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Oct 12 2011

Atheists as Vulcans without Machismo? An e-mail exchange…

I recently received the following e-mail query:

What do you think about the fringe criticisms against atheism that talk about the setbacks of overly concrete/logical thinking and a lack of abstract, emotional capacity commonly associated with atheists?

They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women. They argue that overly concrete thinking is detrimental to living the dynamic and largely abstract life outside of scientific institutions and number crunching facilities. Popular psychology even attested and perpetuated this bullshit with labels like Aspergers which describes people who are book-smart but have no people skills. I can’t cite any source that surveyed people with Aspergers and how many of them are religious or irreligious but I can guarantee a majority would be atheists.

The question is, is being 100% logical all the time really the right way to live an awesome and successful life?

You got things like music and art that you can’t build or enjoy without a level of spiritual capacity. As an example, to fully enjoy the spirit of Christmas, you gotta suspend some logic about Santa Claus and just let loose to enjoy the holiday, especially for the children whom you wouldn’t wanna ruin the fun for. Or watching cartoons and coming across many things that just don’t make sense, like the characters not falling off a cliff as long as they don’t look down and other inconsistencies in the plots of long-running anime episodes that you just don’t wanna over-analyze or be too logical about because it ruins the fun and the whole point of the show which isn’t to take it so seriously.

So essentially they are calling atheists a pack of basement-dwelling empty nerds who don’t know how to have a good time, which I gotta admit isn’t too far from the truth.

What do you think about all this?

My response was brief:

I don’t think their accusations are remotely accurate…and tell us much more about those making those accusations than the target of them.

And apparently insufficient…so the author asked for more information:

Why not? Is it not true that those prone to atheism are much more concrete thinkers than those prone to religion? You have to admit there is a correlation.

Here’s my response…

The fact that we’re not prone to accepting fantasy-as-reality doesn’t mean that we’re emotionless robots or Vulcans, incapable of appreciating beauty.

I’d argue that, in fact, the opposite is true. The individuals that I’ve met in the atheist community, are rarely dull. To the extent that we’re unpleasant, it stems from the frustrations of seeing reality treated as a minority position by individuals who credulously accept the supernatural while attempting to impose their religious views on other by legislation, coercion and indoctrination.

With respect to the lack of machismo or being unappealing to women, I find those claims absurd and sexist. They are particularly stupid charges that would be beneath response if it weren’t worthwhile to expose the ignorance and privilege of those making the claim.

There’s not a single public atheist figure that is advocating logic at the expense of emotion, humanity, beauty or empathy. (And if they’re were such a person, the rest of the public atheists would be the first in line to point out that this individual certainly doesn’t speak on behalf of other atheists).

There is no “spiritual” requirement for enjoying beauty or art…and such statements only demonstrate that the individuals have no concept of either the people their criticizing or the human condition. Most of my atheist friends greatly appreciate beauty, art, literature, fantasy, science fiction, music, films….the list goes on and on.

In addition to the television programs, podcasts, speaking engagements and activism efforts, I not only work a full-time job, but I take time to enjoy the world I live in. I read books (often fantasy and sci-fi), visit zoos, caves and museums, shop at craft fairs, hike and explore nature. I also crochet, make chain mail jewelry and oil paint. I play board games, card games, computer games and billiards. I am moved by great musical and artistic performances – occasionally to tears.

I do these things with my wife and with many other members of the atheist community. Dawkins has spoken many times about the beauty of nature. Hitchens has done so as well. I was fortunate to hear both of them speak publicly about this subject at the convention this past weekend.

As I said, the accusations aren’t remotely accurate and can only be made by someone engaged in a quixotic and xenophobic dismissal of a perceived enemy. What a sad existence one must have to presume that those who don’t share one’s imaginary friend are somehow deficient and sub-human. Curiously, they’ve often adopted religious positions that relegate the entire glory of existence to the status of a doormat – a place to wipe one’s feet while waiting for an afterlife. While their perceived enemy, to the extent that they’ve established anything akin to a religion, have largely adopted humanist positions.

And, as I’ve now wasted two e-mails responding to this absurd subject, I’ll be posting it on the blog so the reply might help prevent others from asking this.

Thanks for the question and for pushing for a follow up…but I’m most definitely finished with this particular subject.

