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Jan 02 2012

Things atheists need to stop saying? MAKE me.

I like Cracked.com, I really do.  Like a lot of great randomized comedy (I’m thinking Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, Monty Python) it can be a bit hit and miss.  It has a fair number of articles and videos that go nowhere, but when it’s great it’s really great; not just funny, but often shockingly educational.

For example, David Wong coined the concept of the Monkeysphere, which I love to use whenever I can to discuss the finer points of secular morality.  They introduce me to bizarre pop culture history that I would never have seen otherwise.  Sometimes they even take up the mantle of Snopes, debunking historical myths that people seem to believe for some reason.

And then occasionally, they’ll throw out a stinker like this one: 4 Things Both Atheists and Believers Need to Stop Saying.

(Continued below)

Of course, I’m not opposed to calling out atheists for acting ridiculous.  We’ve got our always-popular episode about “Foolish Atheists“; we’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to an undercurrent of sexism in the atheist community; and there’s nothing that fires up a good internal atheist argument like bringing up politics or conspiracies.  The opinions of my fellow atheists are never above criticism.  But for lack-of-God’s sake, hit us with some criticism that makes sense.

This article in a nutshell

With such an even-handed title, let’s take a look at the things that Gladstone wants both sides to stop doing.

#4. Devout: God Hates X

As an atheist, I suppose I ought to agree.  God seems to hate so many things: fags, figs, a woman’s right to choose, being asked snotty questions, evolution, science in general… the list goes on and on, and I don’t agree with most of it.  I’m cool with God being against things like murder, I suppose, but those aren’t really the controversial ones, are they?  When God hates something that is so obviously wrong that everyone hates it, no one bothers to form a political lobby around it.

Here’s what I’m going to go ahead and take issue with, though.These are the people who actually believe in an omnipotent Creator and the only thing inspiring enough for their protest sign is what that Creator hates? Why would anyone want to hold that up to the world? That can’t be the best way to honor God.

Why the hell not?  How do you know in what way God likes to be honored?

As I said recently, I’ve been listening to Todd Friel, and this is a particular sore spot with him — nice, liberal Christians who only focus on God’s love and refuse to acknowledge that he’s really pretty short-tempered.  There’s a long tradition behind this point of view, with my favorite example being 18th century firebrand preacher Jonathan Edwards and his gloriously hideous essay Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  Sure, I’d personally prefer a God to be a loving one, if I had to work with the assumption that any God existed, and if my personal preference mattered for anything.  But what makes Gladstone so damn sure that he’s right about God and Fred Phelps isn’t?  When you unpack it a little, his main objection to the devout is that they’re not all liberal Jews who think like him.

That’s a maddeningly insufferable trait about liberal theology.  On the one hand, the article points out, correctly:

But even giving you and your Holy Book the benefit of the doubt, there’s still a problem: You’re still you. Just some dude. Are you so impressed with yourself or so intellectually uncurious that you think you perfectly understand the will of God just by reading a book? Hell, put five scholars in a room together and they’ll fight about Shakespeare’s actual intent with Hamlet.

Okay, fair enough, but that’s not an argument for how you should think about God; that’s a blanket dismissal that you can know anything about the subject.  It applies equally well to his own point of vie.  Sure, nobody’s got a perfect literary interpretation, but I’ve read the Bible, and a plain reading of it says that the “God” character in those stories really does hate an awful lot of stuff.  Only by bending over backwards to ignore the stories of genocide and bizarre rules do we end up with something like the Talmud (which, as a fellow Jew, Gladstone seems very proud of) that overrides a lot of the Bible and substitutes in something more sensible.

I’ve got an easier solution: ignore the whole stupid book.  I agree that we’re better off getting our views of reality and morality from people debating and discussing the matter in light of practical, real world issues, so why handicap the situation by starting with the assumption that God is real or any of the rest of those fantastical stories are true?

#3. Atheist:God Is Not Great

Oh boy, here we go.

Last week, Hitchens — known for his intellect, eloquence and insufferable arrogance — achieved his life-long goal of becoming God by ceasing to exist.

Hitchens didn’t have the goal of becoming God, and neither does any other atheist, dude.  And no atheist thinks that being dead makes you a god, or else we wouldn’t be atheists — we’d be polytheists for everyone who ever died.  Hitchens’ own words in his last couple of years frequently mentioned that being sick and dying sucks, and dismissed any attempts to imagine an upside.  If you’re going to attack a position, make some effort to find out what the position is, mkay?

And yes, I recognize that this is probably an attempt at sarcastic humor, and maybe he doesn’t really think that Hitchens believed himself to be God.  He’s just trying to get a laugh by referencing a commonly held belief about atheists.  Commonly held by idiots, that is.

Also, how illogical. “Hey man, this God you believe in that I totally don’t believe in? Yeah, well, he sucks!” Kind of tries too hard, y’know? I mean, after all, if chicks think you’re a badass for saying your old man or your High School principal sucks, then, wow, imagine what a rebel you are for saying God sucks.

It’s really a whole lot simpler than you’re making it out to be.  Look, theists commonly make two kinds of claims, among others:

  1. It is factually true that a God exists and created the universe and everything in it.
  2. Belief in God, and adherence to the tenets of (insert religion here) is necessary to act morally.

Atheists dispute both these points, and they’re both important.  The first one is probably wrong because there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it that has arisen in thousands of years of looking for some.  The second is not just wrong, but dangerous in a very real way, because it encourages theists to view atheists as amoral at best and evil at worst.

It is entirely fair to point out that the God of the Bible, while fictional, behaves in a way that would be considered sociopathic if a human did them.  Real or not, we don’t want to be getting morality from someone who thinks it’s cool to “test” people by ordering them to kill their children and see if they’ll do it.

And it’s not some kind of “rebellion” that makes this a valid point. When George Carlin stood on a stage and said “If there is a God, may he strike this audience dead,” he wasn’t trying to show the audience how awesome and intimidating he was; he was trying to show how comical the whole idea really is, that there’s supposed to be a God who punishes people for wrongdoing.

But my main complaint is that most purveyors of this sentiment don’t really have a beef with God. Even Hitchens’ book mostly tears apart the abuses of organized religion, particularly Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I’m surprised how often atheists conflate the two things. Of course organized religion sucks. It’s run by people. Religion, like government or anything structured and administered by humanity, will always be flawed and ruined by all of our weaknesses and failings.

What surprises me is why that should surprise him at all.  Of course atheists don’t “really” have a “beef” with God — there is no God.  And of course atheists don’t distinguish between “God” and “organized religion” — from our perspective, the only aspects of God are those that are made up by people, and the chief people who make it up are in organized religion.  Sure, you don’t like this point of view, but how the hell are you surprised by it? You understand what “atheist” means, don’t you?

#2. Devout: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Well, okay, this seems pretty random.  Of all the things you could tell the devout to stop saying, that’s the one you settle on as most annoying?  At least this particular cliche encourages people to get up and do something rather than passively pray for it.  Of course, God doesn’t help those who help themselves.  But then again, those who help themselves, help themselves.  So, there’s that.

#1. Atheist: God Is a Fairy Tale For Morons

There are two halves to this complaint.

  • “God is a fairy tale” — damn straight it is, and I’m not going to quit saying it.  Also not going to stop comparing God to Santa Claus, leprechauns, and Bigfoot. If you want me to stop saying it, don’t just tell me I’m not allowed to; give me a reason the comparison doesn’t hold.
  • “…for morons.”  Let’s talk about this one for a minute.

All right, I’m going to have to be cautious here.  I don’t know Gladstone, and I’m not in a position to personally deny that anyone has ever called him a moron for believing in God.  I’m just going to say, while all the rest of the “things I don’t want people to say” appear to be direct quotes from somebody or other, “God is a fairy tale for morons” does not.  I certainly can’t put anything past random cranky folks on the interwebs (present company included), but he’s spent this whole article complaining about folks like Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, Jillette… which one of those supposed insufferably arrogant pricks actually said that all theists are morons?

As an atheist, I believe that a belief in God is mistaken.  Obviously.  If I didn’t, then I’d believe in God, and then I’d be disqualified from these complaints.  But you can believe somebody is wrong, even regard their beliefs as fairy tales, and still not think they are stupid.  People believe all kinds of things in this world, and being right or wrong on one particular point does not make you an idiot.  Conversely, as Gladstone correctly says:

Reading the God Delusion is as likely to transform you into a genius as reading the Holy Bible will make you a saint. And by the same token, faith need not be a sign of a feeble mind.

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.  And by still the same token, throwing up straw men about these mean old atheists who are calling you names need not be a sign that they all think you’re a drooling nimrod.

This seems to be a common defensive position that some theists jump to when you criticize their point of view.  ”Where’s the evidence?” an atheist will ask; and the believer, like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, will demand, “HOW DARE YOU CALL ME STUPID?”

