Lilandra here.According to the Bible, the ultimate, unpardonable blasphemy is rejecting the Holy Spirit.
Apparently, rejecting the imperceptible and undetectable is unforgivable. Are you Unforgiven II?
I suspect atheists experience less warm, fuzzy moments than theists. A lot of us are philosophically opposed to something like bowing our heads with family, and friends in prayer before we break bread. A skeptical mind can be quite the buzz-kill to believer fellowship activities. In real life, I sense that I make religious acquaintances, friends, and family uncomfortable when I won’t at least bow my head when they are praying thanking an invisible deity for food.
However as a former Christian, I remember the campfire moments -voices raised together asking god to Kumbaya. In retrospect, the plaintive plea asking god to come by here seems naive, because frankly he never really did. Can you imagine being the sole, skeptical person at that campfire trying to disguise the fact in order to be accepted that you didn’t believe any god was present?
I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to be Thomas Jefferson. One of the few people of his time that didn’t believe that their god wasn’t telling them to drive out or even kill the heathen or heretic of a different sect. It must have been maddening. His disappointment with the Puritan persecution of Quakers influenced his view of secular government.
So where does an atheist go to satisfy human social needs for the feeling of acceptance and fellowship? Where do you go to feel the love? Speaking as an introvert, I find large groups draining to my underdeveloped social skills. However here in the South, religion is ever present in most social interactions; it can make even the most confirmed loner feel isolated. It feels good to sometimes go somewhere where at least you don’t have to watch what you say.
Recently, my husband and I went to the Dallas Gay Pride parade to march with The Metroplex Atheists. The Metroplex Atheists received cheers from the happy crowd all along the route. Some of the regular members were telling me how different it was from the Independence Day parade. They said that they have been booed and told that if they thought it was hot today wait until they went to Hell. One even told me that parents cover their children’s eyes as the Metroplex Atheists go by.
A church float followed ours that was apparently welcoming to homosexuals. I couldn’t help but wonder why gay people would go to even a gay-friendly church given that most of the discrimination against LGBTs is religiously motivated. I remember when we protested Gov. Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally. LGBT rights groups were there to protest the American Family Association’s religiously motivated homophobia. They didn’t want to ally with atheists.
LGBT Christians puzzle me. In the worst cases, it must be something akin to Battered Woman’s syndrome. It is an abusive relationship where you are convinced that the abuse is deserved because there is something wrong with you. You are sick and need god to be better. In extreme cases, it can be likened to Stockholm syndrome where you adopt their mentality in order to survive. “Former” gay pastors are an example that comes to mind.
However, looking on the LGBT friendly church float, I think for most gay theists it must be the Christian fellowship and community they are accustomed to. Again, I have fond memories from my childhood of the warm fellowships around the fire with other Christians. It can be hard to leave that security blanket behind.
What does atheism have to offer in exchange? Many atheists insist that being an atheist should mean a nonbelief in god/s and nothing else. That is cold comfort to someone leaving behind the only community they have ever known. A few others insist that there are limited resources in our community and those should be spent on more worthy causes like the fight against theocracy and furthering science education. Those are inarguably worthy causes.
However, I believe the more the merrier. I don’t believe it exhausts our resources in the slightest to discuss expanding our community to be more welcoming to women, racial minorities, and LGBT people. Not in an exploitive way like theists have done. For every warm Christian memory I have, I have many others of Christian authorities corrupted by absolute power over people threatened with Hell not to question their authority.
I’ll never forget my young friend, who was molested at a church house cleaning fundraiser. Soon after, the 40 year old man was made youth minister by my pastor, who excused his behavior by blaming the victim. To this day, she is an active church member, who would likely shun me for being an atheist.
If we ever expect that kind of exploitive power of the church to wane; we are going to need to be more welcoming to its victims. How do you build a community from scratch without a traditional culture? That is a more worthy starting point that groups in my area like the Metroplex Atheists and Fellowship of Freethought are already starting on. If you’re in the south, you can also commune with other community-deprived atheists at the Texas Freethought Convention. If you are a ‘dictionary atheist’, who believes that atheists should only concern themselves with nonbelief; you can at least get out of the way.
Now that Pastor Bob Enyart has failed to defend a single one of the laughable claims he made while I was on his show, after admitting that he hadn’t even read the rebuttals he was supposed to respond to, and despite being unable to disprove me on any point therein either, I suppose it is no surprise that he claims victory in our debate. It obviously doesn’t matter that everyone who actually read that debate says otherwise.
