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Ryan

Did you know that there is a new book by Daniel Dennett on exactly this subject. The idea that religion is there and it has done some bad things and some good things and that it does no good whatsoever to try to convince people to become what is a completely stupid word "athiest".

For rational people this is an argument that doesn't exist. It can't exist 'cause you can't be against something that isn't there. So why try to get into arguments with people who won't be convinced with logic you shouldn't be messing around with in the first place.

I've a feeling that only overly testosterone laden underdeveloped intellectuals attempt to argue with people who aren't open to a change of attitude. It's like a great ape display. Someone backs down, but he doens't believe in the heart of his heart that he isn't the alpha male. He just hasn't got the time, right now...

sfmike

You've got me wondering what "whackjob" literally means. John Aravosis at AmericaBlog was using the term recently in reference to Cynthia McKinney, and I had the same reaction as you: "start over."

Shakespeare's Sister

I loves me some Barney Miller references.

Greg

A local priest and a pastor were fishing on the side of the road. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, "The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" and showed it to each passing car.
One driver who drove by didn't appreciate the sign and shouted at them, "Leave us alone, you religious nuts!"

All of a sudden they heard a big splash, looked at each other, and the priest said to the pastor, "You think maybe we should have just said 'Bridge Out' instead?"

Greg

One more:

One day the zoo-keeper noticed that the orangutan was reading two books - the Bible and Darwin's Origin of Species.

Surprised, he asked the ape, "Why are you reading both those books?"

"Well," said the orangutan, "I just wanted to know if I was my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."

Konchog

As a Buddhist monk whose political views are definitely on the left of things, and who has spent some time in post-Communist Mongolia, I get creeped out much more by the word "purge." Whenever I hear someone advocating this, all I can think of is Stalin. His purges of religious folk -- Buddhists mostly, and a handful of Muslims -- in late-30's Mongolia (not to mention the rest of the USSR) resulted in only three of its more than 700 monastic complexes left standing and tens of thousands of monks slaughtered or shipped off for slower death to hard labor camps in Siberia. So I'd almost prefer more care be taken with urges to purge.

harry near indy

greg -- great jokes, especially the second one! i'm gonna send it on to some friends of mine who have an internet correspondence and send each other jokes, silly pics, and general funniness through the net.

konchog -- purge in this context, i believe, would mean more like firing someone from a business or kicking them out or an organization, not what stalin did.

and lance -- it seems like most of the athiests whose blogs i read in left blogostan are former catholics. the way i see it, they've gotten your fill of the most tyrannical denomination of christianity and go whole hog against it.

i'll say that it's the most totaltarian, because it wants to know if you've sinned. the rite of confession, for example.

sometimes, those folks were very devout.

as for me, i was the only one in my immediate family who went to church as a youth. the rest of them, nominally protestants -- disciples of christ -- weren't churchgoers, thankfully, because i didn't get any grief from them when i quit going.

i quit going when i was 17 when i came to think that literal belief in the resurrection of jesus wasn't necessary to go to heaven.

if god was going to send you to hell if you didn't accept the main premise of christianity, i thought, then what about the people who lived before the time of jesus, like those who lived in b.c. times? or native americans of indigenous tribes in the amazon basin in, say, 1300 a.d.?

but i've never been an atheist. i've always believed in something greater than man -- if not necessary higher.

as for fanatacism, i'd recommend that you folks read, if you haven't already, the true believer by eric hoffer. fanatacism 101, and then move on to other texts.

please remember, also, that these people aren't fanatical atheists. they're atheistic fanatics. they've be shoving their beliefs at you if they were evangelical protestant or fundamentalist moslem.

and i'll give the examples of whittaker chambers and david horowitz of history repeating itself -- the first time as tragedy (or at least in his case serious drama), the second time as farce.

chambers was a seeker. he gave his faith to communism, then switched to christianity.

horowitz was a hater. at first, a hard-core radical. now a hard-core reactionary.