As proof that atheists hold all theists in contempt, he cites the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — a joke which was invented specifically to make fun of creationists pushing their agenda in school, ridiculing the idea that all ideas should be seen as having equal weight in a science curriculum.  In the very next paragraph, Gladstone agrees that creationism is an obstacle to progress, so why take issue with this?  If the shoe doesn’t fit…

Look, here’s the bottom line.  I think I understand what you’re trying to do with this article — hopefully try to promote greater understanding, communication and harmony between believers and unbelievers.  I support that intent.  Hell, that’s pretty much exactly our aim in having a public atheist visibility movement.  You think atheists are so dense that we expect to get anywhere by calling 85% of the population morons?  Asserting mental superiority over all living things is just not what we’re interested in — we want to be treated decently as functional, moral human beings.

I suppose that if you just want to get folks on your side, an easy way to do it is to pick a minority group like atheists, make up some caricatures, and dismiss them with an article that amounts to “Fuck all those people, am I right?”  But if you’re aiming at harmony and understanding, you’ve got a long way to go.

107 comments

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  1. 1
    John Morales

    [OT + meta]

    Psst, not all your readers are American (re Nimrod).

    1. 1.1
      Chris L

      Nimrod, as mentioned in another Cracked article, is something of a compliment as it refers to a great hunter mentioned in the old testament. The only reason people consider it an insult nowadays is due to Bugs Bunny, and surely most people in the western world would be familiar with those cartoons.

      1. Jet

        I prefer the Bugs quote “What an ultra-maroon”.

      2. Nick Gotts

        The couple of times I’ve seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I didn’t find it funny (unlike for example Tom and Jerry, or Top Cat), so no, I entirely missed the reference. Maybe in the US you just can’t grow up without seeing a lot of BB, but that’s not the case in the UK.

  2. 2
    anteprepro

    At Cracked, based on this and another article (and the commenters there), I’ve found they have an interesting tendency towards Militant Apathy, as I’ve seen Sastra at Pharyngula label it recently. Well, militant apathy or militant agnosticism/ignosticism. You see, we can’t know the truth absolutely, and religion isn’t 100% negative. Therefore religion’s continued existence is fully justified and theists and atheists remain equally right/wrong regardless of their respective arguments. As such, the only one can truly be proud about their position is the person who doesn’t really give a shit and stakes out the imagined middle ground between Atheist “Fundamentalists” and actual fundamentalists. Everyone else is just a noisy and mean extremist that no-one should bother listening to. Any attempts to change people’s opinions on the matter or make one’s case is an evil in itself and is an argument presumed dead-on-arrival. Any amount of confidence in your position is assumed to be unjustified arrogance. These are people who think poorly of religious dogmatists, but accept as dogma that those who are just as confident or upfront about their views as the dogmatists must be just as unjustified, must be just as stubborn, must be the virtual mirror image of the thing that they are similar to in only a few respects. I would love to hear one of them actually shoot holes in the cases against theism and for atheism, such that these false equivalences are worth the multitudes of kilobytes throughout the internet that have been wasted on them. But I have never seen it happen (successfully and sufficiently). They people proud of their disdain for Both Sides and lack of concern about the issue can’t be arsed to show exactly why Both Sides are exactly as bad as one another. Go figure.

    1. 2.1
      mescalito

      Militant ignosticism and militant anti-theism/atheism are not mutually exclusive; one can be both ignostic and atheist. No notion of deity is necessary to adamantly oppose the inherent non-humanism of all theistic religions.

      1. anteprepro

        I am well aware of the fact that agnosticism/ignosticism and atheism can overlap. The people I am talking about, however, often refuse to overlap with either theists or atheists, preferring to dissociate from both and pretending they are better than both for it. Or, they tend to overlap with theists and thus heap scorn on everyone who dares have the arrogance to believe there is no god, while only heaping scorn on those who are 100% confident that there is a god. Believing there is no god is inherently worthy of more scorn than believing there is one, you see. That’s Believing in Belief 101.

    2. 2.2
      Just Visiting

      Might as well call it Militant Postmodernism…

      1. anteprepro

        Mmmm, actually, I like that.

  3. 3
    Brother Yam

    Lazy, “even-handed,” he-said/she-said journalmalism. I won’t be giving the article any hits as your deft dismembering works well enough.

    1. 3.1
      Orlando

      VIRUS ALERT FOR CHRISTIANS:

      An unauthorized virus, introduced into this software, will dis-implant and terminally disrupt your soul. Any visit to this website will result in the regrettable destruction of your eternal soul.

      We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

      This virus is unaffiliated with the AE or its members.

  4. 4
    ctastrophe

    Thanks for going through this article Russell. When I read it I found the same issues with it, but I don’t have a blog that anyone reads, and comments on cracked tend to get swept away in the deluge. Reading through it was pretty awful, and I found myself yelling “are you kidding me?” at my computer screen a few times. It was good to see a rebuttal, and I hope this makes it’s way back to the “hard-hitting journalist” who wrote that futile exercise in persuasive writing.

  5. 5
    Steve

    Just wanted to chime in – Bill Maher has regularly said that theists “are morons.” The entirety of Religulous is like watching him intentionally give ammunition to the “SEE? SEE? ATHEISTS THINK WE’RE STUPID” crowd. So there’s that.

    1. 5.1
      Russell Glasser

      Do me a favor, Steve. Find me a direct quote from Bill Maher, in or out of Religulous, in which he actually says something equivalent to “theists are morons.” I’m interested to see what you find, but I’m skeptical that you’ll find anything as damning as you think, and here’s why:

      Bill Maher won’t even say that his friend Ann Coulter is stupid, and that’s a pretty low bar to set. Even up to the release of Religulous, Maher was actually coming out with quotes just like what his article says, i.e., atheists are as bad as fundamentalists. He didn’t identify as an atheist until recently, and even some of the quotes I’ve dug up that supposedly insulted Christians included the phrase “…and I’m speaking as a Christian.”

      1. warren grubb

        Yeah, I have only seen the film twice (and once was just in passing), but it seems like Religulous was more about focusing on people saying and doing moronic things. I am sure there was a lot of set up and editing that made people look more ridiculous than they were and I can see where people would feel it was unfairly portraying all religious people as dumb, but Maher still came off as a bit of a deist or at least a really weak agnostic atheist in the film.

        So I think it is his overall snarky tone and comedic approach that makes people read it as “you’re a moron” when he is criticizing someone. I could be wrong tho, he might have called people morons. He is a human and a comedian, after all.

      2. jacobfromlost

        I think this might be another of those instances where the atheist just can’t win–if you point out things that make no sense, and believers believe those things that make no sense, then you must be calling them morons.

        I did a few searches to find quotes from Maher, searching the terms “moron” and “stupid”. I’m sure there must be some jokes somewhere that are pretty direct insults, but I’ve done three searches so far and have found nothing. I did find where he said:

        “Jesus is great — is there a better role model? No. It’s religion, it’s the people who get in between — the bureaucracy, you know. … It’s the way people abuse Jesus. Was there ever a greater victim of name dropping?”

        and

        “I love Jesus. I just don’t like the Christians who don’t believe in what he says.”

        and

        “Jesus, as a philosopher is wonderful. There’s no greater role model, in my view, than Jesus Christ. It’s just a shame that most of the people who follow him and call themselves Christians act nothing like him.”

        1. Tom Foss

          That was one of my biggest problems with Religulous (shameless plug for my review). Maher clearly has bought into the “Jesus was a nice guy, but modern fundies misinterpret him” whitewashing that ignores all the violent and vile stuff Jesus is credited with saying in the Bible. Meanwhile, he cut Islam no such slack–Islam’s an intolerant religion of hate and fear and terrorism and violence, while the guy who said that people would be tormented forever for thoughtcrime and that he came to set brother against brother and tear families apart, well, he’s been misinterpreted. It was…frustrating, to say the least.

  6. 6
    Theodoric

    Gladstone is Jewish, last I heard. That made the article even more weird for me.

    1. 6.1
      Theodoric

      oh wait, you mentioned that. Nevermind.

  7. 7
    'Tis Himself

    I don’t consider goddists to be morons, I consider them to be deluded. Believing in a delusion has nothing to do with intelligence.

    1. 7.1
      Orlando

      In fact, most psychiatrists will tell you the the more intelligent a person is, the more elaborately they will articulate their delusion and rationalize deluded beliefs. Think theologian.

  8. 8
    Oly Atheist

    I agree 100%. Good article. The dialogue is the most important part. The debate is an important one. Thanks.

  9. 9
    Dan

    The problem the article has is that it targets both the Devouts and the Atheists as a blanket group of people that share the same mindset. This is very wrong, but a mindset I’ve become used to from reading Cracked and indeed this website because you do the very same thing. You assume all religious people share the same opinion as each other, or the same point of view. It is forgiveable though, because it saves prefacing every “… Christians think X, Y, Z.” with “Not all, but some …”.