63 comments

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  1. 1
    gwen

    All in all, I think atheists appreciate beauty MORE than theists. To look at a rose, or a baby, and understand the evolution which went into its creation is much more amazing and beautiful than a dismissive “God(s) did it”.

    1. 1.1
      Jacob

      Funny thing about that, I only see the same beauty I saw while I was still a theist. The world is not any more beautiful to me now. As a matter of fact, the only thing that has really changed is my belief in a god.

      1. tracieh

        I think it depends on the person and what inspires them. For example, my partner appreciates a lot of things I don’t care about–such as football and cars. However, I find that when I watch football or car programs with him, I learn things about both. And that makes me gain a deeper appreciation of them. WHY is this car superior to this other car? What makes this other car cutting edge from a technical standpoint? Or why was that a bad play? What did that player do that was incorrect and caused a penalty? I find my interest actually increases the more someone explains something to me. Rather than it just being meaningless abstraction, I began to be able to make evaluations about what I’m seeing and that gets me more involved in the subject/s. I can also see how a person could just think “Ugh. I hate football/cars, and don’t WANT to know how they work…don’t care…that’s what AAA is for…so I don’t have to worry about it!” It doesn’t really matter to me if people are of one sort or the other, but I’ve seen both, and they both make sense to me. Again, it’s just a matter of perspective. But I can see how understanding could increase appreciation.

  2. 2
    L.Long

    Fact NO real musician can compose great music without science/math at its foundation. I’m trying to learn drumming and my instructor’s 1st statement is ‘learn to count!’. On a PBS show about origami I learn that all folding is the emotional expression of math and physics through the transformation of a square sheet of paper. All the great composers wrote their religious music using the same rules of note progression and rhythms used for their other music. They did not throw notes out at random and pray for a miracle.

    1. 2.1
      DagoRed

      When people stress this dichotomy between “overly concrete/logical thinking” and “abstract, emotional capacity” my alarm bells go off — this is typically a strategy employed only by people who are only capable of thinking in one of these two thought modes at one time, or worse, are only capable of emotional and abstract thinking.

      By contrast, intelligent people don’t make this distinction between ways of thought because they intrinsically use both “concrete/logical” thinking and “abstract” or “emotional” thinking in concert. Scientists come up with hypotheses by thinking creatively and abstractly while simultaneously mulling over the probabilities. The idea of a hunch — which likely proceeded every “concrete/logical” thought processes mankind has ever had — is deeply steeped in the idea of emotional thinking. To think emotion and abstraction is separable from concrete/logical thought is merely an indication that such a person has no capacity for concrete, creative thoughts themselves in the first place.

      When some people find flaws within themselves, too often, their main way of dealing with this flaw is to demean others in vain ways that allow them to rationalize parity in the world. People who fail to understand the rational/logical/concrete thinking process adequately, often simply insist their own flawed way of “emotional” or “abstract” thinking is different, rather than inferior — unaware that their own way of thinking is, in fact, merely a limited and superficial form of thinking wholly contained in the much more comprehensive, deeper, and more complete thought processes which they criticize.

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    Well, he’s convinced me. Now I realise that I’ve never fully enjoyed Beethoven because I don’t believe that Vishnu sustains.

  4. 4
    Sea Dubb

    “They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women.”

    The lovely actress Lalla Ward apparently found Dawkins appealing enough to marry him.

    1. 4.1
      geocatherder

      And if I weren’t already married, Lalla Ward would have competition!

  5. 5
    Lou Doench

    I really hate these arguments, especially as they slander Vulcans, a fictional species invented by a noted atheist, and a species that was decidedly not atheist in fiction.

  6. 6
    Andrew

    To say that enjoying music and art requires a spiritual element, therefore atheists (by implication, non-”spiritual” people) can’t enjoy music and art is just getting strung up in semantics.

    It’s an equivocation of one usage of the word “spiritual” with another.

  7. 7
    Andrew G.

    They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women.

    I just don’t understand the mentality of this. Do they not know who Dawkins is married to?

    1. 7.1
      FlyingTeaCosy

      This is without even starting on the fact that this person is assuming that atheists are all men. Or at the very least, that men are the atheists worth talking about.
      Then again, since they got pretty much everything else wrong, I can’t be too surprised at this.