David Wilford

Barton picked a very easy target as atheists are already purged out of public life. Anyone who runs for public office in the U.S. and is an atheist had better construct a religious facade to present to the public, just like gay men once had to get married to get involved in electoral politics. I'm amused by complaints from those who say they are discouraged from discussing their faith in the workplace, as I can't even comment on that subject without revealing my own lack of faith. I'm glad there is no atheist "look" at least, but then atheists are perfectly normal people so why would there be one in the first place? FWIW, having met PZ Myers in person, he really does come across as a mild-mannered professor of biology with a thing for squid. And a low tolerance for B.S.

burritoboy

There's no Left in the United States. Anybody who is so deluded to put the word "Left" in the title of an article (unless it's something referring either to a historic event or a foreign one) is simply not worth any further consideration.

Linkmeister

burritoboy, you're wrong. There is a Left. It's peopled by those who disagree with the Administration, the Republican Party, corporatization and globalization, Rush Limbaugh and his colleagues, and the WSJ's editorial pages.

And it's growing fast. We have the power, bay-bee! ;)

Anne Laurie

Harry: I grew up in a very traditional Catholic family, attended a Catholic parochial school for 12 years, and then switched to paganism as soon as I went away to college. When my fellow collegians were being swept away by the most orthodox versions of Objectivism, Socialism, Revivalist Protestantism, Geek Scientism (which I think is the 'religion' Barton actually meant to slam) and Lesbian Separatism, I remained unmoved. My explanation, when questioned: "Once you've survived smallpox, you'll never have to worry about contracting cowpox."

Only the Objectivists ever tried to argue this point.

Angie

"but then atheists are perfectly normal people" I should hope so. I would hate to have to explain to my boys that we are not normal. I mean, they question if I am normal, but that's a different matter.

Sportin' Life

I've found the whole Melinda Barton uproar and aftermath fascinating, and Lance, you've got a great take on it.

I want to speak up a bit in defense of Sam Harris, though. I can understand that you found his tone off-putting, but you don't do justice to his thesis--and I think it's an important one: Moderate, liberal religion (which he absolutely nowhere accuses of being "actively evil," by the way) enables destructive, extremist religion by privileging certain types of irrational belief. That's one way of saying it, but I don't claim to do Harris justice with that, either.

Alternatively: Our liberal consensus view of religion as a private, "spiritual" matter that is, above all, to be respected and tolerated cannot stand against the reality of fundamentalist religious ideologies which promote the taking of political power in this world.

Obviously, the argument goes down more smoothly for those already suspicious of belief in gods. (And for those already suspicious of Islam, as you correctly point out--Harris's preoccupation with Islam is one of the book's flaws, I think.) But mainstream believers who are troubled by the resurgence of right-wing fundamentalisms should really consider giving it a read.

Lance

Konchog, "purge" is my really my word. Barton doesn't use it herself. But what she describes "the Left" needing to do for itself sounds like a purge to me, although I was thinking of it in religious terms, as in a church wanting to purge itself of heretics.

Ryan, I haven't read Breaking the Spell yet, but I have it on reserve at the library and am looking forward to it.

Sportin', you're right, definitely people should read Harris' book. I think it has more flaws than just its ranting against Islam, but it's worth the time, especially as I'm reading it alongside Freeman's Closing of the Western Mind.

Greg, thanks for the jokes!

Nanuk

Did you just invent the word "Godbotherers"? That's a wonderful word. I've never heard it before. Conjures a lovely image of the Almighty flicking away pesky twerps.

Lance

Nanuk,

It's a great word, isn't it? But I didn't invent it. I can't remember when and where I first came across it. I think Rumpole of the Bailey likes to use it. It deserves more currency, so spread it around!

burritoboy

"burritoboy, you're wrong. There is a Left. It's peopled by those who disagree with the Administration, the Republican Party, corporatization and globalization, Rush Limbaugh and his colleagues, and the WSJ's editorial pages."

Yes, there are liberals in the United States. There is no organized Left in the United States (Left is not liberalism). Liberals do, would and should oppose the Hard Modernist Right (which is basically a good descriptor of most of your list).