    In this Cracked article, the writer is doing the same. He/she is attacking the people that say these things, not the people who aren’t. The point of you article has been to say “I don’t say this”/”Only stupid people say this” and think he is attacking you personally because he is using the collective “Atheists”. He isn’t targeting you. It is weird, because you even agree with the writer a bunch of times in this article, you just pull away because you believe the writer is accusing you of the dumb things you oppose to.

    1. 9.1
      anteprepro

      He/she is attacking the people that say these things, not the people who aren’t

      The problem being that he gives examples of specific people who supposedly say these things. And they don’t (for #1 at least. For #3, atheists do actually say it, but his reasons against our saying it are stupid and not fully thought through).

    2. 9.2
      Aquaria

      This is very wrong, but a mindset I’ve become used to from reading Cracked and indeed this website because you do the very same thing. You assume all religious people share the same opinion as each other, or the same point of view.

      That’s exceedingly dishonest, and hypocritical.

      What do the christers who are always shrieking about christer nation doing, but lumping themselves together with all of them? How many times have you told christers not to lump in atheists as a collective. It’s actually STUPIDER to lump us in together, because the only cohesive idea we all share is lack of belief in a deity. That’s considerably different from what christers do.

      There are some consistent things that christers believe, and a lot of it is just plain dumb. Resurrection? Floating into the clouds? The Happy Happy Joy Joy land for them or people they like and The Big BooBoo Land for meanies/people they don’t like.

      I mean, seriously, there are some things that christers can be slammed for as a collective.

      As for the rare occasions when Matt and the rest use the term, it’s usual in the context of a particular group of christers, not a blanket indictment.

      Learn how to read for context, and you won’t make such a dishonest and hypocritical remark in the future.

  10. 10
    Ingdigo Jump

    I don’t think all theists are idiots. Some are larval atheists ;)

    Also I have to point out the biggest problem I had with the Theist/Atheist one

    The Theist ones Stop promoting hate against people and stop blaming victims

    The Atheist ones: Stop TALKING.

    That’s not fair and balanced, that’s hilariously slanted and privledged.

  11. 11
    Ingdigo Jump

    In fact, most psychiatrists will tell you the the more intelligent a person is, the more elaborately they will articulate their delusion and rationalize deluded beliefs.

    That always bugged me. On one hand it makes me hyper sensitive to question my own reasons to try to avoid that, on the other hand it makes me wonder about the definitions of intelligent

    1. 11.1
      Orlando

      Ing, the guy in The Beautiful Mind is an example, although he was mentally ill. Let us just say that man is a rationalizing animal, and smart people do it better.

      Or, that you can be intelligent but fence off your cherished belief – the one you learned as a child – from you critical thinking abilities. I have a friend who is highly intelligent (internationally known lawyer) yet is a firm believer of the liberal christian mode. And boy can he rationalize his beliefs.

      1. Ingdigo Jump

        Yes but that is sort of my point.

        Surely the man had genius in certain fields, but what is the difference between competency and intelligence?

        My colloquial definition of intelligence is the ability to think and reason; which means that even people who are obviously brilliant could be ranked lowly in intelligence if their thought process is generally sloppy.

        The developer of PCR for example is an incredibly sloppy thinker. He denies HIV and believes aliens talked to him via a raccoon. He is obviously brilliant (or lucky) but I wouldn’t call him intelligence persay.

        I think it may be a mistake to presume that someone excelling in one specialized intellectual field is themselves ‘intelligent’.

  12. 12
    davidct

    I just want to put in my two cents following:

    “You understand what “atheist” means, don’t you?” The answer to that particular question is in the case of most theists and some atheists is a resounding – No. While I will use the label when arguing for my rights and against discrimination, I don’t like the term because it tends to puts things in a religious context. I have observed that theists have a problem with recognizing that there are some people who can actually look at the world without a religious context. My personal value system is to value what is true. If all religions were to disappear, it would change nothing for me as far as how I judge what is real. The only thing that would change is that the label atheist would no longer have any meaning.

    Religious people cannot seem to wrap their minds around the idea of how completely irrelevant their belief system is an outsider. They are incapable of understanding how it is possible not to believe in god. As a result their ideas of atheists are always in a religious context.

    1. 12.1
      Orlando

      David,

      That last paragraph of yours is so spot-on it should be engraved on a Liberty coin (the secular version).

    2. 12.2
      jacobfromlost

      Imagine there’s no religion, too?

      Or imagine all religion is true?

      Damn Cee Lo has got me all confused. (Apparently he couldn’t see the world without a religious context…or was too afraid that the audience wouldn’t be able to, despite listening to this song for nearly 40 years and knowing all the lyrics. Weird.)

    3. 12.3
      annabucci

      “Religious people cannot seem to wrap their minds around the idea of how completely irrelevant their belief system is an outsider. They are incapable of understanding how it is possible not to believe in god.”

      Actually, I can wrap my mind around that idea, and I’m perfectly capable of understanding how it’s possible to not believe in a god. Thanks, chief.

      1. Jasper of Maine

        His brush was broader than it should have been, but it’s a problem we genuinely run into frequently. It’s just that those theists who aren’t like that we don’t tend to argue with that much, so this perspective about theists has some confirmation bias behind it.

      2. davidct

        It is a little hard to tell if you can or not from one sentence.

        1. annabucci

          It’s not hard for me to tell.

          1. satanaugustine

            Well that’s sure to convince no one. It’s as irrelevant as a believer saying they know there is a god because they’ve personally experienced him/her/it. We’re not privy to your personal experiences and you’ve made no effort to convince us. Mere assertion does not take the place of demonstrating that what you are asserting is true.

          2. annabucci

            How about proving that I can’t understand it, which is the claim being made. Let’s see the evidence for that.

          3. jacobfromlost

            Anna, from an atheist’s point of view, can you see how continually asserting that you can imagine the atheist view, while never giving any evidence of such, would make us suspect your claim? Moreover, you already relayed a story where a child said the god character in the bible was terrible as a reason for disbelief, and you said that that was a terrible reason not to believe. I quote, “She [the child's mother] was quite proud that this little girl was saying this god sucks and he’s horrible so we shouldn’t believe in him. And the whole time I’m thinking, that’s a terrible reason to be an atheist.”

            This suggests to me that you can’t imagine–at least not very well–the atheist view. The fact that other atheists, with the atheist view, also seem to think you don’t have a solid grasp on our view also suggests I am not crazy in thinking this.

            I will freely admit that I don’t have a solid grasp on your polytheistic views. I asked you several times in chat if you believe Odin, and the other gods you listed, literally exist, but you refused to answer. You told me you disagreed with Odin about not talking to enemies, which I still do not grasp (if you disagree with the gods, what is the point, other than following a story you like?). Moreover, I asked you if there are any gods you don’t believe in, and you said yes, but never clarified how you DIDN’T believe in them in comparison to how you DID believe in the gods you do believe in (ie, as literally existing, or simply as super-human characters that are fun for a group of people to center their lives on).

            Let me guess. This post is too long, or this format doesn’t lend itself to you explaining yourself. If this format doesn’t lend itself to you explaining yourself, why post here at all? Just for kicks?

          4. annabucci

            Why are you repeating the arguments you made earlier in our chatroom discussion? I thought we resolved this last week.

      3. Aquaria

        Well, aren’t you just so clever.

        Here, have a mint.

        1. annabucci

          No, thanks.

  13. 13
    Cassie

    I find it strange in an article where you mention the problems with sexism within the atheist community (and indeed society in general) you would discuss cracked and how great it can be. Cracked.com is misogynist, homophobic drivel. I have no problem painting anyone who enjoys that site with the same brush, as it would seem at the very least they find that bigotry amusing.

    Sometimes members of a privleged group can lack of self reflection.

    1. 13.1
      anteprepro

      Examples? I read the site daily, but skip over a lot of articles by the regular columnists (since they post basically reiterations of the same joke week after week, instead of the more typical insightful lists the site is better known for) so I may have missed some of the more egregious cases of this.

    2. 13.2
      paul

      So basically you’re calling my girlfriend (who reads Cracked far more regularly than me and finds it much more amusing) a misogynistic homophobe?

      You see that’s funny, considering she’s bisexual, reads about 5 different Sociology blogs daily and will lecture to anyone who will listen about gender inequality, heterosexism, and privilege.

  14. 14
    Fred

    Regards #1 – I have always said that there are two types of people in the world: those that agree with me and idiots.

    1. 14.1
      Orlando

      There are two kinds of people in the world: 1) those who agree with me, 2) idiots, and 3) those who can’t count.

  15. 15
    Sam Salerno

    I just want to say here that god is not great and is a fairytale for morons.

  16. 16
    John K.

    Do we really need to directly address the idea that you don’t have to be stupid in order to have some stupid beliefs? This always strikes me as a simplistic defense mechanism to hold feelings hostage against criticisms.

    Though I will admit I am often struck by “how could I not have seen this problem earlier?” when I think back on my theist days. “People believe stupid things only because they are stupid people” is not too difficult a leap to make, even if it is incorrect.

