eventually evolution would produce an intelligent, self-aware, reflective creature endowed with a nervous system large enough to solve the very same questions we have, and capable of discovering the very process that produced it, the process of evolution.... Everything we know about evolution suggests that it could, sooner or later, get to that niche.

                    As Coyne points out, evolutionary biologists are well aware that the above notion is ludicrous.


                    [Miller's] theology is that God wanted to create sentient creatures in some form, and that He had all of time to wait for it to happen according to the laws of nature.

                    And that "theology" (or in fact hypothesis about the history of life on this planet) admits of no empirical support whatsoever. He's just pulling post hoc rationalizations out of his ear. Shockingly, few scientists (and few rationalists) find that tactic worthy of esteem.


                    As for his thoughts on quantum mechanics, those are not fundamental to his theory of creation, which probably explains why he doesn't discuss it in the new book and Coyne had to pull a quote from Finding Darwin's God.

                    Er, excuse me, but didn't you just recommend Finding Darwin's God three comments ago? Coyne obliterates Miller's rationalizations from the exact book you said was so wonderful--and as a result you accuse him (or me?) of focusing on the wrong book? Please make up your mind.

                    In FDG, Miller suggests that quantum physics may be God's means for on-going intervention in our lives -- the source of spiritual experiences, for example.

                    Sure. Other possibilities are that God speaks through the Tooth Fairy, the Scientologist villain Xenu, or the china teapot currently orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. However, one might wonder how rational it could possibly be to toss out utterly unfounded hypotheses like all of those and expect them to be taken seriously. Indeed, it's precisely this kind of intellectual dishonesty that Miller has rightfully scorched Michael Behe and his ilk for perpetrating. He just has a heck of a beam in his own eye.

                    As another less-credulous critic of Miller, Ph.D. physicist Amiel Rossow, notices:

                    The yin part of Miller's book [Finding Darwin's God] wherein his goal is to assert his religious faith as supposedly supported by scientific data, differs drastically from the yang part where he defends evolution and debunks its critics. The yin part is more of a theological character and is long on repetitive arbitrary assertions but short on factual or logical substantiation. We do not see in the yin part any empirical data which would testify in favor of Miller's Christian faith, nor any logical discourse wherein a certain clearly stated premise is followed by a logical sequence of notions leading to a conclusion. What we see, instead, is a display of an intelligent and insightful mind desperately trying to prove to himself that his religious faith has a rational foundation. I don't believe skeptics will be swayed by Miller's pro-faith arguments. This is not because his arguments are doubtful or weak, but simply because there are no arguments at all, just assertions not supported by evidence but repeated time and time again with a boring persistence.

                    Again, that's just not something that deserves to be taken seriously.

                    •  Your tone betrays an anger that is (0+ / 0-)

                      incomprehensible to me.

                      And I think it's preventing you from reading my comment carefully.  For example, I think I was pretty clear that Miller does not use quantum physics to explain evolution.  This is why the new book -- the one with "evolution" in the title -- (apparently) does not address quantum physics.  Coyne, who was supposedly reviewing the new book, actually goes back and critiques FDG.  He seems to want Miller to be arguing that quantum physics opens up "gaps" for God in evolution, but in fact, Miller says nothing of the sort.  Miller thinks quantum physics might open up space for those personal experiences we call "spiritual."   I see a big difference, even if you don't.

                      But what I don't see is why you're so worked up?  Why do you care when Miller is on the side of keeping all theological discussions out of public schools?  I recommended the book because it does a pretty good job of explaining how some Christians view the world, which was the original subject of this thread.  If that doesn't interest you, so be it.  Move on.

                      •  Incomprehension? (0+ / 0-)

                        Your tone betrays an anger that is incomprehensible to me.

                        Incomprehensible? Really? Well, gee--in that case, we're fortunate that there's a recent DKos diary that does an admirable job of explaining some of the reasons why atheists might be a bit bent out of shape about our place in society vis-à-vis religion.

                        As you'll learn if you read that diary, American atheist expressions of anger and related emotions have perfectly comprehensible grounds, for example:

                        Resolve
                        Nobody self-labels as an atheist in our culture unless he or she is "out" for a reason.

                        [....]

                        For some it is political. For some it comes from a deep conviction that we must find some way to change the public conversation about what is good and what is real and how to live in community with each other. All self-labeled atheists are braced, steeled against the stereotype, but they have varied reasons for looking society in the eye and saying, This is who I am. What they have in common is a sense of determination and the willingness to pay a price.

                        Frustration
                        
Theism gets a pass on the rules of reason and evidence that normally guide our social discourse. In a boardroom or a laboratory, we don't get to say, "I just know in my heart that this product is going to sell," or "This drug works even though the experiment didn't come out that way."

                        [....]

                        What does frustration sound like? When it doesn't sound like brain pain, it sounds impatient,sharp and distancing.

                        Or, I suppose, angry. (Underline added, obviously.)


                        And I think it's preventing you from reading my comment carefully.

                        No, you're just forgetting what brought Coyne into this thread in the first place.

                        Coyne, who was supposedly reviewing the new book, actually goes back and critiques FDG.

                        Yes, that's right. Which happens to be the reason I quoted his review in response to your recommendation of FDG. If Coyne's essay hadn't critiqued the earlier book, I wouldn't have dragged it in here. The whole point was to call into question the notion that FDG deserves the esteem that you give it. That makes Coyne's comments about that book centrally relevant, despite your attempts to change the subject.


                        But what I don't see is why you're so worked up?

                        Again, I heartily recommend that obscure DKos diary. But more than that, how about because I think religions, including Miller's, are broadly bad ideas that humanity would be better off abandoning? Or that the faith-y Mr. Hyde sections of Miller's books are morally objectionable, because their intellectually dishonest claims to scientific reasoning sully science's (vitally important) good name?

                        Dishonest attempts to "support" supernaturalist religion with pseudoscience do nothing but help protect the foundations of all such religion from actual critical inquiry--at the expense of real, honest science.

                        Miller and his most famous target (when he's in Jekyll mode), Behe, both use pseudoscientific nonsense to try to confer scientific legitimacy upon their irrational notions about the nature of the universe. Sure, Miller is less dangerous politically, at least in the short term--but his Hyde mode helps preserve the religious hegemony that keeps us nonbelievers second-class citizens.


                        I recommended the book because it does a pretty good job of explaining how some Christians view the world....

                        Well, that's an interesting revisionist account. Actually, you wrote:

                        [Miller] explains that his study of science is not merely compatible with his faith, but bolsters it.

                        As shown above, Miller's "explanation" in FDG of that "bolstering" is riddled with fallacy and post hoc rationalization. You actually said rather more than "the book explains how some Christians view the world," and the record deserved to be set straight.


                        If that doesn't interest you, so be it.  Move on.

                        In a word, no. It certainly does "interest" me that otherwise admirable scientists publish dishonest works lending undeserved credibility to the systems of societal privilege that marginalize my sector of humanity. Atheophobic oppression, and the ugly means by which the powerful majority maintains its hegemony and privilege, "interest" me quite a bit, thanks.

                        I have substantiated my claim that, in its Mr. Hyde sections, Finding Darwin's God is in fact a bad, dishonest, and destructive book. That's no trifling matter.

                        I think [Miller]'s missing what should be the ultimate goal: getting people to recognize atheists as normal human beings, and making it clear that it is not OK to treat them as the amoral degenerates you wouldn't want your daughter to marry. What we should be doing is saying, "Yes, many biologists are atheists (as are many non-biologists), they have different ideas than you do, but they aren't threatening you, so get used to them." Instead, it's singling atheists out as the reprehensible Other, held to account for creationists' dislike of evolution. If the source of the problem is widely held bigotry against atheists and atheism, shouldn't we be trying to educate people to end that, rather than pandering to it?

                        - P.Z. Myers, Ph.D. evolutionary biologist

          •  I realize you aren't out to get me (7+ / 0-)

            This is a question of what constitutes adequate proof of something. Since you just essentially stated above that you believe things simply because you choose to do so and without regard to the evidence, there isn't much we can talk about here. As long as you don't start deciding to believe you have a green light when it's actually red, we won't have a problem.

            •  You have said you believe without proof (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ahianne, BrianMcDoc, Larsstephens

              you are arguing the same point.

              I believe in science, and wherever it leads me.  The scientific method. The discovery of newer and more bizarre and creative things. And I believe - and for this I don't really need proof - that we are a primitive species, just at the beginning of understanding this world.

              Your hypothesis, that there is no god, can't be proven or disproven - therefore it is not science.  If we want to find the nature of this world in a scientific manner, we have to ask much smaller questions, and build on them one by one. Was the universe created by a big bang? What caused the big bang? Are their other universes? What is consciousness? etc, etc. Where will it lead? We don't know. But each discovery is worth our time in and of itself. Making larger claims about what is or is not "out there" is a distraction, and a waste of time.  Most "religious" people are participating in a cultural community, and don't really spend a lot of time on these bigger questions. One of the biggest mistakes athiests make is assuming that religious people actually believe in god.

              The position of atheism - absolute disbelief in god, rather than agnosticism -  often claims science, but in reality is irrelevant to it - just as the belief in god is irrelevant to science. It can't be proven or disproven. It is a matter of faith.  

              Visit Northern Word, a writing, photo and travel blog.

              by decembersue on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:46:00 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's not how knowledge works. (8+ / 0-)

                You can't argue a negative or suggest that non-belief in a foreign concept is a form of belief.  It isn't: the lack of faith is not a form of faith.  Otherwise the whole definition of "faith" becomes arbitrary.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:01:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I disagree (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                snakelass, Philoguy, Larsstephens

                jesus says three times, if I remember correctly, that all prayers are answered.

                He doesn't predicate it with SOME prayers, or MOST prayers, but ALL prayers will be answered.

                In the 5000 year history of the written word, how many amputees have grown new hands or legs because of prayer and that miracle was recorded?

                I would imagine in the last five thousand years at least a few people that have lost limbs have prayed to have them restored.

                the day people start growing new legs like a star fish, without medicial science, is the day I start believing.

                I know there is always the circular arguements about this and how god moves in mysterious ways, but the day a leg gets lopped off then grows back overnight, then i will believe in the mystery of god.

              •  Re (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Philoguy, tommymet

                Your hypothesis, that there is no god, can't be proven or disproven - therefore it is not science.

                I don't have a hypothesis. You do. Your hypothesis is that there is an entity called "god" that has some relationship or other to this universe.