      1. tracieh

        Or that all men should be concerned with being attractive to women. I have gay friends who really couldn’t care less how attractive women find them. As for myself…I’ve been hit on by several gay women in my life, so I’m an atheist who seems to be attractive to women…however, I do lack machismo, I would agree…

  8. 8
    Hank_Says

    “Absurd” is the correct term here. We’re not pod people or sci-fi robots for crying out loud, we’re people. As such we do and feel the things that other people do.

    Do religious people actually think that they enjoy art, music, nature, intimate moments etc. in a quantifiably different way than atheists? Do they think it’s God tugging at their heartstrings when they tear up at an aria? God massaging their adrenal glands when they skydive? Is it God making them randy when they’re snogging their other half on the couch? Atheists, being humans, are physically more or less the same as religious people. That we choose not to devote significant portions of our thinking time and daily lives to appeasing the deity our parents raised us to think gives a flying fuck what we eat or who we love or the length of our beards is the only major difference between us.

    The naivety of the questioner clearly shows how much work remains to be done. Hell, in parts of the US it would appear we’re still at square one: convincing religious people we’re not out to destroy civilisation in an orgy of anarchic amoral nihilism.

  9. 9
    Kevin

    I might as well post this:

    http://xkcd.com/877/

    1. 9.1
      Raymond

      Made my day XD

    2. 9.2
      Melanie

      Instant cozy blankets! Love that one.

    3. 9.3
      davidct

      Pity those poor ignorant theists. They have trouble understanding that we are related to other primates. Now we have to break it to them that we are also related to slime mold.

  10. 10
    jacobfromlost

    “Why not? Is it not true that those prone to atheism are much more concrete thinkers than those prone to religion? You have to admit there is a correlation.”

    I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean. (“Prone” to atheism? Is this person “prone” to not believing Star Wars is real?)

    Atheists are no different than theists in regard to experiencing literature, metaphor, art, emotion, etc. We just generally don’t take metaphors, symbols, or myths as literally true when there is no evidence for them being literal… which is EXACTLY the same way theists take every other metaphor, symbol, and myth, that falls outside of their beliefs. (Taking metaphors as literally real kind of misses the point of a metaphor anyway, doesn’t it?)

    I can recognize that self sacrifice in service of saving the lives of others is often noble WITHOUT EVER BELIEVING THE JESUS MYTH IS LITERALLY TRUE. I can see that the myth simply piggy backed on a human theme (self sacrifice) to make the story more powerful to a human audience, BUT THAT DOESN’T MAKE THE DETAILS OF THE MYTH TRUE. I can take a lesson away from the story using my own brain without having to believe the myth is true!

    I can even think the myth is mediocre in its effectiveness, and still recognize that symbol (is a symbol), this metaphor (is a metaphor), and that simile (is a simile)…and not think any of them are literally real. I can even see some of them as so muddled that they just don’t work as literature (if people can’t make heads or tails of your metaphors or symbols, they are ineffective).

    I think Matt is right. These kinds of comments say much more about theists than about atheists. Besides, the most imaginative, most skillful, most influential authors of all time (both atheists and theists) are usually at the top of the banned book lists, put there by fearful theists who think a book might have something sexual, something profane, or something questions authority or accepted “truths”.

    If atheists are the ones with no imagination, why are the theists always the ones trying to keep people from being exposed to the most imaginative, most influential works off all time?

    Afraid someone might imagine what it is really like to be the “Other”, perhaps even an atheist…and discover it isn’t what they’ve been told all this time?

  11. 11
    lol mahmood

    What a load of crap! I’m a lifelong atheist (more or less) and also a stocky, tattooed, weight-training bassplayer. I love fiction, the more absurd the better. I’m also a massive punk/metal fan. I’ve been to both Iraq and Afghanistan with the military. And there are plenty more like me!

  12. 12
    TheGamingAtheist

    Another boardgamer? Cool!

    1. 12.1
      King of New Hampshire

      Is your meeple claiming this whole comment board, or just the road?

      1. TheGamingAtheist

        The whole board. Do I get 3 points or 4 for each city touching it? I assume we are not using the first edition rules. ;)

  13. 13
    Dan M.