  17. 17
    Thomas

    Since abandoning faith, I’ve always considered “God helps those that help themselves” to be an argument in favor of atheism. Actually, even when I had faith, I considered it a strong point of skepticism.

    Anyway, thanks for dissecting this article. I read it a couple of days ago too, and just laughed and shook my head.

  18. 18
    annabucci

    LOL, when I read that article on cracked.com(love cracked, I spend hours on that site) I immediately thought “hmm…I’m pretty sure the folks at TAE will take issue with this one….”

    The guy is obviously coming from a theist viewpoint and it shows. None of the things he says atheists shouldn’t say are things I think of, and I’m a theist. Some things I do think atheists need to stop saying are things like: “theists do/think this”(especially when they really mean christians), “Religion is a plague/cancer/etc”(when they really mean organized religion), and “theists are delusional”(or some other equivalence to the mentally ill). Whenever I see atheists claim these things, I almost always respond with corrections.

    Also, regarding the “god is not great” bit, it reminds of this time I was in an atheist chatroom on paltalk(ahteist vs theist chat), and this horribly annoying chick comes on the mic(repeatedly) going on and on about how her partner’s atheist daughter got in trouble for speaking out against a god to her classmates. She was quite proud that this little girl was saying this god sucks and he’s horrible so we shouldn’t believe in him. And the whole time I’m thinking, that’s a terrible reason to be an atheist. The whole “you hate god that’s why you’re an atheist” argument made by some theists is totally annoying and false, yet here’s this little girl perpetuating it and this annoying chick is commending her on it. I get that she’s proud that the little girl is a vocal atheist, but I don’t think it does any good to promote the stereotype that atheist lack a belief in a god because god sucks. But anyway…I digress.

    1. 18.1
      jacobfromlost

      Anna: Some things I do think atheists need to stop saying are things like: “theists do/think this”(especially when they really mean christians),

      Me: How do you know they really mean Christians? You are aware that Muslims make many of the very same arguments? That some self-described Christians don’t consider Mormons Christians, or Catholics for that matter? I think “theist” is a useful word in most of these discussions, although “deist” could also be operative on occasion but virtually all the people who, once upon a time, were deists are now atheists.

      Anna: “Religion is a plague/cancer/etc”(when they really mean organized religion)

      Me: What is the difference between organized religion and “religion”? I don’t think those saying it is a plague see any real difference between the two, and you didn’t supply any here.

      Anna:, and “theists are delusional”(or some other equivalence to the mentally ill). Whenever I see atheists claim these things, I almost always respond with corrections.

      Me: What are the corrections? You didn’t supply them even here. How do you tell the difference between a delusion and a religious claim that has no evidence? Isn’t that what a delusion is? Is it really NOT delusional to claim fresh water and salt water can’t mix because the Koran says so, even though you can go home right now and mix them together? That seems to be the very definition of delusional–believing things for which there is no evidence, or, indeed, disconfirming evidence.

      Anna: …She was quite proud that this little girl was saying this god sucks and he’s horrible so we shouldn’t believe in him. And the whole time I’m thinking, that’s a terrible reason to be an atheist.

      Me: It’s not required that you have a good reason to be an atheist, just as it is not required that you have a good reason to be a theist. You can SAY I don’t believe in Santa because kids should learn how to earn their own toys, and that may or may not be a bad reason to not believe in Santa, but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t believe in Santa. To tell such a person “That’s a horrible reason not to believe in Santa” is not, inversely, a reason they SHOULD believe in Santa. It’s also not necessarily the ONLY reason they don’t believe in Santa, although it could be and it still doesn’t matter. If one doesn’t believe Santa exists, and they believe kids have no work ethic, then saying “I don’t believe in Santa because kids need to earn their own things” may be the equivalent of saying, “KIDS should not believe in Santa because the entire idea has a negative consequence from my point of view.” (Which you should clearly understand if you can wrap your brain around not believing in a god.)

      Which would make it a perfectly reasonable reason for being an atheist. (The idea is a bad one, and it has no evidence for it, so believing in it is bad on both counts.)

      1. annabucci

        “How do you know they really mean Christians?”

        Because atheists(the majority of the ones I speak with) live in a society dominated by christianity. So when they speak about theists, their frame of reference is usually christian. When they speak of another kind of theist, say islamic or hinu, they usually make a point of actually making the differentiation, not so with christians. To that majority of atheists I speak with, christians are the default theist.

        Interestingly enough, when I try to point out that they only really man christian, more often than not the response I’m given is “well, of course I mean christian, you’re just nitpicking”.

        “What is the difference between organized religion and “religion”?”

        A religion is a system of beliefs. An organized religion is a heirarchal organization built around a system of beliefs. Regardless, I don’t think organized religion is necessarily a plague either.

        “What are the corrections?”

        Theists aren’t delusional by virtue of their god belief.

        I don’t think the kid should be theist just because she has a bad reason for being theist. I just commented that the “god is not great” bit reminded me of the incident.

        1. Jasper of Maine

          Theists aren’t delusional by virtue of their god belief.

          “Delusion” isn’t exactly a pejorative, mind you.

          The thing is, they are… unless they can demonstrate their claims.

          * Bob makes a claim.
          * Bob’s claim is in start violation of what is otherwise demonstrable reality.
          * Bob cannot back up his claim with any kind of objective evidence.
          * Bob can only cite reasons that are incredibly subjective and/or unfalsifiable and/or is illogical.
          * No one else can verify his claim.
          * Despite all of the above, Bob continues to believe his claim.

          Dictionary.com on Delusion:

          1. an act or instance of deluding.
          2. the state of being deluded.
          3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.
          4. Psychiatry . a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

          If a belief in a god isn’t delusional, then you’ve rendered the word meaningless. I’d be one thing if it was a mundane claim, but when the claim is in contradiction to pretty much everything we know about reality, it’s status of delusion is fairly well cemented.

          1. annabucci

            “The thing is, they are…”

            Not really.

          2. jacobfromlost

            JT:“The thing is, they are…”

            Anna: Not really.

            Me: Exactly what a person holding a delusion would say. So how do we tell the difference between a god belief that isn’t delusion, and a god belief that IS? If we can’t tell, then any god belief is indistinguishable from delusion.

          3. Jasper of Maine

            Not really.

            Do you have any particular reason why they don’t fit the definition?

      2. jacobfromlost

        Anna: Because atheists(the majority of the ones I speak with) live in a society dominated by christianity. So when they speak about theists, their frame of reference is usually christian. When they speak of another kind of theist, say islamic or hinu, they usually make a point of actually making the differentiation, not so with christians. To that majority of atheists I speak with, christians are the default theist.

        Me: How do you know? When I use the term “theist”, I mean theists of all kinds. How do you know I am not talking about theists, but Christians? Why do you think I am giving Christianity a special place in the discussion? How do you tell the difference between an atheist who says “theist” and means theist, and an atheist who says “theist” and means Christian? It seems you are just assuming, if you have no evidence.

        Anna: Interestingly enough, when I try to point out that they only really man christian, more often than not the response I’m given is “well, of course I mean christian, you’re just nitpicking”.

        Me: I don’t mean Christian when I say theist. But does it matter? Christians ARE theists. (Explain how it matters–why it would even be annoying. What is the misconception being perpetuated? I don’t understand why you think atheists should say “Christian” when criticising theist beliefs that Christians hold. The criticism is the same either way.)

        Me before: “What is the difference between organized religion and “religion”?”

        Anna: A religion is a system of beliefs. An organized religion is a heirarchal organization built around a system of beliefs. Regardless, I don’t think organized religion is necessarily a plague either.

        Me: How do you have a system of beliefs without an organization of those beliefs? There are no examples of a system of beliefs that doesn’t have some structure to perpetuate those beliefs (even the bible is a structure of words and ideas). Moreover, an organized religion doesn’t have to be hierarchical. Why would that be a requirement?

        Me before: “What are the corrections?”

        Anna: Theists aren’t delusional by virtue of their god belief.

        Me: How do you know that? How do you tell the difference between a god belief that is delusional and one that isn’t? There are a lot of god beliefs, some of which even you would probably say is delusional (ie, “God told me to kill my children”). But how do you tell between god belief that is not delusional and god believe that IS? If you can’t tell the difference in any objective sense (via observable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable experimentation), then god belief looks exactly like delusion. (Which is not to say you are crazy. It is a delusion in much the same way as people think heavy objects fall faster than light ones, but it still a delusion.)

        Anna: I don’t think the kid should be theist just because she has a bad reason for being theist. I just commented that the “god is not great” bit reminded me of the incident.

        Me: Since you bring up reasons, what good reasons do you have to be a theist? I’ve never heard any, and you suggest you have some. (You still haven’t supplied any.)

        1. annabucci

          “How do you know?”

          Because I’m awesome.

          This medium isn’t really conducive to our little side discussion, perhaps you’d like to join me in the chatroom and we can hash it out in real time?

