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Apr 30 2012

Neil DeGrasse Tyson posts a surprisingly disappointing video

Let me be clear here: I loves me some Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Whether he’s smacking down end-of-the-world predictions, or calling out James Cameron for putting the wrong sky in Titanic, or just letting Jon Stewart know that the latest private enterprise spacefaring scheme is no bullshit, the guy has a lot of charm, and has done a lot for science popularization.

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It’s no surprise that Neil is often assumed to be an atheist.  He speaks forcefully against teaching the Bible in classrooms, and mixing science with religion in general.  He doesn’t seem to accept any traditional meanings of being a religious person.  And of course, he’s just an incredibly cool guy, so who wouldn’t want to claim him in their movement?

Like a lot of people who choose to distance themselves from the atheist movement, Neil in this video focuses a lot on quibbling over the meaning of words.  ”The only ‘ist’ I am is a scientist.  I don’t associate with a movements.”  That, to me, seems like an oddly broad denouncement not only of atheism, but of a lot of valid and worthwhile movements in general.  Let me just run through a list of “ists” that I personally would be proud to identify with: Atheist.  Progressivist.  Computer scientist.  Feminist.  Noncomformist.  Vocalist.  Egotist.  Abolitionist.  Intellectualist.  Satirist.  Capitalist.  Realist.  Humanist.  Technologist.

You could say I’m playing word games here, but to me it seems kind of oddly nihilistic of Neil (there’s another one!) to denounce not only atheism as a movement, but movements in general somehow.  Just because I identify with these things doesn’t mean that I am forced to accept all the baggage that people assume (often wrongly) must go with them.  Maybe words like these are a shorthand way of encapsulating a complex set of concepts, but you could say that about language in general, after all.  Having claimed that I am any one of these things, I have conveyed a significant amount of useful information; and if there are additional nuances that are not captured by the words, then I’m free to explain them in more detail afterwards.

Anyway, Neil states that he’s an agnostic.  Which is fine.  I personally tend to identify as “atheist” anyone who does not positively apply a belief in any gods, and to be frank, that seems to fit Neil notwithstanding his other concerns about the word. He describes himself as “someone who doesn’t know, but hasn’t really seen evidence for it, but is prepared to embrace the evidence if it’s there, but if it’s not, won’t be forced to have to think something that is not otherwise supported.”  You know, that’s my position precisely.  And I’m an atheist.  But Neil isn’t the only person I’ve encountered who is uncomfortable with the label, and there are competing definitions of “atheist” in play anyway, so it’s a point that I don’t waste a lot of time arguing over, generally.

That aside, here’s what bothers me about this video.  Neil not only doesn’t want to be called an atheist — which is fine — but he went out of his way to make a video complaining about atheism.  A lot of this video, in fact, is ridiculing the idea that the word atheism even exists.  ”Is there a word for non-golf players?” Neil asks.  ”Do non-golf players gather and strategize?  Do non-skiers have a word, and come together, and talk about the fact that they don’t ski?  I can’t do that!”

The atheist movement often gets compared to the gay rights movement, and I think there is a lot of validity to the comparison.  Both atheists and homosexuals are minority groups who are often subjected to unreasonable prejudice.  Unlike being a racial minority, both atheism and homosexuality are traits which do not outwardly manifest themselves, and can only be identified if the person who experiences them chooses to claim them.  You can’t be a closeted black person; you can be a closeted atheist.

I’m not gay.  I am, however, totally supportive of gay rights.  I might make a video where I mentioned in passing “By the way, I am straight.”  In fact, I’m sure that there are many places in the TV archives where I have said something like that.  But — and this gets to the heart of why this video bothers me — I would never make a video saying “I am straight, and here’s why I am straight.  There are all kinds of problems with being gay, I don’t like the word gay, I don’t like the fact that there is a gay movement,” and so forth.  I don’t feel like I need to justify being straight, it’s just a basic fact that I am a man who likes women.  To say those kinds of things in a video seems like it would alienate gay friends and fans for no good reason.