So here [above] is my debate with Ray Comfort. I must have read hundreds of the comments posted to this video. More than 99% of them claim a clear victory for me and a deeply embarrassing loss for Ray. The consensus of all but one of these observers would imply that Ray suffered a humiliating defeat in a wholly one-sided onslaught, wherein he was shown to be dishonest, obtuse, and willfully ignorant by all accounts. How does he respond to that?
Here Ray claims an easy victory in that same debate -against someone he’s never heard of, some guy named Aaron in Texas. Whoever this Aaron-guy was, he was so obscure that he attracted an audience of so many thousands of viewers that they crashed the station’s servers five times. In this video, Ray alleges that I believe in my wife’s existence on faith, because I cannot prove to him that she exists -even if I brought her to meet him. Here he ridicules me for understanding the mitogenomic analysis of caniform and feliform relationships, and he criticizes me for using big mystery words like ‘arboreal’. Bewildering! You just can’t beat the Dunning-Kruger out of some people’s confirmation bias. Oh well, maybe Morton’s Demon will give him the stones to do a second round with me? I doubt it.
Of course we are. Then how could it be possible for Atheism plus social justice issues to possibly divide atheists? If atheism is simply restricted to a non-belief in God/s like some apparently orthodox atheists are insisting, then where does morality originate? God? Of course not! Morality has to be intrinsic, and undiluted by wanting an external favor or reward in return. There can be no eternal paradise in reward for keeping the covenant-giver’s commandments.
So the popular CS Lewis argument that morality is extrinsically bestowed upon us by a morally supreme god works to cheapen morality, as humans are not choosing to be moral. God effectively thrusts morality upon humans making them good in his sight. However, most atheists don’t believe in supernatural sources for behavior. Therefore there must be a natural and rational explanation for moral behavior. Especially since many atheists exhibit it without divine intervention from a god.
The concept of secular morality is not new or even controversial among atheists. Here is a quote from Richard Dawkins, a staunch defender of atheism contrasting absolute morality with secular morality. It is actually puzzling given his opposition to harassment policies at atheist conventions. (Bold emphasis mine)
Can we not design our society in such a way to have the sort of morality that we want to live in? If you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people, among 21st century people: we don’t believe in slavery anymore, we believe in the equality of women, we believe in being gentle, we believe in being kind to animals. These are all things, which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Quranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time through a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy. They do not come from religion.
In fact, Jen Mc Creight envisioned designing a community of atheists, who were concerned about many of the same things when she proposed Atheism+.
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism
In fairness to Dawkins, McCreight envisions Atheist+ as being a new wave of atheism in contrast to “New Atheists” like him and Hitchens.
Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime
On the other hand, despite his former stumping for the equality of women in the context of secular morality, he has hardly ingratiated himself with Atheist/Feminist activists by dismissing harassment at conferences on more than one occasion. He re-tweeted a remark recently from a woman who wonders if the sexist abuse that some are receiving is in response to the assumption that other atheists are misogynists.
Apparently, Dawkins thought this comment was worth re-tweeting though. I wonder what Dawkins means by secular morality including equality of women and whether he thinks that sexist abuse from fellow atheists is part of the society he envisioned when he posed this question:
“Can we not design our society in such a way to have the sort of morality that we want to live in?”
How do we get to that secular society with the sort of morality we want to live in? Are we willing to cede morality to the domain of theists? According to Dawkins the way to a more moral society is, ” a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy.” If the current unnecessary controversies about adopting social justice causes are any indicator –we’re off course. It doesn’t really matter what we call it -Atheism+, secular morality, secular humanism, or progressive atheism. What matters is we will need as many moral atheists as possible to get there.
It seems to me that the rational and the irrational apply very different meanings to many of the same words. Thus we talk past each other. For the purpose of clarification, I submit my understanding and application of many of the words that are most relevant to our contrasted positions.
To my experience, each of these definitions are defensibly accurate, and should not be significantly different than what you would find by comparing a consensus of definitive sources. It’s just that common dictionaries are rarely adequate individually, and are almost never phrased well enough. I have always been working from essentially these definitions, although every time I look at this list, I see room for improvement. I’m sure others will too. I think having these terms defined with this level of specific clarity would be helpful to anyone debating or considering the issues between creation v evolution, or theism v atheism, or faith v reason -submitted for your consideration.