        2. annabucci

          on a side note, I find it incredibly amusing that when I point out that atheists tend to have theist=christian, I’m either berated for my assumption, or I’m berated for being nitpicky. Case in point above for the former.

        3. jacobfromlost

          I think this medium is very nice for our side discussion, which isn’t a side discussion. This is an atheist blog. The letter under discussion is by a theist. The poster of the letter is an atheist and host of an atheist show. Your a theist. I’m an atheist. We’re discussing the issues surrounding both.

          How is this a side discussion?

          Anna: on a side note, I find it incredibly amusing that when I point out that atheists tend to have theist=christian, I’m either berated for my assumption, or I’m berated for being nitpicky. Case in point above for the former.

          Me: If you don’t think you are being nitpicky, explain why. You still haven’t done that. Is it not true that Christians are theists? Is it not true that criticisms made against Christians AS THEISTS are the very same criticisms of Christians AS CHRISTIANS, as Christians are theists. Is there some criticism atheists make of theists that don’t apply to Christians? I’m still unclear what your problem is. Perhaps you just don’t like the word “theist”, but I don’t know why.

          1. annabucci

            Regardless of the content, this medium doesn’t support a long back and forth discussion. I can’t even reply to your other post because this site’s comments are not set up to nest past a certain point. Hence why I suggested the chatroom.

            christians are theist, but they’re not the only theists. When atheists reference theists and only really mean christians, it’s annoying. It gives christianity more deference simply because they dominate.

          2. jacobfromlost

            Anna: Regardless of the content, this medium doesn’t support a long back and forth discussion. I can’t even reply to your other post because this site’s comments are not set up to nest past a certain point. Hence why I suggested the chatroom.

            Me: Just respond to the last reply. Like this post, lol. (Just look at the “where I’m threatened with hell” thread. We had a very nice discussion there.) You know what my biggest pet peeve is; what I think theists should stop doing? Whenever they are pressed for even minor evidence of their assertions, they should stop saying they don’t have enough time to respond, or the format doesn’t support it, or it would take years to explain it, or only special theologians understand, or you have to know Greek and Latin…etc.

            Anna: christians are theist, but they’re not the only theists.

            Me: I already said that. Why does it matter?

            Anna: When atheists reference theists and only really mean christians, it’s annoying. It gives christianity more deference simply because they dominate.

            Me: You are annoyed that Christians get deference? In any case, they don’t. The criticisms we make against Christian theism works against other theistic claims as well, as long as the criticisms are based on the burdon of proof and basic standards of evidence.

          3. annabucci

            come to the chatroom then if you want to discuss with me. I’ve been in it for about 3 hours and there’s nothing going on.

          4. jacobfromlost

            I don’t know why you are afraid to discuss it here.

            So I go to the chatroom because I am bored.

            I ask if you are there. I get no response. I don’t see your name listed. Are we both talking about the AE chatroom? If so, don’t respond to this, just respond on the chatroom. If you don’t show up eventually, I’ll call you out on it here.

          5. annabucci

            Well that was productive.

          6. jacobfromlost

            I thought it was productive. You finally revealed your a polytheist, and I asked for arguments that you didn’t have, so I supplied some self-consistent arguments for polytheism that have no evidence for them whatsoever. It was a fun exercise. lol

  19. 19
    Reginald Selkirk

    #2. Devout: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

    This is funny because may Christians who say this mistakenly believe that it must come from the Bible.

  20. 20
    Green Jelly

    Russell, I think you missed the point on #3 regarding Hitchens. The author was not making a point about atheists’ “ultimate goals” at all. I think he was really just trying to joke about “becoming like god” simply by “ceasing to exist”. If Hitchens had read it, I’m sure he would’ve chuckled, it is his kind of humor.

  21. 21
    Douglas Kirk

    I like how prominent atheist voices can be attacked and belittled for things they never said, but it’s not civil to disagree publicly with believers for things they actually said. It bewilders me….

  22. 22
    MrPendent

    I read this article and it irritated me as well, but I reminded myself that this was coming from a site full of adults who, by their own admission, make a living writing dick jokes on the internet.

    1. 22.1
      MrPendent

      I read the Cracked article, that is.

      Russell’s article was great :)

  23. 23
    michaeld

    What honestly galled me was where he shows his 3 least liked atheists includes Maher who would completely reject that label. IT was such a sloppy job. I don’t presume to know you’re religion without looking into it or asking so don’t do it for your opponents. I think it’s come to the point where I’d prefer arguing with a fundamentalist.

  24. 24
    Orlando

    Slightly OT, from a mathematical perspective, all definitions of god are incoherent because somewhere in their respective god equations believers divide by zero.

    Hopefully that gets a smile from Russell.

    1. 24.1
      Russell Glasser

      :)

      Sometimes they take 0^0th power as well.

      1. Orlando

        Thus god is a zeroth order approximation. Hmmm. I prefer the square root of -1.

        1. Shawn Smith

          I can understand why “i” is a fun way to understand “God,” but really, the two square roots of -1 are the complex numbers (0, 1) and (0, -1). And electrical engineering majors use “j” and “-j” for those same quantities.

          Just sayin’.

          /pedant

  25. 25
    Orlando

    TAG-inspired Theist: I define god as indefinable.

    Atheist: Then I define you as non-existent.

  26. 26
    humanape

    But you can believe somebody is wrong, even regard their beliefs as fairy tales, and still not think they are stupid.

    Perhaps they’re not all stupid but anyone who believes there’s a supernatural creature with a magic wand hiding somewhere in the universe has something seriously wrong with them. They are equal to someone who believes in a magical Easter bunny.

    I think it’s fair to say virtually all evolution deniers (also known as most American Christians and all terrorists) are not too bright. They are equal to flat-earthers.

    Human Ape

  27. 27
    jamesmichaels1

    Off topic, but i’ve sent an email to you guys, and I want to ensure that it gets read, so i’m posting it here:

    i’m a christian called James and I’d like to rip apart your ridiculous “new atheist” movement.

    ya see, the problem with the new atheist movement is that the fathers of new atheism, on the whole, have no backround in philosophy. For the most part they are either the remains of old guard atheistic Leninism/Marxism or scientists who have no real background in philosophy history or sociology. For example Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger and dead Christopher Hitchens. The closest you could get is Daniel Dennett who while has a kind of philosophical education (although more in the philosophical field of Naturalized epistemology and a behaviorist in his education) but is more focused in his career in Behavioral Science.

    The cornerstone of New Atheism is not that God does not exist (secularists believe this all over) but that belief in god is, by itself, a destructive concept and bad for society. See phrases like ” Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.” and “The unfairness of the “special privelage” that religion expects also irritates me” – a phrase that I generally tend to see all over the comments for your blog and on your tv show.

    new atheism is largely a political and social movement rather then an intellectual movement.

    Previously atheists came from philosophy or politics. So from Epicurus to Baron D’Holbach and David Hume you have the atheistic movement based in philosophy. You then had atheists who were atheists as a political movement. From Maximilien Robespierre to VI Lenin, atheism was a political tool rather than a belief system aimed at religion rather then faith.

    Now they are coming from science and ex-communism thus they attack religion by building arguments from examples (ie experiments) that serve as examples of phenomena but they do so only focusing on religion and thus new atheists are able to ignore the history of atheism and atheistic state while in the same breath condemning religion for the crusades (wrongly, it was about the money and politics) and the European wars of religion. They build the argument like scientists by acting like science is the only way of knowing anything and everything else is just superstition.

    The problem with this is it ignores philosophy and history. Science cannot prove the social contract theory. Science cannot prove that George Washington crossed the Delaware or Caesar crossed the Rubicon just like it cannot prove that Jesus was crucified on Cavalry hill.
    New Atheism goes beyond the mere disbelief in God but instead that religion and by extension faith is the most dangerous and wicked force on the planet and the struggle against it will define the future of humanity.

    Atheism is not a religion. New Atheism (TM) is a religion if a religion is a set of shared stories, concepts and characters which explain what is happening in the world and creates a base of morality and influences a worldview.

    please get back to me soon.

    James

    1. 27.1
      Orlando

      James, what does all of your meanderings have to do with the truth value of your claim? You do not require a PhD in philosophy to understand that god is a human construct invented by primitive peoples and passed down via tradition.

      Please define the particular god you believe in and explain why you believe it (beyond being taught it as a child).

      1. jamesmichaels1

        Well, I believe there was a First Cause for one thing. And good things have happened for me since I joined the Church. I don’t get why New Atheists want to stamp all over that.

        And do you at least acknowledge that science isn’t the be all and end all of debate in these kinds of circles? Sure it proves stuff, but how can or how would you prove the claims of people I suppose you would call “Bible Bashers” wrong?

        1. Orlando

          James, don’t take it personally, but we militant gnu atheists have a single-minded mission: to destroy the annoying happiness of christians.

          We want to transform you into dour, nihilistic, empty logic machines. You will be forced to worship the trinity of Darwin, Dawkins, and the holy spirit of Science. Forever and ever. At least until you die and turn into dirt and stuff.