                The two positions are not equivalent. Only one of us has something to prove: you. The burden of proof is on the person making the assertion. Since I see no evidence of gods (unicorns, fire-breathing dragons, ghosts, etc), I'm just going to continue living my life as if they don't exist.

                •  "Only one of us has something to prove: you." (0+ / 0-)

                  HA-HAhahahahahahahahahahahhaha!

                  I need prove NOTHING to you. Indeed, it seems to me that YOU are the one that has "something to prove" - in the symbolic sense - because it's So.Damned.Important to you to convince us theists that we're wrong. Whistle past the graveyard, much?

                  "I'm just going to continue living my life as if they don't exist."

                  Please do! Most liberal / progressive theists will never demand that you do otherwise! It's no skin off my nose that you don't "believe" but it sure chaps my ass that you will not afford me the reciprocal courtesy. And that's the difference between an a-theist and an anti-theist - the a-theist doesn't need my approval while the anti-theist, not receiving the false validation of a confession from me that s/he is right, that I'm utterly wrong / delusional in my theism, flies into a rage when I won't capitulate.

                  Pity ...

                  But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

                  by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:34:33 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You don't have to prove anything to me (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Philoguy, tommymet

                    I am very tolerant; it isn't important to me at all, this diary is just something to pass the time, just like my endless quest to stop this ill-fated stimulus package that's going to destroy the economy.

                    I respect and will defend to the death your right to believe whatever you want.

                    What you're looking for from me, though, is an admission that there's some kind of intellectual integrity or depth behind the theist position and, really, it's equivalent to the atheist position after all, right? They're both two sides of the same coin, both equally legitimate, right?

                    This is simply not so. I respect all people, non-believers and believers alike, but it doesn't mean I think their beliefs make sense or are intellectually defensible.

          •  There's nothing arrogant (4+ / 0-)

            about calling atheism the "default assumption", because being the "default" does not confer any sort of superiority. All it means is that if there's no evidence for the existence or reality of some entity, then the scientific method chooses nonexistence over existence. That same principle applies whether we're talking about flogiston, atoms, quarks, WMDs, or deities.

            Be the change that you wish to see in the White House.

            by Nowhere Man on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:44:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tommymet

            ..but since you can't prove a negative....

            Does it matter to you that that contention is demonstrably not true?

            I can prove that a married bachelor does not exist. I can prove that a square circle does not exist. I can prove that a highest prime number does not exist. (Read this thread for one such proof.)

            So your contention that "you can't prove a negative" is flat false. Does that perhaps suggest that you might need to look at these issues more carefully?

            Atheism is the default assumption

            I mean, HUH??? For YOU, buddy, that's all well and good but maybe not for some others.

            What? What do you mean, "for you"?

            (I suspect that you may be laboring under a misconception about what the word "atheism" means. If so, you've got lots of company--alas.)

            Sparhawk's point is merely that a lack of belief--which is all that atheism necessarily entails--is the "default" position on any question of whether an X exists. Before the proponent ("I claim X exists") presents any evidence, the default position is lack of belief. That's all!

            That's not "for YOU" or Sparhawk or indeed "for" anyone. It's not a declaration that atheism is superior to theism. It's just a simple, elementary statement about the basic nature of rational inquiry.

            It also doesn't have anything to do with the notion that "[you]'re all out to get [us]." Please read more carefully; you're proving some of Ms. Tarico's more cutting points here.

        •  Not really (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snakelass, Larsstephens

          the scientific method requires hypotheses be tested. Don't you believe in the scientific method? We're spending billions of dollars finding out all sorts of interesting things about the universe.  I don't know why we'd do that if we already had all the answers.

          Visit Northern Word, a writing, photo and travel blog.

          by decembersue on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:39:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  "atheism is the default" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          Ahhh, so like a punk anti-theist. And remarkably like the very worst of the theists - Haggard, Dobson, Robertson, etc - when they pontificate that heterosexuality is the default and needs no defense.

          But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

          by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:09:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  With respect (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Philoguy, tommymet, h bridges

            You have no idea what you are talking about.

            Hetero versus homosexuality is a completely epistemologically neutral discussion that is solely about social norms and nothing else. The "acceptability" of hetero versus homosexuality (or even things like murder) is simply a matter of opinion.

            The god-vs-no-god discussion is a discussion of fact, and when you're discussing fact, you start with a blank slate. I open my eyes, I see this thing, what is it called, a television? Guess those things exist. And a chair? Seems like those exist too.

            And on and on. Otherwise I can assume that any random idea is true.

            •  Nice bit of sleight-of-hand but ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... FAIL!

              I'm not talking about social norms, acceptability or opinion, I'm talking about furious denial of the existence of homosexuality as a naturally occurring, minority variant of human sexuality that transcends cultural boundaries, denial rooted in the desperate need for the world to be binary, black/white, true/false according to one's chosen dogma.

              Your own authoritarian need to "convert" theists to atheism because we don't fit your worldview is EXACTLY THE SAME. And the defining characteristic of anti-theists is arrogance identical to that of the religious right.

              But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

              by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:46:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Rieux, Philoguy

                I'm not talking about social norms, acceptability or opinion, I'm talking about furious denial of the existence of homosexuality as a naturally occurring, minority variant of human sexuality that transcends cultural boundaries, denial rooted in the desperate need for the world to be binary, black/white, true/false according to one's chosen dogma.

                You, who can provide no reasonable defense for your claim, are calling me, who rejects your claim based on lack of evidence, dogmatic.

                Your house is infested with ghosts. Give me a million dollars to stop them from harming you. No? Why are you so dogmatic?

                Your own authoritarian need to "convert" theists to atheism because we don't fit your worldview is EXACTLY THE SAME. And the defining characteristic of anti-theists is arrogance identical to that of the religious right.

                I am not trying to convert you, I could care less. But you do a disservice to logic and reason when you assert that your position is logical and reasonable when it is not.

              •  Guh. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk, Philoguy

                Your own authoritarian need to "convert" theists to atheism because we don't fit your worldview is EXACTLY THE SAME.

                What an utter load of bullshit.

                No one here is trying to convert anyone, and your inability to understand what "default" means (and what Sparhawk was, screamingly obviously, explaining) is pathetic.

      •  Nietzsche's thought isn't (8+ / 0-)

        really a defense of atheism.  He's not giving an ontological (dis)proof for the existence of God, nor is he even concerned with such a proof or demonstration.  Rather, he argues that a fundamental cultural change has taken place in which belief in God has, for all intents and purposes, collapsed (even among believers, though they don't realize it), and that this will have massive consequences at all levels of our experience.

        •  Yep. (nt) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BrianMcDoc, Larsstephens

          (- 8.75, -5.59) The level of religious discourse in our society hurts my sexy. - pastordan

          by dirkster42 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:03:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  that is right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          but I think he does presuppose the actual non-existence of God (and the nonexistence of objective values) and thinks he has to give an alternative.

          •  Perhaps... I don't think (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DMiller, Larsstephens

            he's really concerned with whether God exists one way or another, but how our understanding of the world has fundamentally shifted as a result of the Enlightenment, i.e., humans are no longer at the center, naturalistic explanation, etc.  I do agree that one of Nietzsche's fundamental projects is the attempt to give an account of values that isn't premised on metaphysics (Platonic forms or universals) or the divine.  This strikes me personally as a little bit strange as the entire history of philosophy, in part, can be seen as the attempt to give a rational grounding of values that makes no reference to revelation or divine dispensation (this is even true in the case of most forms of natural theology...  Even Augustine!).  At any rate, it's surprising that Nietzsche doesn't seem to find more resources for a post-theological system of values in folks like Aristotle, Epictetus, Epicurus, Spinoza, etc.

      •  Dawkins SHALLOW? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tommymet, bushondrugs, Larsstephens

        Are you kidding? Have you read anything of his. If that is shallow, I don't know what you'd consider deep.

        On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord" President Barack Obama 1/20/2009

        by UndercoverRxer on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:31:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You had to go and bring Dicks into (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wader, kyril, Larsstephens

      it. Talk about blasphemy and sacrilege!

      Actually, I could leave the burgers. But the fries? To die for.

      1.20.09: The end of an error; the beginning of an era

      by Vita Brevis on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:31:06 PM PST

    •  Very nice, very thorough (6+ / 0-)

      Personally, I'm too skeptical to be a convinced atheist.  On weekends, I'm a relaxed agnostic.  On weekdays, I'm usually a Deist.

      Apocalypse? I'd prefer Wax Lips.

      by dryfoo on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:31:40 PM PST

      •  I'm too skeptical to be a deist, yet I feel (4+ / 0-)

        rather spiritually inclined about various things in life and beyond what we might perceive.

        Doesn't mean I'm a theist (or deist), though.

        Kind of interesting parallel, there.

        "It takes every kind of people . . ."

        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

        by wader on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:38:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you're interested in (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wader, snakelass, dirkster42, Larsstephens

          deism take a gander at Spinoza's Ethics.  Begin with the appendix to part 1, and then jump back to the beginning and go from there.  The picture he gives of God pretty much blows any theology out of the water imo.  Great historians like Jonathan Israel have argued that he's the true father of the Enlightenment.

          •  The founder of modern liberal theology, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wader, Larsstephens

            Friedrich Schleiermacher, loved Spinoza.  So it would be hard to say that Spinoza blew his theology out of the water, when it was a major source for it.

            (- 8.75, -5.59) The level of religious discourse in our society hurts my sexy. - pastordan

            by dirkster42 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:10:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sure, Spinoza was a huge influence (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wader, snakelass, dirkster42, Larsstephens

              across the board.  What I mean is that he takes basic concepts of theology and shows how they inevitably lead to a God that cannot be understood as personal in any way, that doesn't choose among which things to create but creates, by necessity everything that can be created, that doesn't judge, that doesn't define good and evil, etc., etc., etc.  In other words, he shows how classical theological concepts of God (omnipotence, infinity, etc), necessarily lead to conclusions where God and world are identical, where everything is governed by natural causes, where God cannot have preferences or desires pertaining to how the world should be, and so on.

              •  Are you aware that some liberal Christians .. (0+ / 0-)

                ... have  quietly abandoned the notion that "God" is omnipotent?

                But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

                by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:50:31 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  To quote (or at least get close to a quote) from (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nowhere Man, Larsstephens

            Bertrand Russell on Spinoza: "Some people claim the last Christian died on the cross. They forgot about Spinoza."

            That may not be exact. I last read Russell's History of Western Philosophy 30 years ago.