Here is an example of why this matters for me personally. I used to have a much deeper definition of ‘truth’, but it turned out to be wasted on my opponents who were never that lofty. After my discussions with presuppositionalists, I realized I had to keep it really very simple.
Now, if one asserts as fact that which is not evidently true, (even if they actually believe it), or if they pretend to “know” their god exists, or if they allege that I ‘know‘ that too; if they deny their relation to monkeys, or if I describe the Bible is a compilation of fairy-tales, would any of these claims belong in either of these two categories? Why? Or why not?
Over the last week or so, several people have asked me to comment on Atheism(+). I don’t always know if they’re trying to find out what it is, or if they just want to know how I feel about it. Today someone sent me a message which made that very clear. He(?) described himself as a rational skeptic and a liberal progressive who supports policies to minimize abusive behavior in conventions and so on, just like me. He also expressed some concerns which I had [until recently] myself:
“My core goal, the pure reason I identify as an atheist, is promotion of critical thinking skills. The atheist movement has been a home for that and so I have moved in with delight. Relentless demand for the most accurate position possible on important topics drives me. The fact that critical thinking skills are so rare in our society makes me vocal.
Given my primary motivation I am quite concerned with the goals of atheism+. I understand that in any larger group there will be subsets created. I do not see their intent as being something similar to humanism, which is just that, a subset. I see them as being a hostile take over. Progressiveness (I am a progressive) re-branding the umbrella goals of our movement and removing those that disagree.”
Now I’m not the guy to ask about this. I don’t give it much thought. Several advocates of A+ have assured me that I don’t have to. I don’t have to adopt the label or change my stationary. I don’t have to do anything different than I have done since as long as I’ve been involved in this movement. So I haven’t really looked into Atheism+ very deeply, and I’m not even sure I get it myself. But based on the few brief queries I’ve had with some of the A+ proponents here at FtB, here is what I think it is:
Atheism(+) is NOT any ‘take-over’ of the atheist umbrella, nor is it an attempt to redefine what atheism means. Nor could it succeed in that even if that ever was the intent. It really is just a subset of atheists. In fact, it is subset of a subset, representing only a portion of the atheists who are also activists. It is the difference between atheism, (being unconvinced that any genuine deity actually exists) and a social movement within that group, who wish to associate that perspective with positive moral values -as identified, defined, and by atheists. I think we do a better job of that than religious proponents ever have.
Most atheists are apathetic, not activists at all. In fact most atheists don’t even know they are atheist, or won’t accept or admit that they are. Most atheists call themselves agnostics, because they think that ‘atheist’ means someone who doesn’t believe in anything, or who is determined to reject any possible aspect of metaphysics, someone who ‘knows’ there is no god. Of those atheists who figured out what the label really means, and how it applies to them, and who have stopped making excuses to get out of a shoe that fits, not all of them are skeptical critical thinkers. There are vast numbers of non-theists who still believe in supernatural spiritual healing, chiropractic homeopathic herbal acupuncture, transcendental psionic projection, alien reptilian government conspiracies, and the Loch Ness sasquatch from Area 54 of the Bermuda Triangle. Yes there are atheists who are afraid of vaccinations, genetically-modified foods, bad karma, and fluoride toothpaste.
Of those who are analytical empirical rationalists, not all of them are activists. Very few are. Being embroiled in controversy is a hard job, and it is particularly tough on people who don’t want to risk losing their families or careers. Of those who are unabashedly motivated political protesters, many are focused only on secularism, maintaining church-state separation to the exclusion of every other atheist interest. Others only actively advocate education, sometimes only in science, or in social studies, or public health issues exclusively. It’s rare to see anyone standing up for all of these things at once. However nearly all of those who do also oppose prejudice on the grounds of income, ethnicity, nationalism, and sexual orientation, and most of them promote egalitarian attitudes toward women as well.