Neil clearly has lots of atheist supporters; we like science, we like nerdy enthusiasm, and we like the guy.  I don’t expect Neil to claim the label, and I think it’s fine that he is direct enough to clarify where he stands on matters like this.  I just think it’s not too much to ask that while he’s disavowing the label, there’s no need to belittle a movement full of people who largely share his same goals.

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  1. 1
    Free Thinker

    Personally, I don’t think the label is as important. The preconnotations people have towards certain labels can get in the way sometimes, IMO. Debunking false claims when you hear them seems to me the important bit. Not all creationists are identical; what is the use of the label other than a roughly identified stance?

    1. 1.1
      Russell Glasser

      As I said in the post, I don’t object to him being uncomfortable with the label. I object to his decision to deliberately belittle and dismiss those who are comfortable with it.

      1. rookieatheist

        Kazim, where did he “belittle and dismiss those who are comfortable with” atheism? Are you sure you didn’t over-interpret his words?

        What Neil is saying is that the word “atheist” today is associated with a movement and not just a personal way of living. He does not want to be known as an atheist for the same reason nobody thinks of calling him a feminist, even though, as far as I’m aware, he favors equal rights for men and women.

        The point he made about why the word “atheist” should even exist (there’s no name for non-golfers, etc.) is an argument that was previously put forward by Sam Harris and I suspect that Tyson is aware of Harris’s speech on the subject. It is not meant to be a belittling argument against active atheists, but a rational assessment of the semantics.

        As an Irish person who has lived the last ten years of my life abroad, I can sympathize with Tyson’s dislike for labels. Whenever somebody asks me where I’m originally from, my answer is almost always followed by their perception of me changing. I suddenly become this guy with a big sign over his head that says: “I’m Irish, so please assume Irish stereotypes when conversing with me”. Labels suck!

        1. bensonisacat

          As a person who believes in jiminism,I wouldnt usually agree with an atheist or an agnostic but I must agree with Neil Degrasse. In todays society labels have caused nothing but problems. i have friends who are muslim who are harrased in school because they were labeled terrorist. ive also been labeled numerous times just because i am black. ive been called a thug, people have assumed that i am a gangmember, and that im in love with fried chicken. when in fact i love a tuna salad with a little mayo as much as the next guy. my point is we all should try to put a stop to labeling one another.

          #AllHailJIM!!!!

        2. Derek

          Except you don’t redefine yourself as not-Irish coz you dislike the associations of the label. That’s what disappointed me about Neil’s response.

          As a scientist if the label fits most accurately accept it even if you don’t like the baggage. To do otherwise is intellectual dishonesty.

          1. Josh

            You’re a mammal, do you go around telling people you are one? do you preface every argument with ” As a human I think…..” We have a freedom of choice and to say otherwise is oppression. I am not an atheist but I don’t believe in god, I didn’t give up one cultural set of rules only to take on another.

        3. drdnc

          When I talk about golf, I self-identify as a non-golfer; especially when I am talking to golfers.

        4. Jason Abney

          I was disappointed as well, because he very much was being belittling towards the concept of organized atheism. His remarks about “agolfism” and such implied quite obviously that he felt that an organization devoted to the non-belief in something was pointless and silly. He didn’t seem to grasp the concept that atheists too would like nothing more than to disband all of the organizations, stop putting up bus ads, filing lawsuits,etc. He appeared to be totally ignorant, or at least uncaring, about the suffering of school-aged atheists at the hands of their Christian-indoctrinated peers in the Bible Belt. Or the Creation Museum and repeated attempts to get Creationism back into the textbooks. Or the exclusionary organizations in this country, such as the Boy Scouts. Organized atheism doesn’t exist to sit around and discuss the idea of the lack of gods. It exists to fight the extrememly powerful and harmful influence extreme theists are having in this country and elsewhere.
          I was especially disappointed to hear his words coming from a black man. Even if he spends most of his time buried in his lab, surely he’s seen enough media on the subject by now to realize that atheists are pretty much the new American nigger. Pardon my language, but that’s the case. We’re the group that a large number of Americans feel are sub-human, and perfectly okay to persecute. We’re TRYING to become disorganized. We will as soon as radical theists knock it the hell off.