            "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers." - Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

            by Uwaine on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:15:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That quote actually (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AlanF, wader, kalmoth, Uwaine, Larsstephens

              came from Nietzsche:  "There have only ever been two Christians.  One died on the cross, the other died in a cold attic room in Amsterdam."  Nietzsche was not, of course, referring to anything we would understand as pertaining to Christianity, i.e., life after death, belief in a transcendent god or ressurection, etc.  This is a bit like quoting Einstein's remarks about God and portraying him as a believer in religious conceptions of God.

              •  Why do you think that Einstein was not a believer (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bushondrugs, Larsstephens

                in GOd? (I won't say "in religous conceptions of god" because I don't know if that implies, to you, a strictly worked-out theology, which I don't see suggested by Einstein).

                Just wondering. Several atheists/agnostics I've heard or read seem very convinced that Einstein had no belief in God, whereas the plain sense of his words would suggest that he did. Is it considered an insult to Einstein to believe he believed? Not sure what's going on here.

                •    (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Philoguy, Larsstephens

                  I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.

                  Albert Einstein.

                  •  Wow! A definitive answer! I'd never seen (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    kalmoth

                    that quote, obviously. :)

                    Interesting, then, that he talked about how GOd would create the universe to make it most beautiful, or said things like "God does not play dice."  Was this a kind of poetic expression, meaning something along the lines of "the nature of things," or such?

                    •  Here's an apocryphon... (0+ / 0-)

                      Einstein dies, and, much to his surprise, meets the Creator. Einstein says, "Oh, good. You are the one who can definitively answer the question I have..." He then writes the field equation and points to the lambda term in it...
                      Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
                      "Oh, I know," the Creator says. "This is where I messed up."

                    •  Indeed. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      kalmoth, Philoguy

                      Was this a kind of poetic expression, meaning something along the lines of "the nature of things," or such?

                      Effectively, yes.

                      Kalmoth only presented part of that quote; I think the whole thing is worth a gander:

                      It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

                      - Albert Einstein, letter to an atheist (1954), quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

                      So not only did Einstein forthrightly state his denial of a personal God, he was pissed at the lying scumbag apologists who misled folks (like you?) into believing that he did.

                      And there's plenty more Einstein where that one came from:

                      he word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

                      - Letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, January 3, 1954


                      It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

                      - "Religion and Science,"
                      New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930

                      And many more--some of which aren't so kind to ordinary atheists.

                      Ah, well; we're used to that.

                      •  Thanks for the longer quote. But why would (0+ / 0-)

                        Einstein be unkind to ordinary atheists, if you don't mind my asking?

                        As for what he said about what in him could (possibly) be considered religious:

                        I was sitting around talking about belief with a group of friends, mostly vaguely spiritual to somewhat religious, when the one firm atheist in the room said defiantly -- "My spiritual teacher is Carl Sagan!"  The rest of us spontaneously broke into applause, and said, "Yes! That's right!"

                        Science is what evokes his sense of wonder and awe at the universe, and his faith (in a non-dogmatic sense) in what humanity is capable of and what life can be/become. Poetically speaking, at least, Carl Sagan is his spiritual teacher.

                        •  I'm a little confused; (0+ / 0-)

                          Einstein was 55 years old when Sagan was born, Sagan was a 20-year-old college student when Einstein died, and (to my knowledge; please correct me if I'm wrong) the two never met or corresponded. I rather doubt that Einstein even knew who Carl Sagan was--so how could Sagan have been his "spiritual teacher"?

                          (Your "he" must be a reference to someone else.)

                          As for unkindness to ordinary atheists, I meant lines like these:

                          I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

                          - Albert Einstein, to Guy H. Raner Jr., September 28, 1949


                          In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.

                          - Albert Einstein, according to the testimony of Prince Hubertus of Löwenstein

                          Those are a little depressing. (The second is slicing enough that I find myself wondering about the good Prince's honesty.)

                          Why would he forward the "some men are gay because their fathers were distant or absent in childhood"--sorry, I mean the "'crusading' atheists have that attitude because they suffered 'painful' experiences from 'religious indoctrination received in youth'" canard? I can't quite say. Bigoted stereotypes like that one are part of the longstanding tradition of the way Americans (including Swiss-Americans?) treat outspoken nonbelievers.

                          It's regrettable, but it's part of the reality of being an atheist in the United States.

          •  Interesting! Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

            I've read about the Ethics, including Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza, and now one of my lodge brothers is going to be offering a set of short talks, and study sessions, on the Ethics.  We're looking forward to it.

            (We're using this version http://tinyurl.com/... )

            Apocalypse? I'd prefer Wax Lips.

            by dryfoo on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 01:51:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Atheists are people. (17+ / 0-)

      Some are arrogant, some are humble.  Some I like, some I don't like.  

      Just like people in every other category.

      (- 8.75, -5.59) The level of religious discourse in our society hurts my sexy. - pastordan

      by dirkster42 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:31:51 PM PST

    •  I am a theist. I do not care what others are or (23+ / 0-)

      are not. I have known "arrogant" atheists and arrogant theists. To say all of one or the other are arrogant is just as wrong as it is to say that none are arrogant.

      In my view:

      I am Jewish. As such we are taught not to convert others. So it was never an issue for me. In fact it is highly irritating when people try to convert me. So as long as anyone, theist or atheist does not try to get "in my face" I do not give a tuchas what they accept or not.

      Economic Left/Right: 6.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.92

      by BFSkinner on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:32:02 PM PST

      •  I'm with you (13+ / 0-)

        There are atheists, as aggravating to me as any religious fundamentalist of any faith, who demand that I believe ( or not I guess for puposes of this discussion) as they do. That they are right and I am wrong, misguided, ignorant etc.

        Surprise...assholery doesn't exclude atheists. Film at 11.

        1.20.09: The end of an error; the beginning of an era

        by Vita Brevis on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:35:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's the authoritarian stripe in the ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Vita Brevis

          ... militantly anti-theist that gets the whole lot branded as arrogant. But then, it's the same authoritarianism that drives folk like Haggard, Dobson, Robertson, etc.

          But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

          by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:53:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Right. (0+ / 0-)

            "Authoritarian."

            All those atheists out there trying to force atheism on everyone. Through, like, laws and stuff.

            You know, atheists like...

            Er...

            Um...

            •  You are soooo clueless, Blanche! (0+ / 0-)

              Authoritarianism is far more than merely "trying to force [X] on everyone." Get educated!

              But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

              by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:59:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I see. (0+ / 0-)

                According to the authoritative account from the University of Manitoba (!), you've found, here's how we can tell whether someone's perspective is authoritarian:

                For example, take the following statement: “Once our government leaders and the authorities condemn the dangerous elements in our society, it will be the duty of every patriotic citizen to help stomp out the rot that is poisoning our country from within.” Sounds like something Hitler would say, right? Want to guess how many politicians, how many lawmakers in the United States agreed with it? Want to guess what they had in common?

                Or how about a government program that persecutes political parties, or minorities, or journalists the authorities do not like, by putting them in jail, even torturing and killing them. Nobody would approve of that, right? Guess again.

                Swell!

                Now is the part in my "education" when you show me "authoritarian" atheists demanding that we "stomp out the rot" of "dangerous elements in our society," e.g., "by putting them in jail, even torturing and killing them."

                Right? So now I trust you'll favor us with the long litany of those horrid New Atheists expostulating about "stomping out" religious people, imprisoning them, torturing them, executing them.

                Go.

                •  Pathetic. (0+ / 0-)

                  That's the blurb on the web page, Blanche! You won't have a clue what I'm talking about until you've read the book, which lays out a far clearer and in many cases more nuanced definition of authoritarianism.

                  But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

                  by The Werewolf Prophet on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:00:42 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Again, (0+ / 0-)

                    Swell!

                    So the part where you explain why the atheists you hate with a burning passion deserve to be tarred as "authoritarians" comes... when?

                    There's still nothing showing here but your blatant bigotry.

      •  Wiccans are with you (6+ / 0-)

        If there is such a thing as a "sin," it is not to try to "convert" people. If someone wants to discuss Wicca, we will discuss it, but there is not supposed to be pressure to accept what we believe. If you want the story, great. If not, meh.

        Besides, we have better things to do than knock on people's doors and try to force religion down their throats.

        It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

        by Casual Wednesday on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:57:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You may be arrogant (19+ / 0-)

      I, however, possess unparalleled humility.

      Math Kos runs Saturdays at midday-ish.

      by kyril on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:33:39 PM PST

    •  I have always found atheists to be the (6+ / 0-)

      most religious people I know:  certainly they talk about God more than anybody else.

    •  Some numbers (11+ / 0-)

      For context...

      Major Religions of the World
      Ranked by Number of Adherents (2002)

      1. Christianity: 2 billion
      1. Islam: 1.3 billion
      1. Hinduism: 900 million

      4. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 850 million

      1. Buddhism: 360 million
      1. Chinese traditional religion: 225 million
      1. primal-indigenous: 150 million
      1. African Traditional & Diasporic: 95 million
      1. Sikhism: 23 million
      1. Juche: 19 million
      1. Spiritism: 14 million
      1. Judaism: 14 million
      1. Baha'i: 6 million
      1. Jainism: 4 million
      1. Shinto: 4 million
      1. Cao Dai: 3 million
      1. Tenrikyo: 2.4 million
      1. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
      1. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
      1. Rastafarianism: 700 thousand
      1. Scientology: 600 thousand
      1. Zoroastrianism: 150 thousand

      If elections have consequences, then a mandate means REVOLUTION!!!

      by mralex1974 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:34:31 PM PST

    •  As I've posted elsewhere before, I have no (15+ / 0-)

      problem (and also no agenda) identifying myself as an athiest or agnostic. Perhaps this is because I am a second generation athiest/ agnostic, married to another second generation athiest/agnostic, raising a third generation.  To be honest, I just don't think about the issue of belief much.  It was neither an agonizing decision nor a rejection of religion--just never felt a need for religious belief in my life.  But I certainly hope I am not arrogant about it.  

      Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves. --Jane Austen

      by feeny on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:34:33 PM PST

      •  This theist would welcome you ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        feeny

        ... to his table because you most certainly ARE NOT arrogant! You've arrived at a worldview that's comfortable and (I hope) works satisfactorily for you, and find no need to insist that others be the same as you.

        This distinction goes entirely over the head of the anti-theists.

        But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

        by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:58:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure. (0+ / 0-)

          and find no need to insist that others be the same as you.