Left has always meant, since Rousseau, opposition to the John Locke social contract state combined with capitalist economics of the neoneoclassical variety (the paradigm which nearly all democratic capitalist states follow). There are small numbers of Leftist individuals in the US, but no organized Left. Unless you're speaking of the Socialist Party which is a complete irrelevancy in the US.

Linkmeister

Actually I was trying to speak from the perspective of the average Bush fan, particularly the Cornerites, the Powerliners, and the readers of all Murdoch/Moonie-owned publications, among others. I do wonder if the scales will ever drop from their eyes. On balance, I doubt it.

burritoboy

Linkmeister,

Berlusconi built his political career babbling about "Communists" even though there have been essentially no communists (in the traditional Marxist/Leninist mode)for at least 20 years.

mac macgillicuddy

At first I thought this wasn't worth responding to, but then I decided, what the heck.

I have not yet--not here, not anywhere--seen a rant that favors something called "atheism" that isn't really a rant against someONE (and not usually The One) who done somebody wrong as experienced through some "organized religion"--usually a form of Christianity.

The arguments for "atheism" I've read throughout my life seem (I think) to be aimed at proving that not only did Sister (or Father) Crabapple not give me an extra slice of pizza when I was a kid, but also Christianity told her to do it; ergo, there is no God.

Inserting my own editor's note: I am not mocking the sins against children that so many priests have been discovered to have committed, nor the resulting horror for the victims...But those experiences are not the basis for most people's anger.

The "atheists" I've read and talked to seem more "aChristianity." They don't seem so hellfired up about what the Jewish or Hindu people are doing. (Lately we're all supposed to be mad at the Muslims, but that certainly isn't about religion, and I have too good of a friend who is Arabic to follow that directive of reason.)

What is it about people's horrendous childhoods in (perhaps Catholicism, but I think just in second grade or therabouts) that they can't separate their childlike frustration from the concept of the divine nature?

God doesn't make religion. Never has. People do. And the person who "founded" Christianity didn't found it--12 supposedly simple minded fishermen and other small-townsfolk with fire in their hearts did). In fact, one of the reasons Jesus was killed was for blasphemy. He didn't come to found a church--he came to challenge one, or even many.

Don't sin, be nice, help each other, love God, do your part even when you don't want to, don't think you're better than anyone else, give stuff away and don't try to get more stuff...this is not the foundation of a religion; it is the character of God.

So, all people against that, please step forward and define what the *&%*% you mean by "atheist."


PS-Don't even get me started on the so-called newly discovered "gospel of Judas"...a) it, and the rest of the collection of more than a dozen interesting ancient writings, was discovered quite some time ago, and b)...oh, heck, I said don't get me started...

PS, PS-Just a thought, but if you are mad at God, that doesn't make you an atheist; it makes you human. Job was mad at God, Moses was mad at God...Jesus was mad at God. It's easy to get mad at God, unless of course God doesn't exist, in which case, you have no reason to be angry at anyone but yourself.

But I preach...sorry.

Stu

Mac, you seem to have a particular bug bothering you right now, and by doing so, you malign atheists as a group based on some bad experiences with some ex-Christians. I think people like say, me, or maybe PZ Myers, would disagree with your idea that there are no real atheists, just people who were mistreated by the church when they were young.

I've been well-treated by Christians my entire life. My dad, an ordained pastor, treated me very well. My friends, most of them Christians, were good people.

I just think they're wrong about the nature of the universe. Jews, yeah, they're wrong as well. The Hindus are really quite wrong. Muslims are wrong. Buddhists, well, they're nice people as well, calm and pleasant, but wrong.

But the Christians are the ones we deal with the most in this country. And so it can seem like atheists are a little lopsidedly against them.

But you seem to be conflating people who are so angry at the state of the universe that they blame the gods, and those of us who think that there's no one driving this thing and we have to blame the people who screw us over, instead.