    I find it interesting that one of the accusations here is that atheists “lack machismo”. (1) in my lexicon, “machismo” means “sexist, misogynist assholery infected with toxic masculinity”, so it seems a very strange thing to use as point against atheists. (2) All the hooplah around Elevator-gate shows that there’s plenty of machismo in the atheist community, and that’s pretty much true if you think machismo is a good thing.

  14. 14
    King of New Hampshire

    While I am more of the scientist atheist stereotype, my wife is a trained artist who studied for some time in Italy. She’s also an atheist. So I completely fail to see any distinction between artist and atheist. That’s like implying someone can’t like ice-cream AND drive a red car. While it may make perfect sense to someone in a very, very sheltered life where such a distinction was valid, in the big wide world, everyone else is just staring at you, mouth agape, wondering what we missed, since we’re in doubt anyone is that dense.

    Religion and art are linked not because of any “spiritual” nature of art, but because for many millenia, the church was the only “leisure” activity. That is, they were the only group with expendable resources to spend on advertising/art. Once the middle class rises with the great Age of Exploration in the 1400 and 1500′s, art is almost immediately secularized, with more personal portraits and landscapes being done than religious icons.

    The art/atheist dichotomy may exist. Sure, it is possible. But like every other claim the human mind makes, show me the evidence! Connect those many loose dots between ice-cream and red cars. Don’t just assert a connection and ask us to explain it to you.

  15. 15
    arensb

    By an amusing coincidence, I just created a playlist on my MP3 player called “Groove”, for the music that really grabs me by the gut and draws me in so I can’t help but tap my toes and sing along.

    But I guess that can’t be, since as a Vulcan I’m as incapable of appreciating music as Spock is of singing or playing an instrument.

    1. 15.1
      Martin Wagner

      But of course, Spock did play an instrument!

      Aw, there I go being a geek again.

  16. 16
    Kyt Dotson

    Quick, someone tell Henry Rollins that he lacks machismo and is unattractive to women.

    A more genuine examination of the subject of the criticisms might have at least attempted to look through a random sample of atheists in order to discover the broad variety of people both beautiful and profound.

    No, the “atheists are sad animals without purpose or light” doesn’t even need reply further than the fact that a multitude of atheists have already succeeded in the best revenge, that of living well.

    One of my friends, Shawn Esplin, an atheist who has amazing talents, an activist of poise, an artist, an essay writer, who even manages to get out on Friday and Saturday nights to visit Mill Avenue to educate the public as to the dangers of blind religious thinking right in front of our local street preachers.

    I’m not impressed by veiled ad hominum.

  17. 17
    M. D.

    http://io9.com/5827581/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-the-original-star-trek?tag=daily-10

    #6
    If asimov is to be believed there were women that though cerebral spock was dreamy he wrote an essay about it. Who knew? :P

  18. 18
    Luke J

    There is a great Feynman interview up on YouTube, where he explains his view on beauty and the claim that an artist friend of his made, that he sees the flower as beautiful and marvellous, and he just takes it all apart and it becomes dull and uninteresting. Quite simply, as Feynman says, the same beauty that the artist sees is open for anyone else to see. There are also other dimensions to it. Feynman understood the inner workings of the flower, which carries with it it’s own sense of beauty.

    1. 18.1
      davidct

      Among other things Feynman painted well enough to sell some of his work. He was also hell on the bongos.

  19. 19
    jimi3001

    Chainmail jewellery?

    1. 19.1
      Otrame

      It’s made of tiny gold or silver rings. The way they are linked together is based on patterns used to make chain mail at various times in various cultures. It’s really cool, and fun to make. Check out your local craft store.

  20. 20
    hyperdeath

    The “concrete thinking” accusation is largely made by people who are incapable of anything but concrete thinking. They don’t fully understand what abstraction is, and usually regard the word as descriving something that is non-literal, not directly observed, or other-worldly.

    Objections such as “you atheists believe that this world is all there is; what about love?” is a classic example of extreme concrete thinking. As others have pointed out it presupposes that love is a thing, and that it must exist for people to love. Love as a complex phenomenon based on simpler non-loving physical phenomena doesn’t occur to them. Properly understanding this concept requires proper abstract thinking.

    1. 20.1
      Escuerd

      Thanks, because this particular point bothered me too.

      I facepalmed when I saw “abstract” contrasted with “logical thinking”.