          This distinction goes entirely over the head of the anti-theists.

          In fact, it doesn't. You're just too blinded by religious privilege and bigotry to notice that the "anti-theists" you shit on don't actually "insist that others be the same as" them.

          You're quick enough to pick up that spewing bile on people who dare to speak out against privileged religious pieties is socially acceptable. What an accomplishment.

    •  I once heard the poet William Stafford read (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wader, snakelass, kalmoth, kyril, Larsstephens

      and somewhere during the event he came out with this little gem, filed under "history of religion" or somesuch:

      Our Father
      Who art in Heaven
      Can lick your father
      Who aren't in Heaven

      Then there's this one-liner (literally) from W.S. Merwin, which probably describes the ideologue cum terrorist mindset as well as any thousand-page tome:

      SAVONAROLA

      Unable to endure my world and calling the falure God, I will destroy yours.

      May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

      by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:34:41 PM PST

    •  Interesting (17+ / 0-)

      This post was one of the most thoughtful and meaningful discourses on religion I have read.  I politely disagree with the atheist position, however I appreciated the diary.  

      I do not find atheists any more or less arrogant than subscribers to any belief system.  To my mind, human beings are human beings, and just about everyone I know can admit that they could be wrong without ever wishing to actually do so.  

      I hope this diary brings out more thoughtful discourse than the usual responses brought out in religious posts here.  The diary certainly deserves thoughtful consideration and reasoned discussion.

      "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Milan Kundera

      by Guy Fawkes on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:36:20 PM PST

    •  I think we're (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, Philoguy, Larsstephens

      elitists, too.

      Every religion gets burned by folks of the other philosophical or belief-based stripes, essentially.

      Atheists are just another target in that highest-level grouping across societies and the like.

      I find the villification for not believing in someone's dogma or accepting some of their most central beliefs as my own to be more than a bit assumptive.  But, then again, the notion of faith doesn't require self-reflection on all things you hold dear - at least, not using a perspective which would erode that belief system, usually.

      Still, it simply comes down to respect for differences.  If you believe in a certain faction of Methodism and it's part of your life in a way you approve, great.  If it shows in your outward expressions or thoughts, fine with me.  If it leads you to exclusive thinking in society about who is worthy and who isn't, then I might have a problem with you.  Because, faith or not, you're just another bigot if your rational for discrimination isn't based on some else being unfair or even criminal, but instead on your internal decision of what is best spiritually and culturally.

      Which certainly works both ways.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:36:51 PM PST

      •  I like this thesis of tolerance, (7+ / 0-)

        but I think that for a lot of religious folk this just isn't an option and the reasons this isn't an option are internal to their metaphysics.  If you're a fundamentalist, not only do you believe you have the truth, but you believe that the manner in which you live your life and the manner in which others live their lives are crucial to whether or not there will be salvation.  In other words, having right religious belief isn't, for them (and there are very large and powerful numbers of these people) a personal matter.  If the country doesn't remain Christian and doesn't have the right beliefs and allows the wrong things, they believe, then it will bring disaster upon all of us.  You can see the same sort of "logic" at work during the Inquisition.  When the Inquisition tortured and killed a heretic (i.e., a Calvinist, Jew, or Protestant), it wasn't simply because they had the wrong beliefs but because these beliefs could bring the wrath of God down upon their people.  They thought of themselves as doing their duty for both the person they tortured and killed (they were saving that person's soul) and to the community as a whole.  I don't think a lot of secularists and moderate believers really get the nature of this connection between a particular metaphysics or theology and type of religiousity.  This combination of belief that they have the absolute truth and faith is a highly toxic brew.  They treat faith (belief in the absence of demonstration) as a virtue, while simultaneously holding that they have certain knowledge and that they can read the will of God in natural and political events around the world.

        •  Yes, that's the core frustration mentioned (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, snakelass, Philoguy, Larsstephens

          in this diary which I found most appropriate to offer as such.

          For the hardcore believer, their central way of being, of perceiving existence and their very grounding in conscious thought may become defined by an in inherently insular, philosophical framework.  Unfortunately, I feel that what they may perceive as a linear timeline of creation to end-game is - in actual practice - more of the symbolic notion with a snake eating its tail: their worldview relates beginning to end, and all occurrences between these interrelated concepts help them to justify their perceptions.

          So, they travel in circles of logic, supporting actions and in making cultural impacts.  Yet, their views are already mired in lost, unending reasoning with an OFF switch that always equals the ON switch position.  Everything is ON for them.  It can become absolutely ludicrous, IMHO.

          Those folks often require a truly personal shakeup in their lives to even attempt jarring them from that embedded, Mobius-strip reasoning path.

          But, otherwise I consider a reasonable percentage of people more open to tolerance and acceptance, if given real-world incentives such as the basic elements of animal needs (i.e., food, shelter, etc.), allowing them the luxury to note that others are perhaps not quite so threatening to their livelihoods as originally perceived.

          Until jealousy and greed come into play.  Then, the use of available tools - such as faith - come back into vogue, right?  Ah, the mammal known as humans.

          "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

          by wader on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:57:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I don't know that I'll ever feel comfortable (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rieux, wader, kalmoth, Larsstephens

      "coming out" to the world at large.

      It's still very risky I think if one needs to conduct business of any kind.

      •  Depends on where you are - (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, Larsstephens

        when I'm with friends and family, I'm generally in a minority of one as a religious person.

        I was raised by an atheist, and I never really saw all the discrimination people are talking about.  Doesn't mean it's not there, just that it's not everywhere.

        (- 8.75, -5.59) The level of religious discourse in our society hurts my sexy. - pastordan

        by dirkster42 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:42:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, it's there. (6+ / 0-)

          I have had a lot of discussions in my business life that were clearly not geared to stating who I was.

          I would guess that its like a gay guy hanging around a bunch of homophobic bigots while pretending to be straight.

          One may be unaware of it, but it's there.   The highest number for any theoretical group who public opinion (in polls) that people identify as not being possible to be President is atheists.

          Obama sort of changes the limits of "never" but I never expect to see an open atheist elected or appointed to a high level in this government.

          •  Love the "gay" analogy (7+ / 0-)

            Have heard others say this before.

            And in fact, the numbers match up.  Gays and Atheists likely make up between 7-10% of the US population.

            But how many Gay Atheists are there!?!  Now THOSE PEOPLE I can't stand!!!!

            If elections have consequences, then a mandate means REVOLUTION!!!

            by mralex1974 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:54:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh yeah... (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rieux, snakelass, Philoguy, crose, Larsstephens

              and the reason it's so difficult to get exact numbers of gays or atheists?

              because many of each group are afraid to identify themselves as such, even in private surveys.  not a good thing.

              If elections have consequences, then a mandate means REVOLUTION!!!

              by mralex1974 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:10:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NNadir, mralex1974

              But how many Gay Atheists are there!?!  Now THOSE PEOPLE I can't stand!!!!

              You're joking, of course, but consider the size of that overlap. Perhaps this is immediately obvious, but in demographic terms LBGT folks are considerably more likely to be atheists than is the general U.S. population. And the same holds in reverse:  a much larger proportion of atheists are (out as) LBGT than the corresponding proportion of all Americans.

              As a straight but rabidly pro-gay-rights atheist, I think the overlap is great.

              •  that did occur to me... (0+ / 0-)

                but I also wonder if it's truly a really large overlap or only a little greater than normal...

                there sure are a lot of religious gay people, which makes the anti-gay fervor in the churches so distasteful...

                but overall we definitely agree.

                If elections have consequences, then a mandate means REVOLUTION!!!

                by mralex1974 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:06:48 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Well one great thing about being an atheist (0+ / 0-)

                is that we hate something or someone, we do so on our own responsibility.

                I can't stand it when someone acts like an ass or a bigoted ass and then blamed God for it.

        •  Sometimes when I'm feeling (4+ / 0-)

          angry or provocative, I'll just announce it.

          •  And then what? You expect all the theists ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... in the room to pile on, trying to convert you? Self-important much?

            But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

            by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:02:11 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Asshole much? (0+ / 0-)

              Read the damn diary. There are numerous perfectly understandable reasons that members of a despised minority might be interested in openly asserting their identity.

              "Perfectly understandable," that is, to people who aren't so benightedly bigoted that they don't give a shit.

              You'd never dare to tell a member of any other hated minority that the mere open expression of minority identity showed "self-importance." Your bigotry stinks.

              •  Girlfriend, if you wanna talk ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... "hated minorities", I can trump you ANY day!

                Gay white male Pagan in the Deep South, 50+ years old, with HIV. Now, go whine elsewhere...

                But then, WTF do *I* know? I'm merely an AIDS carrying, child molesting, dog fucking, marriage busting, Christian hating, clueless privileged white male faggot!

                by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:55:18 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Big deal. (0+ / 0-)

                  You're positively falling over yourself to prove your credentials as an atheophobe. A gay, Pagan, Southern, HIV-positive atheophobe.

                  What do you want, a prize for acrobatic bigotry?


                  Now, go whine elsewhere...

                  Sure--as soon as you cease your bullshit whining about "authoritarian," "militantly anti-theist," "self-important" atheists. Whining that is, conveniently, based on nothing but your own rampant bigotry.

        •  Depends on where in the country you are also. (6+ / 0-)

          I grew up in a college town in Oregon. Being an Atheist was no big deal. Then I moved to Kentucky and learned (eventually) to keep my mouth shut. Now I'm back in Oregon, the most unchurched state in the nation. What a relief.

      •  I am already shunned. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        churchylafemme, NNadir, Larsstephens

        I am a Democrat, an older woman, obese, ugly and single. There is no place for me in Society. Being agnostic certainly makes life no more difficult.  

        Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

        by crose on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:27:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And you have Mrs. Roosevelt's famous advantage: (0+ / 0-)

          You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do

          I am an old, obese, Democrat is who is very ugly - even beyond what I write here, but I'm also a married man as well as an atheist.

          Even though I'm kind of chickenshit about coming out with the atheist thing - and part of it is to avoid family arguments - I can be fearless.

          So, apparently can you.

          Isn't that powerful?

          •  Yes, NNadir. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NNadir

            That can be powerful. And I have become pretty much fearless over the past few years. It's good to know that at least one of my fellow Kossacks is ugly! ;8>)I enjoy your posts, too. Even if I don't fully understand them.

            Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

            by crose on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 10:59:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I am always amazed by how "god" gets a pass (9+ / 0-)

      Whenever anthing good happens, believers always ascribe it to "god." However, when something bad happens, let's say Katrina, when it hit New Orleans, some people blamed Mother Nature.  Others said "god" smited NO for homosexuality.  So, is a woman stronger than "god" or is "god" evil, petty, and hateful?  My favorite thing to do now, is to say, "praise jesus" when something bad happens, so the blame gets placed where it should be.

      •  Interestingly enough (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        crose, Larsstephens, uc booker

        the gay parts of NO got a pass during Katrina.

      •  I think God has really (4+ / 0-)

        bad aim if he does send natural disasters.  When I'm teaching Lucretius and Spinoza, both of whom develop strong critiques of superstition and the idea that God sends natural disasters to punish the wicked, I point out that God seems to send the majority of natural disasters to the midwest (tornadoes) and the southern coast where the majority of devout believers are, and that he took out much of the southern coast for the sin of homosexuality and women baring their breasts while managing to miss the one part of NOs where the gay pride parade was supposed to take place and where the breast baring occurs.

        •  Yeah, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Philoguy, Larsstephens

          but look where the majority of disasters happen--your earthquakes, fires, mudslides and ex-bodybuilding Governors. California, land of homo-elitest, left-wing pinko Jews.

          Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

          by crose on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:30:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Truth is... (7+ / 0-)

      A real Atheist who openly professes their beliefs is just as likely to be the target of bigotry as any other "minority."

      I actually had a woman tell me Atheists should not use US dollars because it says "In God We Trust" on them.  Seriously.  She said atheists are hypocrites if they use money.

      Of course, she also said "I don't understand why black men try to marry white women.  Aren't black women good enough for them."  A-hem...

      If elections have consequences, then a mandate means REVOLUTION!!!

      by mralex1974 on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:44:21 PM PST

    •  I do have some issues with some of the points (5+ / 0-)

      It's plain old mean to shake the faith that gives another person comfort and community, so don't do it.

      If you doubt, keep it to yourself.

      Practice don't-ask-don't tell about unbelief.

      Be respectful of other people--respecting people means respecting their beliefs.

      If someone tries to convert you, be polite because they only mean well.

      Remember that faith is good and even a brittle, misguided faith is better than none at all.

      I like to play the role of Atheist Missionary, as such I cannot "keep it to myself" or "DADT" or "be polite to those trying to convert me" (I have missionary work to attend, sometimes it requires me to be curt.). Not all faith is good, how is misguided faith "better" than no faith?

    •  Thanks for this. Atheists can be threatening (14+ / 0-)

      to some Christians. (I used to be in an End Times church)  I think that most people say they believe, are feeding off the collective energy of all the other people in the church who say they believe, they were Born Again but that without the power of the group illusion, they could not believe.

      So, when a Christian meets someone who seems perfectly happy, not afraid of Hell, who doesn't believe in God. It threatens their fragile hold on belief.

      •  And my point was..... (9+ / 0-)

        this is an example of why atheists are called arrogant, because the Christian who has been made to question, just for a moment, is angry!

        (No flames, I am referring to the rabid Christianists. Regular "the bible may not be literally true" Christians, are not bothered by athiests much.

        •  My converstations with Christians (6+ / 0-)

          Do seem to revolve around that point.  I have seem to have no problems myself with letting others know I'm an atheist.  I rarely bring it up, but if the topic does come up I'll boldly state it.  I'll even admit and claim to be "militant" although not in a violent manner.  

          Its funny, one guy I worked with came up to me and said how it seemed like I was a really good person and went out of my way to help others.  Don't remember his next line but it had something to do with Jesus.  I just laughed in his face and said no I'm not a Christian I'm an atheist.  The look on his face was priceless.  We had a number of conversations after that,none of which I started, and I continuously challenged him on almost every piece of doctrine I could think of.  I remember on conversation claiming one of the great pieces of evidence, to him, that the bible was true was... they found "something" that might.. maybe.. looking at it at the right angle.. was a chariot wheel at the bottom of the Red Sea "proving" Moses and the Red Sea story.  Needless to say his critical thinking skills weren't top notch.

          We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

          by Mercuriousss on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:14:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  On the other hand... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          churchylafemme

          I do know an atheist who will not cease in his badgering me about my beliefs in God.  He simply will not let me change the subject.  He doesn't do this only to me, but to others as well, even to people whose faith (or lack thereof) he knows nothing about.

          I personally had not heard of atheists being called arrogant, but once I saw your headline, all I could think about was this one example, the most noteworthy atheist guy I know, just because he happens to be so vociferous, forceful, and rabid.

          I never would have taken this guy to be "representative" of atheists as a group.

          Impeachment is a duty, not an option that can be taken off the table.

          by bushondrugs on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:59:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Nice point, Karen... (3+ / 0-)

        I think one of the reasons that people are recalcitrant in abandoning beliefs (whether of a political or a religious nature) is that these beliefs are not simply personal, but are bound up with our collective relations.  For example, if everyone in my family is Republican, I risk losing their love by "coming out" as Democrat.  Since belief is often a condition for belonging to a certain group, changing beliefs can often have real consequences for ones social network.

    •  Ummm ewwww (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      Not all atheists act like that! I agree that it's annoying when they do though.

    •  I'm not familiar with the "arrogant" stereotype (11+ / 0-)

      and certainly don't subscribe to it.  I'm married to one, my father is one, and oddly, considering my own deep faith, most of my closest friends fall somewhere between generic deism and atheism.  I don't try to convert them, and they don't try to convert me.  

      In my personal life, atheists and I'm surrounded by atheists and we get along swimmingly.  But here at DKos, when I once tried to explain how I can be both a Catholic and a social liberal, I was diagnosed with "cognitive dissonance."

      It wasn't enough to change my opinion of atheists.  It wasn't even enough to embarrass me into avoiding these sorts of diaries.  But it wasn't an isolated incident and I think that's a shame.  It would be better if all liberals -- believers and non-believers -- could model the sort of tolerance we want to see in the world.

    •  Interesting post (10+ / 0-)

      Atheists, agnostics, non-theists, and all manner of non-believers are generally no more or less arrogant than believers IMHO.

      Arrogance is an innate human emotion that we all share to one degree or another. Religion is a spiritual feeling. The two are mutually exclusive. Religion, or lack thereof, does not cause arrogance, or lack thereof. Conversely, arrogance does not lead to, or cause, religiosity. Arrogance and religion are separate things.

      In other words, correlation does not prove causation. (For those in on the joke, the declining number of pirates in the worlds is not the cause of global warming, either.)

      So what's the point? A human can be insufferably arrogant about his/her religion or lack thereof. However, that person's religion (or lack thereof) is probably not the root cause of his/her arrogance. Chances are that person is arrogant about topics that have nothing to do with religion.

      To put it more succinctly, if you find an arrogant atheist, that person is probably not just arrogant about his/her lack of faith. That person might also be arrogant about the epic size of his/her DVD collection, or number of FaceBook friends, or college GPA, or a recent vacation in Nebraska.

      Given my choice (as a non-Christian), I would rather hang out with a non-arrogant Christian than an arrogant atheist. Attitude means a lot more to me than religion.

      It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

      by Casual Wednesday on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:52:01 PM PST

    •  how do you get those hanging bullets? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      churchylafemme, Larsstephens

      nice diary, but I'm curious to know how you get the hanging punctuation?  

      ---
      Tired of violent language from right-wing pundits? Buy my book: Outright Barbarous

      by Jeffrey Feldman on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 06:54:37 PM PST

    •  The refrain "atheists are (12+ / 0-)

      arrogant" is a bit like the common refrain to the effect that "I would mind those homosexuals if they weren't so in your face about it" or "Blacks wouldn't have such a problem if they weren't so uppity."  By and large atheists just want to be left alone so that they might do their own thing.  They only speak up when they're having religion rammed down their throat in the form of attempts to teach creationism or religious based government programs.  When they point out the problems with these things they're then labeled "arrogant" and "uppity" for trying to protect themselves.

      •  Indeed. (0+ / 0-)

        It bears adding, though, that plenty of us are sick and tired of this country's centuries-old practice of marginalizing and dehumanizing us even when it isn't (at that particular moment) "ramming religion down our throats."

        The oppression and severe bigotry that we have faced in the United States for a very long time has consequences; one that I think is substantially positive is that more atheists (especially in the current decade) are making the decision to be "out and proud" about our (non)beliefs.

        As a civil rights movement, we're just barely getting off the ground (and learning from the experiences of our predecessors, especially African-Americans and LBGTs), but we've gotten started. Thankfully.

    •  Some thoughts from a liberal believer... (9+ / 0-)

      Here's an interesting comparison:

      The most obnoxious conservatives I know are the neo-cons, or more specifically conservatives who used to be liberals. They have SEEN THE LIGHT!(TM), mind you. They have WOKEN UP from the LIBERAL MEDIA BRAINWASHING(TM) that once shackled them in chains and they are now in possession of THE TRUTH!!!

      Their MO is to go nonstop at you with talking point after talking point after talking point to try to "convert" you. You see, I too, have been brainwashed!! No, I CLAIM to think for myself (Haha!) but in reality, or so they tell me, I need to WAKE UP and realize that I'VE BEEN DUPED!(TM) and so on. You get the idea.

      That's the secular example. From this we can segue to...

      Obnoxious Born-Agains. Either from nonbeliever to Superbeliever or mild believer to Superbeliver. I'm sure you're well versed of whom I speak:

      They found Jesus. They saw the light.  Not just Jesus but JESUS!!! NEON JESUS!!!(TM) SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOP JESUS!!!! Fine. Whatever works for you.

      "NO, YOU GOTTA SEE IT THIS WAY!!!!! HE'S REAL!!! YOU GOTTA JOIN THIS CHURCH I BELONG TO!!! IT IS THE WAY!!! IT IS THE TRUTH!!!! DON'T YOU WANT ETERNAL LIFE THIS WAY!!! BUT YOU GOTTA VOTE FOR PROP 8!!! YOU GOTTA SUPPORT BUSH!!! LIBERALS ARE EVIL!!! JESUS SAID SO!!!!!"

      And so on...

      And finally...

      The obnoxious (or arrogant), to tie in to your thread, atheist.

      (snarl!) "You believers are SO deluded!!! There is NO God!!! It's ridiculous!!! The Earth is so tiny and the universe is so HUGE that what kind of higher being would make some kind of cosmic practical joke????? Science explains everything!!! Has anyone SEEN God? Of course not!!! Religion is all a crock!!!! All clergy are corrupt and repressed and deluded!!!"