    2. 1.2
      Brian

      Someone who’s gay may not care for the word “gay” and the connotations that come with it. But it doesn’t matter, they are still gay. There are plenty of gay people that went out of their way to be “out” and have made it at least semi-acceptable in this country to be open about it. Likewise, many atheists are out there trying to create positive connotations for the word so that you and other people have a system of support. If you don’t want to be out, no one is forcing you. But just because you don’t use the word, doesn’t mean you aren’t still an atheist.

  2. 2
    Umair

    I think you have given a very fair assessment if his video. Thumbs up!

  3. 3
    Umair

    I think you have given a very fair assessment of his video. Thumbs up!

  4. 4
    Andrew C

    I can understand his reluctance to be associated with the atheist “movement”.
    Movements are always messy , fragmented and political. Atheism is no less so. It’s gone beyond a simple stance on a question of belief and moved into morals,education, politics, gender equality ect. That’s all fine and good. Atheists tend to be progressives and humanists so the expansion into these areas seems inevitable.
    Changing the behavior and beliefs of people is slow, inexact work, done by people that are most certainly sustained by ego and passion. It’s not a criticism , it’s just the way it is.
    Tyson is a scientist. All of that must seem distasteful to a man who every day thinks about the biggest possible ideas there are to think about.

  5. 5
    Greg Laden

    I don’t think he belittles the movement. He seems to agree fully with what I thought a lot of atheists say these days: “Atheist” does not refer to the dictionary definition, but rather, to the activist movement.

    It is perfectly reasonable for someone in his position to state that he is not part of that movement. He’s made it more than clear that he’s a dictionary atheist, but in the mean time, atheists (you, me, most or maybe all the people at ftb?) are annoyed at “dictionary atheism” and want to identify the term with the movemnt, the activism, and beyond that,we want to identify that movement with some serious in your face activities.

    If we want atheism to be that, then no it is not fair to complain when a major public figure who is the head of a major institution says no thanks.

    To some extent, Atheists with a Big A have defined this area of commitment in which people like NdGT and Genie Scott exist quite purposefully and then complain when people exist in it.

    This is not to say that I wouldn’t be very happy to have Neil come out and say “I’m an In Your Face Atheist and I’m the fucking Head of teh Hayden. Deal.” But it’s his choice.

  6. 6
    Greg Laden

    Oh, and here’s my post on the video, from the weekend:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/04/29/neil-de-grasse-tyson-is-an-atheist-agnostic/

  7. 7
    bubba707

    I don’t know that he belittled anything or dodged anything. He simply said he doesn’t have time for the various movements and his science takes up his time enough that he has none left over for the politics of any movements, including atheism. I think he made sense for someone totally committed to science education.

  8. 8
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    He’s always been a little dickish about the subject, hasn’t he? I remember you Non-Prophets guys complaining about a speech or debate or something that Tyson was a part of several years ago where he pulled the same sort of “I’m not an atheist, and I think atheism is sort of dumb” thing.

    1. 8.1
      Greg Laden

      Given what the “Atheist” movement includes, it is not hard to criticize it. It can be, in fact, quite dumb. There are times and places when “dumb” would be an improvement.

      Let us not assume, or even seek perfection in this movement. It takes a lot of time and energy to split hairs; then when you’re done, you’ve got a bunch of split hairs.

      1. Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

        I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make here, unless you’re equating “atheism” with “atheist movement” which I was NOT doing.

      2. Jasper of Maine

        PZ and several other overlords decreed that “dictionary atheism” is invalid all of a sudden.