So yeah, I used to say "I don't believe in god." Then I had to change it, because I realized that "I don't believe in gods." But that's kind of awkward. So now I just say, "I'm an atheist," and leave it at that. But I'm not mad at the thing I don't believe in.

You say:
Don't sin, be nice, help each other, love God, do your part even when you don't want to, don't think you're better than anyone else, give stuff away and don't try to get more stuff...this is not the foundation of a religion; it is the character of God.

So, all people against that, please step forward and define what the *&%*% you mean by "atheist."

Seems like you're defining God down, here. All I think is that, well, these are noble things, and most of them we really should do. But I do them because I think it's good and right to do these things because I"m part of human society. Not because there's something outside and unknowable that thinks I should do them.

"Atheist" just means that we have no invisible means of support for the things we do and don't do.

Jennifer

Mac- I have numerous issues with things that went on in my religious upbringing. Not once did I lose a belief in a higher power, but I did indeed lose most of my belief in man's organized religion. I am not an atheist, but feel very little desire to enter a church to hear humans tell me what God has told them to tell me... so... I guess I am one person who was able to separate my childhood frustration. My beef has never been with a divine being or God or whatever you want to call him, it... I am not mad at God.

One other reason I do not feel comfortable in a church is because I do take what they are saying very seriously and I cannot in my heart of hearts say I believe all other religions are wrong... why can they not be spokes on a wheel with "God" being the hub? Why can they not be different ways to express the same thing? As I have said before, we have different words for water. It's called agua, l'eau, H20... all different ways to express water and none of them disrespectful to the other. Why can't religions be the same way?

On a slightly different note- you never came forth with your different take on Revelations...

Stu

[Sorry if this comment posts twice. The first time through didn't seem to work]

Mac, you seem to have a particular bug bothering you right now, and by doing so, you malign atheists as a group based on some bad experiences with some ex-Christians. I think people like say, me, or maybe PZ Myers, would disagree with your idea that there are no real atheists, just people who were mistreated by the church when they were young.

I've been well-treated by Christians my entire life. My dad, an ordained pastor, treated me very well. My friends, most of them Christians, were good people.

I just think they're wrong about the nature of the universe. Jews, yeah, they're wrong as well. The Hindus are really quite wrong. Muslims are wrong. Buddhists, well, they're nice people as well, calm and pleasant, but wrong.

But the Christians are the ones we deal with the most in this country. And so it can seem like atheists are a little lopsidedly against them.

But you seem to be conflating people who are so angry at the state of the universe that they blame the gods, and those of us who think that there's no one driving this thing and we have to blame the people who screw us over, instead.

So yeah, I used to say "I don't believe in god." Then I had to change it, because I realized that "I don't believe in gods." But that's kind of awkward. So now I just say, "I'm an atheist," and leave it at that. But I'm not mad at the thing I don't believe in.

You say:
Don't sin, be nice, help each other, love God, do your part even when you don't want to, don't think you're better than anyone else, give stuff away and don't try to get more stuff...this is not the foundation of a religion; it is the character of God.

So, all people against that, please step forward and define what the *&%*% you mean by "atheist."

Seems like you're defining God down, here. All I think is that, well, these are noble things, and most of them we really should do. But I do them because I think it's good and right to do these things because I"m part of human society. Not because there's something outside and unknowable that thinks I should do them.

"Atheist" just means that we have no invisible means of support for the things we do and don't do.

mac macgillicuddy

Stu,
Thanks for weighing in. But read my post again. I did not say ALL atheists. I said the ones I've met or read. I guess I need to get around more!

mac macgillicuddy

Stu,
Thanks for weighing in. But read my post again. I did not say ALL atheists. I said the ones I've met or read. I guess I need to get around more!

JRush

Just passing through...

Good post. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the following:

"Everything awful that has been done in the name of God and religion has, when you look closely, really been done in the name of money, land, power, and the aggrandizement of some egomaniacal individuals who managed to get their hands on the tools of power, religion being a very useful tool that way. Take away religion and you still have money, land, power, ego and the human beings who desire them or are carried away by them."

JRush
Not An Atheist

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