      And so on.

      I find when it comes to ideology or religion or politics, the more obnoxious or arrogant a person is about it, the more likely they've swung from one extreme to another. Because of some massive "conversion" to another they get the idea that "Man. THIS is how it is!!! I gotta get everyone else to see it this way!!"

      See, I find the whole thing frustrating myself from so many points of view because I was raised in a liberal faith of Unitarian Universalism. My parents allowed me the freedom to come to whatever conclusion of what The Ultimate Question is ON MY OWN. Church was social. My Dad brought Carl Sagan's "The Dragons of Eden" and my mother brought "Changing Bodies, Changing Lives" to Sunday school class. This is surely NOT your neighbor's Republican church, heh heh!! I only had one real minor "adjustment" in my faith upon graduating from college. I went from being Deist Unitarian to Unitarian with a dash of "Peacenik Jesus" thrown in. There was no "bright light moment", no "see the light" moment, just a gradual adjustment. Other than than, my faith has stayed about the same since I was... 11 or so? I've NEVER thought the Bible was inerrant. I noticed the contradictions in it at about that same age as well. Didn't take me long. To me, the Bible is not the be-and-end-all. It's a guide, perhaps an occasional well of some good things. I don't obsess over details. I focus on the Important Things: Do unto others, love your neighbor, be real, be an authentic person, always strive to do better, try to find the good in each and every person. The rest is all just smoke and mirrors.

      I see so many disillusioned Catholics both IRL where I live in New England, and so many Kossacks here who are like that and others who talk about the wild-eyed crazed fundies in their midst and I while I sympathize, I look at it as someone on the outside looking in. (story of my life!)

      It's frustrating for ME because...

      Believers look at the dogmas of religions other than their own and see them as silly,

      THIS doesn't fit me. Never has. I know you're talking about fundies here, but it's still frustrating because I AM a believer, but I most certainly do NOT see anyone's faith, in and of itself as silly or less valid as mine.

      But are moderate believers open to such questions?

      I can't speak for no one but yours truly, but my answer is an unequivocal "yes". Other than this, though, you characterize believers as Fundies only in the rest of your diary.

      See, you may not realize it but you use "freethinker" as an antonym for "believer" as unvarnished truth in your essay and I just want to shake my head. Why CAN'T you be both a "freethinker" and believing person? Sorry, but I'll never believe you can't. I see and observe the real world, try to study science and the scientific method. BUT... find wonder in things and find and BELIEVE that a higher power CAN (I don't know for sure!) be at work here.

      I don't get the polarized "creationism vs. evolution" debate, either. I don't get why people are so focused on trying to prove or disprove one or the other. (especially in the form of the silly "war of the fishies" I see on cars) How about we focus on where we're at NOW and where we're going instead of obsessing over finding the truth about The Beginning? Why can't God have created the Big Bang? If the Big Bang was the Beginning than what existed before it? And so on.

      The irony, I suppose, is that maybe I AM like any other believer. Sometimes I DO with that the whole world was a pluralistic sea of liberal de facto Unitarian believers and non-believers who simply just believe, or don't believe in whatever they believe or don't believe in and respect and talk about it all and engage with others in peace and harmony. Ah, pipe dreams. :( The world is filled with intolerant zealots who do unspeakable things in the name of religion and I wonder if that will ever change. Probably not. :(

      I could ramble on, but in sum, I guess what I'm saying is that respect, questioning and thinking can and should be a two way street. :)

      •  Great comment (8+ / 0-)

        As an atheist I can be supportive of your "form" of belief very easily.  I don't fully understand it, but I would most likely agree with you on 99% of things. A few tiny minor quips, but hey I wouldn't be an arrogant atheist if I didn't.

        I see and observe the real world, try to study science and the scientific method. BUT... find wonder in things and find and BELIEVE that a higher power CAN (I don't know for sure!) be at work here.

        I wouldn't disagree that there is a possibility of some sort of higher power. Just that the the possibility to me is so close to zero that it may as well be.  I find what most would probably call religious awe just at the majesty, variety and complexity of universe.  No need for anything else.

        I don't get the polarized "creationism vs. evolution" debate, either. I don't get why people are so focused on trying to prove or disprove one or the other. (especially in the form of the silly "war of the fishies" I see on cars)

        This one does have real world consequences though.  Lets look at the how the quality of science education has declined in this country in the last 8 years.  Do you honestly think your going to get the best possible science education from a teacher who is a Young Earth Creationist?  What about school boards loaded with YEC's?  Look at the current battle in Texas about the state wide science standards.  Text book manufacturers only produce so many "versions" of their texts and with Texas being one of the largest markets this will affect a number of other states.  And leave my Darwin fish alone :)

        Just so you know though, I stand behind you 100% on this comment.

        Important Things: Do unto others, love your neighbor, be real, be an authentic person, always strive to do better, try to find the good in each and every person. The rest is all just smoke and mirrors.

        We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

        by Mercuriousss on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:32:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point about science... (4+ / 0-)

          We teach science because it is based on...well, the scientific method. It should be taught matter-of-factly and striaghtforwardly that way. Along with the assumption that if you want to send your kid to religion class, they can teach whatever Creation theory they want with that POV and hopefully the kid'll eventually make up his or her own mind about The Big Question.

      •  not a comment... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Philoguy, Mercuriousss, Larsstephens

        that's the makings of a fairly interesting diary you've got here.

      •  Here's the problem with moderate belief... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Philoguy, crose, Larsstephens

        Either this book is the inspired Word of the Creator of the Universe, or it isn't.

        If it is, then every single thing in it is divinely dictated, and not to be questioned by man. In other words, the fundie position.

        If it isn't, then it must, by definition, be man made. In which case it should be evaluated on the same terms as any other work of human fiction.

        Only one of these statements can be true, they are mutually exclusive. The same logic can also be applied to any ecumenical attempts. The major religions of the world contradict each other on enough levels that the only thing that is not possible is for all of them to be true. So again, we're back to square one.

        At some point, there either is or is not a God, and the "holy" books either are or are not true. "Liberal" theology is an attempt to have it both ways.

        You can't.

        --Shannon

        "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
        "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

        by Leftie Gunner on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:45:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's quite a bunch of false dichotomies n/t (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, OJD, Larsstephens
        •  Very well said. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snakelass, kalmoth

          When it's argued that all the religions of the world basically share the same values, people must be forgetting the Aztecs.  Even among the various sects of Christianity, very different things are required of us depending on whether we're Pentacostals or Episcopals.  Belief has consequences and believers need to take this seriously, rather than taking the cheap dodge of claiming it's all really the same at the bottom or that the Bible is just an allegory.

        •  Must respectfully but strongly disagree... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, kalmoth, OJD

          Who wrote these "Holy Books"? God or Man? How about Divine Inspiration that was lost in translation? How about a message that someone heard somewhere and then got diluted over thousands of years? How about some ticked off apostle somewhere maybe decided to fix a few things he liked better?

          Sorry, but there IS a continuum of the state of Divinity of text, IMO. I believe flawed human beings "wrote" the Bible (the literal words), but that somewhere in there is a maybe a Divine mandate that IS true--but there's also a passage in book X that contradicts it. So which one is "true"?

          It's up to the person to use what God gave us--a brain and an ability to reason to decide what is true.

          Like the continuum of sexual orientation--with 0.00 being 100% straight and 1.00 being 100%--I believe everyone exists somewhere along on the continuum, I believe the same continuum exists with regard to the "divinity" of text.

          BTW, who is "Shannon"?

          •  Yes. Religious moderates, in general, assume a (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kalmoth, terabthia2

            continuum and would in many cases describe the Bible (for example) as a book that contains divine inspiration rather than a divinely inspired text.

            Some, tho not all, atheists try to cram all religious people into the pigeon-hole of fundamentalists, or else announce that you HAVE to be either a fundamentalist or an atheist and anything in between is just pretence. Those atheists are arguing against a false picture of what religious faith is and how it works. In reality, in the US and other developed (highly educated) countries, fundamentalists are a minority among religious people, I'm glad to say.

            Often, fundamentalists are authoritarian followers, in authoritarian organizations.  If atheists, agnostics, religious moderates, and those like me with some pooorly defined spiritual opinions were all focused on identifying and disempowering authoritarian organizations (religious or non-religious), I think a lot of the people who harrass atheists and agnostics would be swept up in that dragnet, and atheists/agnostics would have a whole lot of willing allies in the process.  And the world would be a better place.

            Many of the problems often described as problems of religion are in fact problems of authoritarian religion.

          •  I'm not sure I understand your question... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Philoguy

            Who am I?

            Just some random dude on the internet, I guess. What do you want to know?

            To your point:

            The problem I have with this is that it essentially concedes that the holy books are manmade. Given that, I don't understand how they can be considered divine. Once you take divine authorship away, you're left with just another work of literature Which is all well and good, I love to read, but it's nothing to build a religion around.

            I have a hard time understanding a continuum of "proportional divinity". It's an interesting idea, I'm just not clear on how it would work.

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:14:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Indeed, if the Bible is just a work (0+ / 0-)

              of literature it should be evaluated by the criteria of literature.  Arguably there are much finer works of literature to base one's life around such as Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, Proust, Kafka, etc.  The Bible is really a mess from a literary perspective.

        •  What terabithia said, plus one more word: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne

          metaphor.

    •  Strawman (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AlanF, LihTox, bushondrugs

      I've never heard atheists as a group labeled as arrogant.  I've seen some of the more militant atheists in the world called arrogant - often because they are.  

      Your defense of the likes of Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins is a shoddy one.  To suggest that the quality of their research or the horrors they may cite in their writing innoculate them from being called on their dismissive attitudes towards those they disagree with is specious.

      Ultimately the word arrogance applies to anyone unwilling to respect the differences in others.   I fully respect your right to be free from religious belief. If you cannot afford me the same respect for choosing a different set of beliefs, that would be arrogance IMHO.    

      "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

      by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:09:31 PM PST

      •  Dawkins and Harris et al (5+ / 0-)

        only assert that any "belief" or claim should be subject to debate, scrutiny and evidence. They do not think their ideas are beyond criticism. What they object to is the idea that religious ideas and "beliefs" are beyond criticism.  There is a culture of religious arrogance in the world. Dawkins, Harris, Etc (and many before them : Russell, Mencken, etc) are called arrogant for daring to challenge the endemic arrogance of religion throughout the world and throughout history.

        •  I've read too much by all of them to buy this. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AlanF

          They (and many that cite them) repeatedly cast those they disagree with as irrational.  This is an inherently arrogant position to take.