        Didn’t you get the memo?

        1. Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

          And just as soon as PZ and the other overlords start issuing CHECKS, they can start issuing DECREES. Got it? Good. :)

  9. 9
    Yuriel

    Yesterday was kind of annoying. Not only did Dan Savage spinelessly back-pedal from completely true comments he made(throwing some boot-licking to religion for good measure), but also this.

    In case anyone wants to throw at me the “oh so anyone who doesn’t exactly think like you, you find completely objectionable! how open-minded of you lol” argument, it isn’t about what he is or says he is. It’s about not needlessly being a douche.

    Since you touched on the atheist/gay comparison, this kind of behaviour pisses me off just as much as the “homophobic homos.” The kind that aggressively insults, puts down, etc. feminine gay men. I detest that craven sense of desperation they exude:

    “Hey, look, I’m ‘str8-acting,’ you can’t tell I like dudes, I’m one of the good ones. Let’s hate together those sissies who make the rest of us look bad. You’re a man, BEHAVE LIKE ONE!”

    I feel the same way about accommodationists, “I’m an atheist but-ers” and smug “agnostics.” I honestly wouldn’t have minded if his response to whether or not he is an atheist had been something like:

    A) “Well, I don’t live my life assuming there is a deity, so I suppose I am but, really, I’m more interested in my work as a scientist and educator than on any sort of activism.”

    B) “I’m not, I do believe in a higher power, if you will, but I’m well aware that we currently have no evidence for it. I consider it more of a personal opinion, a private matter.”

    Guess what? those would be perfectly valid!(even if I’d disagree with the second one, belief with no evidence, etc.)

    If A), then that’s fine. We need all sorts of different approaches, not everyone needs to be a Dawkins or Hitchens, we need Sagans too. If B), ok, I’d say failure of proper scepticism but whatever.

    Neither of those would’ve required him to be a dick by attacking atheists with an idiotic definition of “agnostic” and the intellectual equivalent of a “hacky” joke. Do non-golfers get together and strategise… freaking amateur crap.

  10. 10
    Joe

    I think it’s unfair to say that was was ridiculing atheism. He was only being himself while pointing out the fact the term itself only has practical significance because of the struggle between the believers and non-believers.

    It’s easy to understand what he means. He interesting in focusing on the science, and unless someone is allowing their beliefs to influence their work, he’s unconcerned with their religion. He’s just being non-political about it, which is perfectly fine.

    Although we all can wish as we may that all highly intelligent agnostics, such as Neil, took a more active approach to the issues surrounding religious beliefs and how they affect us today, I respect his desire to avoid the discussion.

    1. 10.1
      Joe

      Damn it. Where’s the edit button. So many errors reading it the third time around. :/

  11. 11
    heisenbug

    Any label has some baggage to it. Neil just does not like the amount of assumptions (often by ignorance) that a label entails. It is easier for him to reject the label completely than to try to reason with numbskulls. That is his right and there is nothing wrong with it.

    I also do not think he belittles the atheist movement in any way. He just have a different definition of atheism than others. Indeed, it would be ridiculous for us to gather around and discuss why we do not believe in god/gods. Like Neil, I would not want to have anything to do with such a movement. This is all a minor point about semantics.

    1. 11.1
      Yuriel

      heisenbug: “I also do not think he belittles the atheist movement in any way. He just have a different definition of atheism than others. ”

      Yes, a dumb, incorrect, narrow and belittling definition. If he doesn’t want to call himself an atheist, fine. But he doesn’t stop there, he has to crap on atheists who do. Not only that crap on us with such pathetically weak arguments.

      heisenbug: “Indeed, it would be ridiculous for us to gather around and discuss why we do not believe in god/gods. Like Neil, I would not want to have anything to do with such a movement. This is all a minor point about semantics.”