  21. 21
    Otrame

    Does your emailer actually think that you (and we) don’t realize that he is the one who thinks atheists are all “concrete thinkers” and lack “abstract emotional capacity”? His insistence that everyone knows about this is hilarious.

    His image of us is based on the assumption that there must be something wrong with us because normal people believe in gods. If there is a tiny fleck of intellectual honesty anywhere in him, he ought to get out and meet a few atheists before he decides he understands us.

    And BTW, his idea that atheists don’t get the girls is pretty funny. In the first place quite a few atheists, such as myself, ARE girls (and even some atheist girls get girls). In the second place, the use of Richard Dawkins as an example of lack of sexual appeal is pretty funny. He’s actually quite attractive to us straight women, and as was mentioned unthread, he is married to a gorgeous woman. PZ Myers, another outspoken atheist has been married to the same attractive woman for more than 20 years.

    Tl;dr: the guy is ignorant and needs to get out more.

  22. 22
    John K.

    They criticize atheists (especially Dawkins and people like Dawkins) for being dull, unpleasant, lacking machismo and being unappealing to women.

    So, to make atheism a palatable worldview, we need to have more exciting bodybuilders that make the ladies swoon? It will all make sense once Rambo is on board?

    I think not. As others have said, this is a list of ad hominems with a slight argument from consequences.

    It is hard to know which way to attack such fractally wrong arguments. Even if the premises were true, the conclusion does not follow. Moreover, the starting premises are just wrong.

  23. 23
    RMW

    Interesting claims, but I’m an atheist who plays in a regionally performing band. The three other members are also atheists/non-theists, one of whom is in the process of receiving a masters in music composition. My non-theistic girlfriend is a regional fashion and art photographer…

    …I guess you really must have religion to appreciate the arts, huh?

  24. 24
    Zach

    Atheists aren’t macho? Yeah, because being a lost sheep in need of a protective shepherd just screams bad ass.

  25. 25
    James Croft

    Interesting that this should come up, because I just gave talk on this the day before yesterday. Without all the crap about machismo etc., I think there might be something to some of these claims, on a movement level (if not an individual level). I actually use The Atheist Experience show as an example in one of my talks on Humanism, because a number of episodes seem to me to move into slightly problematic territory in terms of how they discuss the role of the emotions in human life.

    Consider episode #662, in which a presenter discusses the “Three Pillars of Apologetics”, calling them “deception, logical fallacies, and emotional manipulation.” Also relevant is episode #649, which discusses the “15 cases of emotional manipulation” the presenter claims to find in a fundraising letter from Mike Huckabee.

    To be sure, there is such a thing as emotional manipulation, and we should seek to avoid it. But if you look at the strategies mentioned in #662 and excoriated in #649, they are sometimes not what I would call “manipulative”, but simple appeals to the emotions. The general sense I get from these episodes, then (and others), is that ANY appeal to the emotions is seen as manipulative by the presenter.

    I think this is a difficult view to sustain, given what we know of the role of the emotions in cognition, the centrality of emotions in shaping our political beliefs, and the necessity of causing emotional responses for engaging people in civic action.

    I think that the evidence suggests that in order to build a more effective Humanist movement we will need to harness the emotions much more widely and effectively than we do currently, and stop thinking we can purely rely on what Aristotle termed “Logos” in our persuasive pursuits. In this very technical and specific way I think there’s a tiny bit to the claims of your mystery emailer.

    1. 25.1
      John K.

      There is a big difference between trying to stir emotion with a song or work of art and using an emotional appeal to get someone to contribute to your political campaign. An appreciation of the arts or emotional response should never be used in place of a rational argument. Neither of your examples were criticisms of emotion in general, only the in the use of emotion to circumvent logic and evidence.

    2. 25.2
      James Croft

      “There is a big difference between trying to stir emotion with a song or work of art and using an emotional appeal to get someone to contribute to your political campaign.”

      I think it was partly this sort of position which I wanted to critique. I don’t actually see an enormous difference between the sorts of emotional appeals which exist in some political plays, for instance (Angels in America comes to mind as an example), and the sorts of appeals that are regularly featured in fundraising letters by, for example, American Atheists Inc.

      I agree we shouldn’t try to use emotional appeals to “circumvent logic”, as far as that statement goes, but I think we need to look at modern cognitive and neuroscience, as well as psychological studies, and realize that our emotions are central to our cognitive processes and not try to suggest that any emotional appeal which attempts to get us to do something or other is illegitimate.