          "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

          by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:27:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah (4+ / 0-)

            But believing in something with absolutely no proof, decrying anyone who believes different is not only just wrong, but possibly spending an eternity in torture is a rational argument?  I have yet to see one logic rational argument for any theist's beliefs.  The person may be very smart and rational 99% of the time but when it comes to religion, rationality flies out the window.  They are simply calling a spade a spade.

            We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

            by Mercuriousss on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:37:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You presume far too much (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AlanF

              Not all religious people believe that anyone will "spend an eternity in torture".  There are many, many different ways of looking at the big questions involving our existence on this planet, yet you have the temerity to say "I have yet to see one logic rational argument for any theist's beliefs."

              I suspect you haven't given it much of a good faith effort.

              "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

              by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:46:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thats why I said possibly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bluegrass50

                I know many don't have this point of view.  

                As far as I haven't made a "good faith effort". I grew up in a semi christian home, father didn't go, mother did.  I have read a lot online from different points of views and personally found them lacking.  Now I can understand others can read stuff from atheist's point of view and find them lacking also.  I may not be able to understand WHY they find them lacking, but can acknowledge they do.  

                I'll make it simple.  You want me to believe anything, I don't care if its religion, monetary policy or if the moon is made out of green cheese, you have to show me one thing and one thing only.  Evidence.  Until then its all word games.

                We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

                by Mercuriousss on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:55:12 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Whatever your experience... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  OJD

                  ...to speak of all religious people by saying that "rationality flies out the window" when they speak of religion just drips of condescension.  I happen to believe in God and I guarantee you I am capable of speaking completely rationally about my beliefs.  Ask me any question you want.  Try not to load them so I don't have to waste time pointing out how you did so.  But ask away if you like.

                  As for the primacy of evidence, I'll simply point out to you that evidence is a matter of perception - and perception is by nature subjective.  Can you acknowledge the possibility that there may be evidence that exists beyond our powers of perception?

                  "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

                  by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:04:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  yes, there are many ways of looking - (0+ / 0-)

                but unless there is evidence presented there is no standard of evaluation.

            •  Lack of understanding... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ahianne, snout, OJD

              The person may be very smart and rational 99% of the time but when it comes to religion, rationality flies out the window.

              The apparent lack of understanding in this phrase is dwarfed by its overgeneralization. Perhaps you wanted to say something different...

              •  Is it really? (0+ / 0-)

                I'm struggling to think of a situation in which religious belief is rational.  I can speak only of Christianity, since that is the religion i know.  I would say that I've experienced forms of Christianity that are not anti-rational.  Many mystical, abstracted, forms of faith (absent belief) operate only in that space which is outside the domain of reason and evidence.  But I don't know that they are rational either.  

                It seems to me that as soon as believers try to rationalize belief, they they are forced to engage in mental contortions that push them into that anti-rational space.  

                Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.--Jacob Bronowski www.WisdomCommons.org

                by Valerie Tarico on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 07:16:51 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Not a strawman. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kalmoth

        C'mon, a quick google search can show you otherwise.  Or you could look here or here or here or here or...

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:00:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow - 4 people on the internet. (0+ / 0-)

          Its everywhere!!!!!    

          "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

          by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:07:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Excuse you. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chowder

            First off, I suggested googling, and I provided a few choice examples.  Would you prefer I linked 20 or 30 individually so that your lazy self didn't have to do your own work when claiming a strawman?

            Did you bother reading the links?  The first two in particular discuss newspaper articles and books where the authors use "arrogant" when discussing atheism not in reference to particular writers but to the whole notion of atheism.

            If you tried not being an asshole, we could actually have a conversation about this.  

            Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

            by pico on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:18:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You might want to switch to decaf (0+ / 0-)

              A little wound up are ya?

              The reality is that I can find more examples of people telling their stories of alien abduction on the net than you can find of people calling all atheists arrogant.

              It is a strawman.  And your need to attack suggests you know as much.

              "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

              by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:49:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, I'm just responding to the condescension (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chowder

                in your reply to a reasonably posed question.  You claim something's a strawman, I suggest that you haven't looked online and I give you examples, and you give a truly douchebag response.  Whether you can find alien abduction stories is arbitrary to the fact that "arrogant atheists" is enough of a common epithet to appear in our newspaper articles (not "people on the internet", if you bothered to click on the links, which you obviously didn't) as part of our discourse on the topic.  

                I'm sorry, I just don't suffer fools well.

                Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                by pico on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:53:26 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It isn't condescending to point out... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...that I could offer the same evidence you are offering me to claim that there is widespread belief that Obama's birth certificate is fake.  

                  There is an idiot fringe out in the world who say all sorts of stupid things on any number of issues.  Sometimes they get quoted in newspapers and such when the owners of those papers think it will sell them a few copies.  Doesn't make them representative of a widely held attitude.  

                  I'm sure there are fundamentalists out there that consider atheists all sorts of things.  I'm a Jew...they probably think I have horns.  I'm not going to start a diary rebutting them on it.  I doubt those people would be convinced by this diary and the rest of us don't need it.

                  Anyhow - you've already embarrassed yourself by throwing out "asshole" "douchebag" and "fool".  Care to debase yourself any further?

                  "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

                  by snout on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:14:20 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  ohnoez! Obama was immaculately conceived?????? (0+ / 0-)

                    ...that I could offer the same evidence you are offering me to claim that there is widespread belief that Obama's birth certificate is fake.  

                  •  A-ha, so (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Philoguy

                    when the diarist says that atheists get labeled as arrogant for their beliefs, you accuse the diarist of propping up a straw man and then dismiss every example of the diarist's point as an exception.  It doesn't matter how mainstream the paper or how well-known the source - it's "fringe".   That's a class act bit of argumentation there: you can reject the diarist's premise simply by making excuses for every example tossed at you.  That's a convenient little bubble you live in, excluding MacArthur Fellows (my first link), journalists for Salon, etc.  But of course, now you're just backtracking because you called my first set of links "4 people on the internet" instead of seeing what I actually linked to.

                    This also stretches back to the earliest days of Christianity.  Read some Augustine of Hippo: the arrogance of secular knowledge.  It's encoded in early Church teachings that the pursuit of knowledge that is not fundamentally in line with God is a form of arrogance.  The slur against atheists has its roots there: it's linked with the arrogance of science, which I'm sure you've seen before.

                    Hey, I don't mind throwing out some angry language at someone who played the condescension card first.  Butting heads over the internet doesn't bother me.

                    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                    by pico on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:55:43 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It is a strawman because... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...it isn't a widely held belief. I can go through several years of my life without ever hearing it voiced.  I have to search it out to find it.

                      That is a straw man.

                      This also stretches back to the earliest days of Christianity.  Read some Augustine of Hippo: the arrogance of secular knowledge.  It's encoded in early Church teachings that the pursuit of knowledge that is not fundamentally in line with God is a form of arrogance.  The slur against atheists has its roots there: it's linked with the arrogance of science, which I'm sure you've seen before.

                      Well if you really want to go there...

                      The argument here is not that secular knowledge is arrogant, but that it is arrogant for man to place himself as the final arbiter of all knowledge.  In short - it is arrogant to deny the subjectivity of human perception.

                      There is truth in this.  But not all atheists take this position.

                      Ultimately this is a side issue.  Acknowledging that it is arrogant for man to place himself as the highest authority in the universe is not directly analogous to attributing arrogance to atheists.  

                      "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them" Pres. Obama 1/20/09

                      by snout on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:29:35 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  Okay. A religion professor said that atheism (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snout, pico

          always comes down to arrogance. That is obnoxious. And I agree there are a fair number of (mostly fundamentalist) religous people who regard all atheists as automatically arrogant. It's obnoxious and a form of bigotry, as is the assumption (by SOME religous people) that atheists are not moral.

          At the same time, on the same page you linked to, there is this:

          I have this internal debate with regards to moderate religiosity. In one respect is certainly is better than fundamentalism, meaning that moderates are often able to disregard their religion when it is at it's most destructive and when it undeniably clashes with scientific knowledge about the world, but in another sense it can be seen to add a level of respectability to what is really a case of sheer insanity, namely religiosity in general. If it wasn't for all the moderate religious people who give a somewhat sane face to religion, the fundamentalists would be put in insane asylums where they belong.

          Do you find it arrogant to equate religious belief with insanity? I find it arrogant and unfactual. There are psychological measures of sanity, and most religious people fall within those bounds, to state the obvious.

          I don't think the arrogance of atheists does as much harm to believers as the arrogance of believers does to atheists, if only because believers are in the majority in this culture. So the arrogance of believers is a greater moral issue. But the arrogance of some atheists can still be a mighty potent annoyance.

          I am not a member of any organized religion, though I have some poorly organized personal spiritual beliefs that I feel no need to voice to anyone except close friends. I have no investment in organized religion. BUt some of the finest progressives I have known have been religous people, and the idea that it's okay, or even an intellectual virtue, to flail at them with accusations like "insane," "delusional," "moronic," "hypocritical," etc., does tick me off.  

      •  Sadly, not. (0+ / 0-)

        Strawman

        I've never heard atheists as a group labeled as arrogant.

        I've heard atheists as a group called much worse things. By apparently educated people, some of them elected public servants.

    •  People think Atheists are arrogant? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OJD, Tam in CA, bushondrugs, terabthia2

      Huh.  I did not know that.  I always thought I was pretty laid back.

      See, I just goes 'bout my business.  I don't ask anyone about their religion.  People seldom ask me about mine (or lack thereof).  If they ask, I'll tell them, but otherwise ... eh.  I'll never bring the subject up.

      Someone's religious affiliation is the last thing I'd want to know about a person.  It just has no importance to me (unless you try to impose it on me or try to turn the country into a Theocracy - THEN I care)

      Is that arrogant?

    •  I find self-assured theists of any stripe (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dabize, snakelass, Philoguy, rossl

      far more arrogant than any atheist.

      A theist professes "belief" in something on "faith" and requires no evidence.

      An atheist is someone who has looked at religion and found it lacking.

      Theists expect a deference to their "ideas and beliefs" that no other group tries to claim.

      The religious think they are above criticism.  They are far more arrogant than the most arrogant atheist.

    •  I am atheist... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, kalmoth, Mercuriousss

      It's not that I'm arrogant; It's just that I'm correct.

      /snark

      Sound familiar?