          So stock up on Prozac – you’re going to need it!

          1. sisu

            Orlando that was very funny :)

    2. 27.2
      Russell Glasser

      Psssst, hey James. It may be true that the most prominent speakers popularizing atheism right now are not professional philosophers. But the dirty little secret of the philosophy profession is that they don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the existence of God, because that’s considered a settled question — by and large they stopped treating it as a serious hypothesis years ago.

      In point of fact, a recent survey among philosophy faculty reveals that 72.8% of respondents “accept or lean toward” atheism, while only 14.6% accept or lean toward theism.

      Kind of throws a monkey wrench in your presumption that atheists are necessarily philosophical dullards, doesn’t it? Have you tried trotting out your remarkably original “first cause” argument before the philosophy department at your local university lately?

      1. jamesmichaels1

        Funny you should mention that survey, Kazim, because as it so happens we talked about it too in my ethics class when it came out. My tutor smashed that survey because of the way it was set up and the fact that agnosticism was under “other” when most would click “lean atheistic”. He felt that it was a bad survey because of how it was badly designed for a survey due to having to go find Agnosticism.

        Jeez, look at the normative ethics question (the reason for why why we looked at the study). It wouldnt be that close if they were all “true atheists” (or at least according to my atheist teacher.) look at the Metaphilosophy question. I dont have it in me to talk for 2 pages on something you wouldn’t take the time to understand it because its very granular and boring . the answer is that it’s a bad survey, simples.

        1. Russell Glasser

          James,

          All right, thanks to your criticism of the study I’ve dug into the more detailed responses, and this is what I found:

          When you break down the “accept atheism” answers vs. the “lean towards atheism” answers, you find that 61.8% of the total actually go all the way to “accept” while all the other possible answers account for the remaining 11%. And while 61.8% is less than 72.8%, I still don’t see how this really helps your case. It’s still an overwhelming majority of philosophers not believing in God; in fact, six times more of them directly accept atheism than directly accept theism.

          And even if most of the remaining 11% are pure agnostics, what difference does that really make to your case? Wasn’t your point that theism is the side that’s got the support of deep thinkers? Does the fact that a large majority of philosophers are atheists and a fair percentage of the rest won’t commit to belief in your god help with that? Or did you have something more specific to say?

          I dont have it in me to talk for 2 pages on something you wouldn’t take the time to understand it

          Your attempt to deflect the subject with petty, dismissive insults is acknowledged. Thanks.

          1. Russell Glasser

            six times more of them directly accept atheism than directly accept theism.

            I want to add, also, that those 14.6% of philosophers who accept or lean towards theism, are only described as accepting theism in general, without detail about what type of theism they accept. You’ve said that you’re a Christian, and I’m willing to bet good money that once you throw in that specific detail, the support for your position among practicing philosophers is going to take an even more dramatic dive and we’re going to be talking about single digits. And that’s not even getting so detailed as to identify what particular Christian franchise you belong to.

            You are wanting to throw around a blanket criticism of atheism in general without getting into the specifics about what you believe is supported by philosophy and why; as if everyone who doesn’t directly support atheism is somehow on your side. When you get down into the nitty gritty about what “your side” actually entails, it would be ridiculous to say that it’s got anything like the philosophical heft that you’d like to tell yourself it does.

    3. 27.3
      Jasper of Maine

      So, wait, his “Ripping apart New Atheism” consists of ad hominems right out the gate, a series of red herrings, strawmen, stark misunderstanding of science, and a previous-refuted-a-thousand-times cosmological argument?

      Got it.

      Atheism is not a religion. New Atheism (TM) is a religion if a religion is a set of shared stories, concepts and characters which explain what is happening in the world and creates a base of morality and influences a worldview.

      Well it’s a good thing then that “New Atheism” isn’t any of that.

      For instance, the morality we tend to form is not based from atheism, but based from an analysis of the interactions between humans. In fact, atheism isn’t a basis for anything – it’s the conclusion to our world views.

      It’d be nice if we could get an official definition of what “New Atheism” is, because like “True Christian”, no one can seem to agree. Christians seem to think that it’s a dogmatic militarized religion, and I tend to think that it’s just a number of the more recent generations of people who happen to be atheist, who are less timid about speaking out.

      But this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been the victims of projection and demonization.

    4. 27.4
      jacobfromlost

      Me: I’m going to pretend I believe you are an actual believer, for the sake of argument, and not a troll.

      James: i’m a christian called James and I’d like to rip apart your ridiculous “new atheist” movement.

      Me: See, now, if you don’t want us to think you are a troll, you shouldn’t say things like this.

      James: ya see, the problem with the new atheist movement is that the fathers of new atheism, on the whole, have no backround in philosophy.

      Me: Didn’t you hear? Stephen Hawking declared philosophy dead on the first page of his new book. (And all atheists believe whatever Hawking says because Hawking is cool that way.)

      James: For the most part they are either the remains of old guard atheistic Leninism/Marxism or scientists who have no real background in philosophy history or sociology.

      Me: Courtier’s Reply fallacy. If you actually had an argument to make from philosophy, or from history, or from sociology…why not make it, instead of just claiming there IS an argument to be made in there somewhere, and that atheists are ignoring it? Perhaps the reason atheists are ignoring it is because you are not making it.

      James: For example Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger and dead Christopher Hitchens.

      Me: The word “dead” indicates to me that you are a troll. Why is it necessary to have a background in philosophy? There are lots of philosophies that are contrary to your philosophy. How do we tell which one is correct, and which one is not? Just because something IS philosophy does not make it true (because, as I just said, you can have contradictory philosophies that are still philosophies).

      James: The closest you could get is Daniel Dennett who while has a kind of philosophical education (although more in the philosophical field of Naturalized epistemology and a behaviorist in his education) but is more focused in his career in Behavioral Science.

      Me: Sure. Real things, in other words. Again, how would we determine a true philosophy from an untrue one? Simply invoking philosophy does not get us there, as there are many different philosophies, as well as new ones I (or anyone) could make up right now.

      James: The cornerstone of New Atheism is not that God does not exist (secularists believe this all over) but that belief in god is, by itself, a destructive concept and bad for society.

      Me: New Atheism has no cornerstones. You can’t get modern atheists to agree on anything except that there probably is no god, and now that I’ve said this, watch as a dozen pop up to disagree with me.

      James: See phrases like ” Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.” and “The unfairness of the “special privelage” that religion expects also irritates me” – a phrase that I generally tend to see all over the comments for your blog and on your tv show.

      Me: Hmm. Perhaps you are not a troll. I think a troll would know how to spell “privilege”. In any case, atheism doesn’t require annoyance, a realization after 9/11, or anything other than a lack of belief in gods. Those who have a lack of belief will include many people who lack a belief because of the lack of evidence, and many of those will also be annoyed about taking major actions that cause dysfunction and death among humanity because, you know, we are humans and get annoyed when stupidity threatens our group. (But that still leaves people who just don’t believe for whatever reasons–they don’t care about the question, maybe, or never thought about it, or have irrational beliefs that don’t include gods.)

      James: new atheism is largely a political and social movement rather then an intellectual movement.

      Me: Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. That doesn’t have to be intellectual, political, or social. If particular beliefs (say, in gods) causes major threats to the political and social stability of humanity, pointing this out via education, reason, and logic is a defense against stupidity. If you are trying to say that the political movement of “New Atheism” is political and social over being intellectual, I think you are neglecting part of our holy trinity. If you are using “New Atheism” to describe the political movement, then the social and intellectual elements are engines in it equal to the politics.

      James: Previously atheists came from philosophy or politics.

      Me: They never came from the utter lack of evidence in the gods in question? Are you sure about that?

      James: So from Epicurus to Baron D’Holbach and David Hume you have the atheistic movement based in philosophy. You then had atheists who were atheists as a political movement. From Maximilien Robespierre to VI Lenin, atheism was a political tool rather than a belief system aimed at religion rather then faith.

      Me: Atheism isn’t a thing, it is a lack of theism. You can’t motivate someone to do something by making them not believe something. In fact, I don’t know how you could make someone not believe something, much less motivate them to do something by making them not believe something. You motivate people to do things with ideologies, with doctrines, with worldviews, with political systems, with nationalism, with dogma, etc. Atheism is none of these things. (Even the argument you are making about “New Atheism” as a political movement is WITHIN the larger circle of atheism as a lack of belief. There is no rule that says you can’t lack a belief in gods because there is no evidence, and then fight politically–and socially–against stupid ideas for which there is no evidence.)