    3. 25.3
      Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

      The problem isn’t using emotions to elicit certain responses. That is, for example, one of the arguments in favour of using direct confrontation and ridicule and humour rather than solely gentle persuasion via logic. We just don’t like seeing con-artists and the power-hungry using emotion to dupe people into handing over money or into believing lies about reality.

    4. 25.4
      James Croft

      Precisely: as long as that distinction is made, I’m happy. In the episodes I mentioned, I don’t think that distinction is explicitly made, which makes it sound like all forms of emotional appeal are being criticized. I just want to make sure we don’t try to chuck out all our tools for emotional suasion. We’re going to need them ;).

    5. 25.5
      MAtheist

      I was at the talk you gave on Oct. 11th (that was me in the back right sitting on the piano bench), and enjoyed it greatly, in fact was even moved to applause a few times. I could not stay and talk to you at the end, I had to get my son from choir practice, I’m sure you can appreciate that.
      The only problem I had was when you mentioned TAE’s response to the Huckabee fundraising letter which I believe was from episode 694, not episode 649.
      Don, not Matt, is using it to show an example of emotional manipulation. This has nothing to do with whether atheists are emotionless, or whether emotion should be used to promote humanism.
      I feel that you are conflating atheism and humanism. Atheism is not a worldview, humanism is. Atheism is not a belief, or set of beliefs, humanism is. Atheism is simply a response to theism, “The Atheist Experience” TV show exists in part to dispell the misconceptions about atheism. While some of the hosts have said they are humanists, they are not promoting humanism, and in fact they are not “promoting” atheism either, because, again, it is not a worldview.

  26. 26
    Vall

    I think the first few minutes of Cosmos puts this to rest. Sagan right from the get-go talks about the wonder and awe of everything. The “tingling in the spine” as the mind contemplates the cosmos. It is worth a re-wacth if you haven’t seen it in awhile.

    Luke J also brought up Feynman. That may be a better example because Feynman speaks with a little more animation.

  27. 27
    Jake

    An excellent Mattslap.

  28. 28
    HP

    My pet theory is that theists equate beauty with spirituality because they experience it so rarely. I mean, if I only managed to experience beauty once or twice a year, I might think it was pretty special, too.

  29. 29
    jacqueskosky

    One advantage the atheist has is that they can objectively enjoy music from around our planet without the filter of theism. I listen to The Tallis Scholars, Indian ragas (and other Indian music), middle eastern music etc without any concern that it may have some basis in some form of religion/spirituality. I have theist friends who will not listen to Indian music (or practice Yoga) because it is non Xtian.

  30. 30
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I’m a woman and I’m all hot and bothered by lots of atheists (and they don’t have to be all men either). I write. I read (poetry, fiction, and non-fiction). I write about reading. I’ve even painted on occasion. I love music (though I can’t play very well at all). Though I’m interested in science, I studied humanities, including art history, architecture, literature, classics, and history. I love Christmas and still pretend Santa is real. I like watching and reading stuff that defies the laws of physics, including cartoons, Doctor Who, Shakespeare, CSI, and Homer. I do live in a basement though. It’s an apartment in a walkout, backing onto a wooded park upon which I can look out and get all full up with wonder and awe at the beauty of.

  31. 31
    galaxyman

    It is totally opposite.

    As an observational astronomer (for a long time) and a general love of science, the wonder and beauty that surrounds us is actually heighten or much more appreciated.

    I really don’t think many theist really understand what they are missing, particularly those who entertain the dogma of their religion.

    My understanding of the universe and seeing the wonders within are inspiring, add to the fact of understanding my place within it, and how I (or any of us) got here is simply amazing.

  32. 32
    mikee

    As a scientist I find creativity an important aspect. Outside of science, I read lots of fiction (fantasy and sci fi) play board games, write poetry. I try and enjoy life and appreciate all its beauty because I know this is the only chance I will have to do so.
    I think I am a concrete thinker but also a creative thinker – the two are not mutually exclusive. What atheists do know how to do is draw a line in the sand and separate the two – something many of the religious seem incapable of doing.