      If my students can't explain it, they don't understand it.

      by Jimdotz on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:12:29 PM PST

    •  My personal belief: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, bluegrass50, Mercuriousss

      I see no reason to believe in any one deity (or any multiple deities).  To think that man could pick the right one IS ARROGANT.  If there is something like a god (although labelling it god is misleading) I believe it is something akin to all of the natural laws and cycles that result from these laws.  In other words, the forces of nature are more powerful than any human or group of humans could ever be and more complicated than we can ever understand.  I think religion originated as an explanation for the unknown and that is mostly what it is today still.  If you want to call that "God" or some other name, be my guest.

    •  I don't get the arrogance (4+ / 0-)

      I've never actually met in person another admitted atheist. Only online. I don't discuss my lack of belief, not even with my own family who are all believers. They know I'm an atheist but we don't talk about it.

      For the most part, I think we live largely underground. We learn to suppress a lot of anger over religious acts and speech and lectures that cause death, distruction, dissension, piousness and moral condemnation of non-believers. We don't start wars. We don't interfere in other peoples sex lives or even tell them how to live their lives. We just quietly live our lives knowing that a massive amount of the population believes something that looks like a fairy tale to us, and we have to pretend to believe it, or at least bite our tongues not to dispute it.

      That doesn't sound like arrogance to me.

      "The white race is the domineering race, which is why I'm voting for McClain." Anonymous voter on NPR

      by txdemfem on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:17:40 PM PST

    •  Beautifully written. I agree with Vonnegut (6+ / 0-)

      "If God were alive today, he'd be an atheist."

      We are hardwired to seek an intelligent agent in the random events of our experience. Combine that with our brain's sylvan fissure and penchant for psychoactive drugs and it would appear "God" was just waiting to be discovered and rediscovered and rediscovered.

      Religion on the other hand, has less to do with "God" and more with organizing your tribe and agreeing on a common narrative for your existence. We are nothing if not storytellers. Where do we come from both individually and as a species, where do we go after death. (Rodney Dangerfield had a joke about going to the funeral of an atheist friend: "I looked at him in the casket and said 'What a shame, all dressed up and no where to go.'" Rodney by the way was an atheist himself.) We are here for such a short time, (in the third world perhaps for a very, very short time). The idea of continued existence after death is a strong motivator to believe in both a "God" and your tribes particular version of God's edicts and commands.

      Atheists, you are competing with some very well received and long standing stories (and no end of storytellers). Good luck!

      I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony

      by the fan man on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:18:30 PM PST

    •  Godless and free (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mercuriousss, Larsstephens

      "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

      by liberalconservative on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:19:51 PM PST

    •  A theist's perspective (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AlanF, Ahianne, snout, kalmoth, terabthia2

      Let me say that I am sympathetic to the ostracism that atheists face, and that they deserve better.  A religious faith which cannot withstand the existence of nonbelievers is a weak faith, and it is cowardly to try to suppress dissenting voices.

      That said, there are certain things that atheists occasionally say in forums such as these which really stick in my craw:  

      The first is to assume that theism is the same thing as religion, or that the failures of religious institutions are proof that God doesn't exist.  To me, that sounds like a Republican arguing that, because government has screwed things up, then government shouldn't exist.  It's human nature for some to be corrupted by power or to be blinded by dogma; the same is true in government or religion.  If religions didn't exist, the power vacuum would be filled by something else-- there's no shortness of dogmatism in Communism, for instance.  "Theism" requires only one thing: a belief in God.  Nothing about sex, nothing about "family values".  Some of you looked at the Religious Right and thought "I can't believe in their picture of God, so God can't exist."  I look at them and think "I can't believe in their picture of God, so their picture must be wrong."  Arrogance on my part?  Maybe, but I never said that my picture was right either-- I can't even imagine a 4-dimensional cube, let alone God.

      The second is the assumption that logic and science are on the side of the atheist.  They are not; they are neutral.  One cannot prove the existence or nonexistence of God; one can only make arguments which others find more or less convincing.  And heck, science can't even prove that the world existed before last Tuesday: it could be a very good hoax.  Nor does science care; science isn't about TRUTH, it's about predicting what will happen based on what has happened before.  It's about reproducible events.  God is not a reproducible event.  For that matter, neither was the Resurrection: science can say nothing about it.  At this point, an atheist would bring up Occam's Razor: that the simplest explanation explaining everything is the best.  But what proof do we have that Occam's Razor is true?  It has to be accepted on faith, or if you prefer, it has to be accepted as a postulate.  That's fine-- everyone has to have postulates-- but occasionally an atheist will state it dogmatically, with a contemptuous tone.  That is irritating.

      The third is the assumption that Liberal Christians don't exist-- that Christians are the Enemy of progressive politics.  Surprise, surprise, we're here.  We support science.  We oppose oppression.  We support free speech and tolerance.  And we appreciate not being treated with contempt.

      I think it's right to cut atheists some slack; given what they have to put up with, they have a right to be ticked off, and to shout a little louder so that their voices can be heard.  But it still gets on my nerves, sometimes.

      End of sermon lecture.

      •  Um, please explain (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chowder, snakelass, Philoguy

        I'd like to hear any scientific theory that begins as "neutral" between a metaphysical and a naturalistic explanation.  I know of none.

        This is a case of special pleading on the part of religion--in all other cases, the default assumption is disbelief until proof is obtained.

        I finally put in a signature!

        by Boris Godunov on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:35:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not that... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snout, LihTox

          proving or disproving properly postulated theological statements is by definition beyond the scope of scientific inquiry.

        •  Define metaphysics (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AlanF, Ahianne, snakelass, kalmoth

          My dictionary says "the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space."  I'd say that yes, Science is neutral on many of those questions.  And I'm speaking as a physicist.  (Quantum mechanics is great for showing us how little we CAN know about how the Universe works; the study of quantum mechanics was actually responsible for converting one of my professors BACK to Christianity.)

          Note that a belief in God does not suppose a belief in His interfering with physical law (i.e. miracles).  If God created the Universe, then he knows all the rules: surely he can do what he wants to do in it without leaving a big gap in causality.  For example, I've always thought the notion of Intelligent Design, where God is continually introducing new species, to be terribly insulting to God: if he wanted humans and all these other species to exist, he'd just design the program so that we exist.  What, they don't think God is smart enough to do that?

    •  it's so F'in obvious we're right. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mercuriousss, Larsstephens

      Why is that considered arrogant? (hides under tarp with SuperSoaker)

      "War is the calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings". Harry Patch, age 109, WWI veteran.

      by skwimmer on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:29:34 PM PST

    •  An athiest with a strawman? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snout, bushondrugs, Larsstephens

      that seems so ironic.

      Visit Northern Word, a writing, photo and travel blog.

      by decembersue on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:33:27 PM PST

    •  I hate arrogant atheists (8+ / 0-)

      I used to be one.

      Then I realized proselytizing disbelief is just as bad as proselytizing a belief.

      I became an atheist through self-realization. It's a spiritual journey just as much as it as a scientific method-driven one. It's unfair to make someone feel insecure about their beliefs, and although I constantly absorb barrage after barrage of insults, confused looks and emotional abuse, my atheism never wavers.

      IMO, let everyone believe whatever they want to.

    •  I am an Athiest... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AlanF, chowder, snakelass, Larsstephens

      ...and I am not arrogant about it...

      I do find it frustrating that if I put Atheist on my dating profile at Match, that I get few profile views...however, if I leave it blank or change it to other with a comment about me being a pastafarian...All sorts of profile views and contact...and I am the arrogant one...

      When did the Taliban take over the Republican Party? (-8.25, -7.85)

      by Mark E Andersen on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 07:51:25 PM PST

    •  I think that 9/11 spurred the new atheist writers (5+ / 0-)

      Seeing people crashing planes into buildings in the name of God was the last straw and it got harder to just stay silent.

      Even though I am not a believer, I have always had a hard time understanding how the religious right takes the political positions it does and still claim to believe in the Jesus that spoke the Sermon on the Mount.

    •  God Damn right... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chowder, Kodiak54, Larsstephens

      Atheist and Arrogant and Proud.

    •  This is OUTSTANDING. (4+ / 0-)

      Thank you so much for writing it.

      But where's the tip jar?

      - Rieux, out-and-proud atheist

    •  Best part of your diary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kalmoth, bushondrugs, Larsstephens
      -  It's plain old mean to shake the faith that gives another person comfort and community, so don't do it.

      -  If you doubt, keep it to yourself.

      -  Practice don't-ask-don't tell about unbelief.

      -  Be respectful of other people--respecting people means respecting their beliefs.

      -  If someone tries to convert you, be polite because they only mean well.

      -  Remember that faith is good and even a brittle, misguided faith is better than none at all.

      I would change bullet point 1.  It's plain old mean to shake the faith, or lack of faith....

      Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

      by SpamNunn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 08:45:33 PM PST

      •  Er-- (0+ / 0-)

        you do realize that Ms. Tarico was attacking that list of oppressive rules, don't you?

        Those rules (along with a handful of others) render atheists outsiders to the American community. They're bad and should be rejected; that was her point.

        Or did you intend your statement that the bullet-pointed list of atheophobic mores is the "best part" of Ms. Tarico's diary as some kind of sarcastic snark?

    •  I often find that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      churchylafemme, kalmoth

      some of the people who most stridently accuse atheists of arrogance are agnostics who arrogantly claim theirs is the only truly rational belief.

      -3.88, -6.36
      Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who - This is supposed to be a happy occasion!

      by AaronInSanDiego on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:14:28 PM PST

    •  As we sat up all night drinking peyote tea (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kalmoth, Alexandra Lynch

      a few blocks from the 1976 Republican Convention...

      "Masel, you're the most spiritual damn atheist I ever met."

      "Two Birds, you're pretty rational for a Holy man yourself.'



      This is a Test of the Emergency Free Speech System. This is only a Test. In an actual Free Speech Emergency, I'll be locked up.

      by ben masel on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:51:15 PM PST

    •  I am a pagan. (0+ / 0-)

      I have no problem with science in any of its manifestations. I just view the science as prose and the religion as poetry. A description of how something works will sometimes leave me in religious rapture. The Krebs cycle is a sacred dance to me.

      Of course, I have also had a transformative mystical experience. So I have a religion because it is my way of dealing with it. To everyone their own, hm?

      That said, I do have a problem with the less tolerant and neighborly manifestations of the religious tendency. That would be why I wear my pentacle well under my shirt, and the religiously themed tattoos are where normal street clothing just won't show them, since I live in the world headquarters of the Church of God.

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