Here is where I think a potential problem is perceived: The initial unveiling of this idea was badly phrased and poorly interpreted, but that’s not the only factor. Apart from that, until now all the big names in the “atheism movement” have been those promoting the philosophy of science, skepticism, and secular humanism, along with those who have swallowed so much scripture as to induce regurgitation. We haven’t had a branch of atheists specifically committed to the issues social justice, and that’s essentially what I think Atheism+ is. It’s like a new civil rights movement, but one completely stripped of religion. Then add atheist family values, which are more genuine than those of religion, in that ours exclude child abuse, misogyny, and sexual repression, and include non-conformists and non-traditional families. As such Atheism+ need be no more divisive than having a national atheist [political] party. I’m fairly certain everyone in the NAP is an atheist, but not all atheists belong to that party, nor will they ever have to. Atheism+ is essentially no different than progressive atheism, but we’re not going to revoke Penn & Teller’s A-pins just because they’re libertarians who like sexually explicit women. We’re not gonna boot Bill Maher out until he gets a flu shot, and we won’t disown Ayn Rand for being elitist either. As for Stalin, he doesn’t fit in any of the subsets previously discussed, and belongs in a whole ‘nuther category, far away from everyone I’ve so far mentioned here.
If you really doubt whether any telepathic djinn is magically manipulating every aspect of reality, then you’re an atheist. If on top of that, you find yourself openly opposing oppression by the religious right, then you’re an activist as well. And regardless whether you endorse science or secularism, if you find that you also embrace equality for humanity regardless of ancestry, attraction, or gender, then you’re atheist plus. At least that’s what I think anyway.
Every autumn, I get involved in a few charities. There is DPR’s BlogTV 24-hour charity for MSF -which is on right now. On November 18th, I’ll be riding in the Motorcops for kids motorcycle run, which I haven’t done since the 2009 run. Usually Skepticon is on the same weekend, but that’s on the previous weekend this year. Between now and then, due to a special request from Todd Stiefel, I’ll be doing this:
By Lilandra, the Mrs. Ra
How many former believers remember being told that their money already belonged to god anyways? Heck, he apparently had enough lucre lying around to pave his streets with gold. Prosperity gospel preachers encourage their followers to give to god as if he is like a usurious, heavenly banker. They promise he just wants you to trust him; then he will return your money with interest.
Despite logical holes you could drive a truck through, like why would a god need streets of gold, many people still believe that if they trust god/their church with their money that god will repay them and bless them with more. During my believing days, I actually sat through a pledge drive where a woman testified that she was so strapped that she was charging diapers on her credit card. After she started tithing and more, she said she was finally coming out ahead in her finances. The pastor concluded the service by asking people to put their money in a chest on stage. He actually told people to don’t worry about filling out the amount on the check, because God would reveal to the church how much they could give.
In reality, churches overall are grossly inefficient with their god’s money. According to PZ‘s post about a report by The Council for Secular Humanism’s analysis of church finances, the Methodist Church I visited, their parent organization allocates just 29 percent of its resources to charitable causes.
For instance, the United Methodist Church allocated about 29 percent of its revenues to charitable causes in 2010 (about $62 million of $214 million received). One calculation of the resources expended by 271 U.S. congregations found that, on average, “operating expenses” totaled 71 percent of all the expenditures of religions, much of that going to pay ministers’ salaries. Financial contributions addressing the physical needs of the poor fall within the remaining 29 percent of expenditures.
The recommended level for overhead and salaries by charity watchdog groups is 35 percent. However, Methodists are not even among the worst sinners for wasting money meant for the less fortunate. For example, the Mormon church spends a mere 0.7 percent on charity overall.
Contrast that with the secular organization Doctors without Borders, which spends 89 percent of its coffers on charity. Donations are definitely getting more bang for the buck. If you choose to support the largest atheist charity drive on BlogTV this weekend, your money will do actual good for real people in need, and definitely not be going ostensibly to paving some god’s streets with gold. Really, why won’t most churches admit that most of the offerings are not doing the most good for people who really need it? And if you support this atheist charity drive, no one will ever ask you to send a blank check.
A couple years ago, Ray Comfort tried to get Richard Dawkins to debate him. I am convinced that he did this only to try to make himself seem more important than he could ever be otherwise. Dawkins wasn’t generous enough to give Ray that much undeserved credibility. So I posted a challenge to Ray myself.
Of course he ignored me, but it generated some positive interest on the web. Yahoo.Answers even posted the question, Who would win in a debate between Aronra and Ray Comfort? Well it looks like we’re finally gonna find out. At 9:00pm central [Texas] time on Monday, September 17th, I will debate the Banana Man live on Radio-Paul’s Radio Rants.