  33. 33
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Oh, and I think I know how to have a good time. :)

  34. 34
    DobermanGuy

    For me it seem at least once a week im stoping what im doing and taking in the sunset. Standing in awe over the beauty of such a small moment in time. But the even more wonderous thing is that it happens over and over every 24 hours.

  35. 35
    Marc Morgenstern

    I haven’t read the responses to this note, but I find it interesting that people take atheism to mean a lack of imagination. Like to believe in something without proof destroys every sort of creative thought and bone in your body.

    Like it takes some connection to a god if you want to write about fairies or ghosts or even religion. Understanding and enjoyment have nothing to do with belief.

  36. 36
    jacobfromlost

    It always amazes me that (some) theists not only think that they get to tell us what our position is in every detail (even when we say that isn’t our position), but THEN they think they get to tell us who we are as people in every detail even when those assertions are contrary to available evidence.

    In what other area of discussion would this be acceptable, or sensical?

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in these arguments where the theist ignores everything I’ve said about my position, redefines my position in the course of the argument, and when I say that isn’t my position at all…they just keep repeating it as if that makes it so (leaving me no other course than to respond “no, it isn’t my position”).

    Even when I point out to them that they don’t have the power to redefine my position any more than I have to change theirs by telling them repeatedly “the only reason you say you believe in your god is to anger mighty Zeus”…they still don’t get it.

    Once, after I told a theist he didn’t have the power to redefine my position for me, said, “Guess what? I just did!”

    Then I had to explain that no, he didn’t, as he doesn’t have the POWER to change MY position anymore that *I* have the power to change his or anyone else’s! Telling someone what their position is DOESN’T CHANGE THEIR POSITION.

    Goofballs.

    1. 36.1
      Se Habla Espol

      Congratulations! You, too, have encountered the arrogance of faith: “I have decided to imagine and believe this, thus it is Certain Universal Truth, reality to the contrary notwithstanding.”
      It may be (it seems to me, a non-psychologist) a suppressed narcissism: the emphasis in the believer’s belief is on the I, as you see in narcissism. It also seems to be as difficult to treat as narcissism.
      The humility of science/rationality/and the like cannot stand up to the arrogance of faith, in the mind of the faithy.
      As the email points out, it requires the machismo of a like arrogance to be attractive to another of the arrogant.

  37. 37
    pyrobryan

    This email was as funny as it was depressing. I couldn’t help but mention that not only am I an atheist who loves music, (not to mention art, sci-fi, cartoons, and all manner of other things that this person doesn’t think I can) but my favorite song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, specifically Jeff Buckley’s cover, a song steeped in Biblical references (although I still can’t tell if the song is actually religious in nature, either way, it doesn’t really matter). Absolutely one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard.

    Anyone who actually believes what this person wrote simply hasn’t bothered to look for their self.

  38. 38
    LykeX

    …my favorite song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, specifically Jeff Buckley’s cover…

    I’m with you there. That is one damn good song.

  39. 39
    nude0007

    People who only think in spiritual terms are the ones who can’t fully appreciate the fullness of an experience. People who don’t believe in ghosts can go through a haunted house and have a lot of fun, but someone who believes it is scared out of their mind. Those who think acts of nature are spiritual warnings and messages can’t get past that to see the beauty and power of nature. Spiritual people look at anything that is different than themselves as blasphemy, so these differences are not an interesting new bit of knowledge, but a threat to their way of thinking that cannot be tolerated. This leads to bigotry and hatred. “They are not like us so they can’t be loved by our god. They must be destroyed!” Instead of marveling at the differences. Critical thinking gives us a better understanding of things so we don’t have to be afraid. We can reach beyond fear and prejudice and find the truth and beauty of something new to us.

  40. 40
    NathanDST

    Speaking of Vulcans, it was partly the stories of Spock and Data that helped me to recognize the importance of emotion in human life, even the negative emotions. And that recognition eventually helped me to fight free of depression, and become the fantasy loving guy who loves a good metaphor that I am today. I do lack machismo though.

  41. 41
    Ace

    Human’s employ a form of assosiative logic. Sometimes false positives get through and we end up with beliefs that are simply ridiculous.
    It’s good to question, so that we can better understand the world. What this has to do with concrete/restricted thinking, I have no idea.

  42. 42
    Dr. Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

    Look at Dr. Brian Cox and tell me he doesn’t have charisma and people skills. He was in an indie pop band, for crying out loud.

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