      James: Now they are coming from science and ex-communism

      Me: Science isn’t an ideology, it is science. Do you know what that means? No matter how much I want to believe that I can float using the power of my mind–even if I make it dogma, force everyone to pray out loud about it every day, write it into my economic system, raise children believe it so they just take it for granted, etc–I still cannot float using the power of my mind in reality. However, if we want to find out what happens ever time I step off a three-foot stool, and I fall every time, then science says that every time I have stepped off the stool, I have fallen at a particular rate, that others can observe me doing this also, that others can control the circumstances to rule out deception, that it was possible I would have floated but I didn’t, that this large set of data predicts that if I step off again tomorrow I will also fall at the same rate, and that when I DO step off tomorrow and DO fall at the same rate that this conclusion (that I will always fall) is even MORE certain, but never absolute as observations could change, although you have no data to suggest they will. THAT is science. It doesn’t say anything about god pushing you down at a constant rate forever, as that is unobservable, unfalsifiable, unpredictive, unverifiable, and an assumption that is unneeded. Science says nothing of gods, much like most atheists, because there is nothing to say anything about.

      James: thus they attack religion by building arguments from examples (ie experiments) that serve as examples of phenomena but they do so only focusing on religion

      Me: Scientists do lots of experiments that don’t focus on religion. But if we want to know if religious claims are true, we have to test them. If we DON’T want to know if they are true, how do we know we aren’t fooling ourselves?

      James: and thus new atheists are able to ignore the history of atheism and atheistic state while in the same breath condemning religion for the crusades (wrongly, it was about the money and politics) and the European wars of religion.

      Me: What do you mean by the “history of atheism”. Atheism is just a lack of belief in gods. There is no “atheistic states”, unless you are talking about secular countries like the US which have no requirement to believe in any gods in order to be a citizen, vote, have rights, be an elected official of any sort, or be the PRESIDENT OF THE ENTIRE NATION. (Point out an “atheistic state” where killing was not motivated by a political movement, and then explain how not believing in X can motivate one to do something.)

      James: They build the argument like scientists by acting like science is the only way of knowing anything and everything else is just superstition.

      Me: How would we find out if there is an alternative way of knowing things? If there WERE an alternative way of knowing things, then the one way we have of being sure we know something would confirm that the alternative way actually works. Unfortunately, the one way we have of being sure indicates the alternative ways don’t work.

      James: The problem with this is it ignores philosophy and history.

      Me: How does philosophy and history support Christianity? History includes people who believed a lot of things contrary to your god (and even fought and died for those beliefs), and philosophy includes lots of philosophies contrary to your god.

      James: Science cannot prove the social contract theory.

      Me: That’s because science can’t “prove” anything. It only operates with evidence, and evidence is always contingent on new evidence and observations. The fact that we don’t see a society progressing (ie, continuing to exist) if everyone thinks it is ok to murder, rape, rob, burn crops, or pick fights with more powerful foes, is close enough for a rational person to say it is “proved”. If you think it is possible for a society to continue with no contract, you’ll have to explain this rather than simply asserting it, as I don’t know what you mean and suspect you don’t know what you mean either.

      James: Science cannot prove that George Washington crossed the Delaware or Caesar crossed the Rubicon just like it cannot prove that Jesus was crucified on Cavalry hill.

      Me: Not “just like”, as we have many pieces of cross-referencing, mutually confirming evidence for the first two. We don’t have the same for the last. It is possible all of those cross-referencing, mutually confirming pieces of evidence were all faked for some reason (even though there is no evidence of that), but that would force us to make assumptions that don’t fit the evidence. There are TONS of reasons to disregard the biblical account of Jesus crucifixion. Would you like me to start listing them?

      James: New Atheism goes beyond the mere disbelief in God but instead that religion and by extension faith is the most dangerous and wicked force on the planet and the struggle against it will define the future of humanity.

      Me: Sure, in terms of the political movement against irrationality (although I’m not even sure that is purely an atheist movement–there are movements within religions themselves to make them more moderate, more modern, and less harmful in their beliefs and actions). Although none of this is required for atheism.

      James: Atheism is not a religion. New Atheism (TM) is a religion if a religion is a set of shared stories, concepts and characters which explain what is happening in the world and creates a base of morality and influences a worldview.

      Me: If you want to call “New Atheism” a political movement, I don’t think I see a problem with that. But it doesn’t have shared characters (I don’t even know what you mean by that); moreover, a political movement with shared stories (ie, history) and concepts is not a religion. Moreover, understanding what is real through falsifiable science isn’t a base of morality, it is the base of all knowledge (including a wide variety of moral decisions–some contradictory–we could make from that knowledge). In short, atheism isn’t a religion. New Atheism could be considered a political movement, but a political movement is not a religion either–especially if the movement is against religion.

      1. annabucci

        TL;DR

        1. jacobfromlost

          It was written for, you know, readers.

          1. annabucci

            LOL, I’m sure it was.

        2. Ishikiri

          Why do you even feel the need to comment on things?

          There’s a proverb: it’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you might be an idiot, than to open it and remove all doubt.

    5. 27.5
      mitchbenn

      The argument that only those with a background in theology are qualified to say whether God exists is like saying you can’t say Star Trek isn’t true unless you can speak Klingon.

  28. 28
    RevanIV

    Hey Russell, great article. You basically sum up the problem with what he says here, and it’s beautifully parsimonious:

    “I suppose that if you just want to get folks on your side, an easy way to do it is to pick a minority group like atheists, make up some caricatures, and dismiss them with an article that amounts to ‘Fuck all those people, am I right?’ ”

    I did want to mention though, that that “Historical Myths” article you pointed to seems to be very inaccurate and poorly researched, at least on the murder rates in the West and medieval torture. I spent a good amount of my degree studying the history of violence, and neither of these are myths – at least not in the way the author portrays them. I find it difficult to believe that the entire history and sociology departments of one of the top universities in North America would be so silly as to be fooled by these “popular historical myths” (namely, in this case, the medieval torture and violence/murder rates in the West – I’m not as knowledgeable about the other myths mentioned in the article).

    Steven Pinker’s new book (The Better Angels of our Nature) summarizes this very nicely – the first few chapters (all of what I’ve read so far) are basically a rough summary of a fairly substantial subset of my studies in University. So far, highly recommended.

    1. 28.1
      Russell Glasser

      Thanks for the correction. I ought to learn to take some of those things with considerably more grains of salt.

      1. Orlando

        Well, I would analogize this as listening to William L. Craig’s Kalam Cosmological argument (KCA) OR Kenny from Santa Barbara’s interpretation of WLC’s KCA (Episode #604). The first you take with a grain of salt, the second with an entire salt mine.

        If that is incoherent, blame it on my pain meds, which are required when thinking about First Cause proofs.

      2. RevanIV

        Well, like I said, I don’t know about the other myths the author mentioned – but it seems with those two she jumped to an unreasonable conclusion too early. However, it is an interesting learning experience to root around and find out what was actually going on at those times :p

  29. 29
    Tom Foss

    It’s a shame, because I think there’s room for a “Things Atheists Need to Stop Saying” meme (or page on Iron Chariots). But I’d go mostly for the sort of stuff that gets you on a “Foolish Atheists” special episode of AXP.

    If I had some nominees, it’d be the petty insults like “Christard” and “Holy/Wholly Babble/Bibble.” Or, as I saw on a r/atheism thread recently, “evolution says we didn’t come from monkeys/apes/primates” (the latter two aren’t even controversial; hominids are great apes).

    Oh, and anything that comes out of Zeitgeist.

    1. 29.1
      Orlando

      There is apparently a strong correlation between Zeitgeist-ers and Ron Paul supporters. Which is odd when you examine the social movement promoted by the Zeit’s, which is a computer-run utopia at odds with the Objectivist manifesto.

      1. Tom Foss

        I suspect it’s due to the Zeitgeist tax conspiracy/gold standard BS, as well as Paul’s dog-whistle shout-outs to conspiracy nuts. They latch onto that and support him because of it, much like how atheist libertarianss ignore his fundamentalism or otherwise liberal college students ignore his anti-choice crusading and homophobia because he opposes the war and wants to legalize pot.

  30. 30
    Orlando

    OT: Anyone see the republican debate, 8 Jan, on Meet the Press? Evangelical candidate Santorum said he would, as president, attack Iran because “they are a theocracy and believe in the afterlife” (or words to that effect). Irony much?

  31. 31
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Video: Big Questions – Kate Smurthwaite calls people routinely believing on faith ‘Idiots’

    The clip’s from an informal BBC debate show, filled with people who insisted their own heavens exist.

    Others present then demonstrated how wrong she was by declaring money to be analogously non-exstent (oops) so it’d be based on her faith-belief, playing the god-shaped hole card, and complaining she was rude.

  32. 32
    Emiliano

    Wow, the comments section to this blog is a big circle jerk. Kinda skipped most of it. I’ll go over basic things as this can really drag on.

    “Make me” – srsly? it’s his opinion that you’re wrong, not that you should be MADE TO STOP. what a combative title, and for no reason!

    the cartoon – this has been replied to death, but i’ll say it one more time. the important thing is you’ve found a way to feel superior to people who feel superior to atheists and believers. and now i’m feeling superior for you feeling superior for feeling superior to atheists and believers. and so on. it’s a meaningless comeback, especially because finding people annoying for certain things doesn’t automatically mean you think you are “SUPERIOR” to them.

    “achieved his life-long goal of becoming God by ceasing to exist” way to COMPLETELY MISS THE JOKE. i’ll explain it. hitchens was kind of an arrogant guy (i dont hate him, but thats the view of 90% of people.) saying he wanted to “be god” was a metaphor, as in he wanted to be superior to everyone (hence arrogance). he “achieved it” by ceasing to exist, just like he believes god does not exist. whether or not you think this is funny or not, ITS A JOKE. pointing out he didnt LITERALLY want to become god is stupid and pointless.

    and you’re being disingenuous or naive thinking no atheist has ever called religious people morons. you’re talking about it like it’s some remote possibility. OK, not all atheists are like that. in fact, a good majority probably arent. but that’s not what the article was about. look up any video on atheism on youtube, CTRL F the comments and you’ll find stupid/idiot/moron. granted you can do this for 99% of youtube videos, but the sentiment is pretty prevalent.

    and the last one, where you say that gladstone was picking out a minority and going “fuck those guys”… OK. i’m not gonna accuse you of willful manipulation, but that must be some sort of gigantic misunderstanding. his whole point was that atheists and believers both have certain points they repeat that he disagrees with. it wasn’t “Fuck X” it was “i disagree with x aspect of y”. i’m totally thrown off by your whole assertion, i mean you must have read some other article or whatever. i have no idea.

    i am, by the way, an atheist. but our “group” has a good portion of assholes and it’s stupid to claim the “group” is perfect.

  33. 33
    John

    There might be no real point of saying this here, but since I know believers will read this blog… I will for the sake of it and just to speak my mind. take care.

    ========================

    Lo and behold that no supernatural gods of any kind could probably exist. gods are mans creation to ease the harsh reality bestowed upon on us. for we are born without a choice and so shall we be brought down by the sword of death to have are consciousness utterly eradicated from the universe itself one day. for your cries to your pitiful man made gods are not ever heard and I cannot help but laugh in how man is so utterly weak to cling to the gods for aid even when they continue to show there pitiful lack of activity from the world. any person that clings to God or gods are weak minded and needs a crutch because real reality is to hard for them to accept.

    Yes, most of mankind is a fool to believe in gods and the supernatural. they are trying to explain a mystery by inducing more mysteries. for it’s time for all of man to accept we are only bound by flesh and blood and get over the idea that we are so special that we have magical things in us they call “souls”

    Man is responsible for himself and no gods give a rats ass about are existence or what we do and do not do. for when will mankind get it as a whole that their feeble little religions and gods are a heaping pile of rubbish? why does man cling to what ancient people created so long ago? why?!

    So far only the natural exists and what people call supernatural is nothing more then magic in disguise. magic only exists in the realm of fantasy and I find it sad that most of man clings to magic even if they do not like call it that. for it’s time for man to abandon magic and gods and supernatural for good, and even if it’s hard to do, for it’s time for man to accept reality for what it is because it cares not for your emotions and feelings in the end.

    All living creatures that have ever existed has faced death and there is nothing one can do about it. I feel sorry for anyone that claims they will live more then one life or have a infinite life like in some fairy tale book……they are fools!

    I myself cannot comprehend how anyone can believe the bible to be true. it’s a book full of oppression, full of spilling of man’s blood and animal sacrifices, full of bad advise and ancient ways, full inconsistencies, full of contradictions, is incoherent at times, lacks scientific knowledge, full of magical claims and other fantasy based elements, a God that is filled with much anger and vengeance, a God that is filled with much envy and jealously, a God that is like some spoiled child, a God that says wicked deeds is good, a God that’s very confusing and does not know how to convey his message to mortal man, a God that seems to be defeated by the devil throughout his own book, a God that clearly shows many of man’s emotions and a God that does not ever show himself to the real world outside of some fable little stories written by the hand of flawed man, and for a God to allow all these religions and different interpretations of the same religion to exist is no God at all and I cannot respect any being that allows this alone to happen if it were to exist.

    I pity most of man because they pray to gods daily that do nothing that is beyond what is considered natural. why don’t these pitiful ridiculous gods do the grand things like they did in the ancient times or what they did in their own holy books? these gods cannot do real miracles because their man made creations.

    I find it so very sad that people think by telepathically or enchanting verbal words that a magical being they call “God” will magically bend the laws of universe or change the ways of the river or grant them their otter most wishes if they do the such of things…..what a butch of ignoramus fools! there is no difference believing in a God that answers prayers then a person believing in a genie in a lamp granting 3 wishes…..both are equally absurd and laughable.

    Though I could be wrong, and this could take 10,000 years if all I know, but one day I believe mankind as a whole will abandoned gods and religion and the supernatural. mankind has no choice but to experience death and it’s time for man to stop fooling itself in thinking it will cheat death. their gods nor any other magical creatures are going to save them in the end, so man has to accept reality for what it is and not for what I myself would love it to be as most of man does…….stop being gullible and desperate as I once was, gods, souls, heavens and hells, reincarnation, all religions and beliefs in the supernatural are a pact of lies feed by desperate and gullible people who cannot accept reality for what it is. your god dies when your yourself meet the grim reapers scythe. All of mans gods and religions will die if man itself ever becomes extinct.

    Religions and other supernatural beliefs prey on mans weakness to accept death and many religions prey on mans emotions and most of all fears, fears of imaginary punishments that do not exist, and to think any person including Adolf Hitler deserves Infinite Torture by some angry vindictive malevolent God is the purest of all evil. how any decent person or any person for that matter could believe such a place is a JUST place like myself once did speaks volumes of what religion can do to twist your mind.

    Your devils do not scare me anymore then gremlins under my bed do. many religions thrive on fear and most of all bribery or what I like to call personal gain. this is why Christianity and Islam are so large in this world, but I hope people can see the bullshit purported by both of these man made twisted religions because they are some of the most difficult ones to let go. the God of the bible and the God of the Koran are fictional entities worshiped by real entities. these made made deities do absolutely nothing and yet they are praised and kissed by billions of people. for I myself cannot help to laugh at myself now in how I could believe in the twisted bible with all it’s magical elements and worshiped a God that’s no more is there for the world then Super-Man is. I pity these people because they’re so sucked into a twisted religion and like myself you got to escape to see how twisted all forms of Christianity really is and how ridiculous the bible is and how laughable it all very is, but it’s no easy game to leave the faith. you need endurance, strength, and for me it was a hell educed nightmare to break out of it all, and I do not expect many to break out of it at the moment, for it’s going to take mankind many generations, so many I might add for man to break away from these current religions and gods and other mind bending ridiculous beliefs.

    Prayer is no different then someone with a mental illness that thinks praying to magic pixie fairies will grant them their wishes, yet one is looked at as crazy and one is looked at as sane…….the sheer hypocrisy is mind bending. for science helps to find cures and prayer only hopes a god cures the said illness in time, science explains things with real explanations and religion tries to explain things using magic, science benefits all of man and religions at best gives people a placebo effect to ease the hardcore reality of life, science continues to corrects it’s errors and religion is still stuck with all it’s errors and is still completely frozen in time, science requires intelligence and religion requires ignorance and stupidity, science does not care if you believe in it and religion is terrified if you do not adhere to it, science can be questioned and religion is dared to be questioned because if it was truly ever scrutinize it would completely fall apart like the trash it is, and I will not respect any religion that is based on lies and does not make any sense.

    Religion and the supernatural has never been questioned throughout most of it’s existence, but in time man will see it’s all bull shit just like many other ancient beliefs are looked at as bull shit today, so shall the current religions be laughed at in the long distant future……the destruction of religion and gods and supernatural will come with time, if man does not ever give it up by some odd chance, there is one way man would in the end………when man becomes extinct….. all of mankind’s gods and supernatural beliefs will die when man itself becomes extinct….to that I say man is a fool if it waits that long to give it up……because man needs to do it willingly.

    There are 2 groups in this world, those who believe in the supernatural in some way or form or those who who disbelieve in all the supernatural, and for the ones who do not adhere to any form of supernatural are the ones who have it hard. you get one shot in life and there will be no soul skipping into more human bodies like reincarnation says nor will there be any heavens of any kind nor will your soul go anywhere when you die for that matter, you will be forever deleted and you best make the best out of this life, for there will be no do overs and no eternal bliss in the end, once your dead for real (not these near death experiences garbage) it will then be games over for all times and try to go out with a bang in life…………you get one shot…….DO NOT waste it! it’s time for mankind to set aside it’s differences and work together to make the world a better place for all living creatures……I urge mankind to do this or else mankind will only doom itself…….this earth will not be here for ever…..so let us reason together and work together for here out forward!

    Peace for all.

  34. 34
    Jimothy_Romanov

    Perhaps this has already been discussed, but I only wish to point out that I think when Gladstone said Hitchens became god by ceasing to exist, he meant Hitchens didn’t think god existed, and by ceasing to exist he was becoming god. Which is obviously silly, but it’s also a joke.

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