      Yeah, which is why nobody does that. Nice straw-man, though. I bet I don’t have to explain to you the reasons there are groups and associations. Yet, you throw that “I would not want to have anything to do with such a movement.” A non-existent movement of atheists that just gather to pat themselves in the back about how there’s no god. That’s one of the most infuriating falsehoods that people throw at us and to see an ally(an his fanboys) use it against us and then even denying that there’s anything to be offended about, is crap.

      It’s also incredibly dishonest to just dismiss it as “semantics” when it’s clear that it’s not label we’re complaining about.

      1. Greg Laden

        How is the definition he gives of Atheism different from the definition you would give for Atheism?

        1. Yuriel

          Lack of belief in gods. That’s my definition. It’s simple and binary. Anyone who doesn’t hold an active, positive belief in a god, is an atheist. Whether you’re not sure yet, you are unconvinced, you’ve never thought about it and don’t care, you’ve never heard of the concept of a god, etc. All atheists.

          He’s miserably failing Atheism 101. One of the first misconceptions we have to clear when we talk to someone. “Atheists are just as fundamentalists” “Atheism is just another -ism” “Atheism is dumb, only agnostics are open-minded” and so on. He may not have said all of those verbatim but that’s the meaning and attitude. He’s just plain wrong in his definition of atheism and agnosticism.

          Everyone’s saying that it’s just a word and he doesn’t want all the baggage people associate. Well, that’s people’s problem. Their ignorance is not our fault, it’s our job to dispel that, not run away from it and passively confirming their prejudices. But again, his label is not the problem.

          Also, to get off his back ’cause he doesn’t want to alienate anyone in the political or “spiritual”(*gag*) spectrum. Yet he doesn’t mind needlessly alienating a lot of his most ardent supporters, because they’re in the minority so they’re a fair target. Scoring cheap points like this is disgusting. I’m not going to laud him for being intellectually dishonest but politically practical.

          In my first comment I explained how he could’ve done it without being an ass.

          1. Corey

            This. My point is similar:

            Polytheist – believes in many gods

            Monotheist – believes in one god to the exclusion of all other possibilities.

            Deist – believes Something is out there

            Pantheist – believes The Something is everywhere or in everything or that everything is made of the Something

            Atheist – believes none of the above

            Agnostic – believes none of the above, but really wants as many people to like him as possible.

            The positive belief that there are no gods is incoherent. What makes a god a god? Looking at all of humanity’s gods, it seems that they all transcend reality in some way. Okay. So, how can you possibly disbelieve each and every possible thing that is out in the universe that might transcend reality in some way? Can you positively disbelieve something you haven’t even heard of? Of course not, so all you can do is disbelieve each god or set of gods or Spooky Something that is presented to you, as they come. That is why atheism as it’s detractors want to define it is incoherent. No, an atheist is anyone not believing in any known god concept. Period. No other account of these terms is coherent.

            And agnosticism is also an “ism,” referring to the positive belief that a thing is not knowable (either personally or universally).

          2. Greg Laden

            That’s not the definition of Atheist that Neil is using, and it’s not the one PZ Myers uses, and it is not the one I use. Your definition is fine, but you can’t assume everyone else is using the same one.

            Oh, and there is no such thing as Atheism 101!

          3. heisenbug

            As I have said before, it is a question of semantics. Neil has one definition of atheism and we have have another. I disagree with his definition, but it is his right. Instead of discussing semantics we should discuss ideas, imho.

          4. jacobfromlost

            Heisenbug: As I have said before, it is a question of semantics. Neil has one definition of atheism and we have have another. I disagree with his definition, but it is his right. Instead of discussing semantics we should discuss ideas, imho.

            Me: The problem is that “semantics” isn’t a word that means everything is nonsense. “Semantics” means MEANING, and you can’t have ideas WITHOUT meaning. (Thus, saying we should discuss ideas and NOT semantics is a contradiction in terms.)

            The problem is this: We mean ONE thing when we call ourselves atheists, and he thinks we mean something else when we call ourselves atheists. (Or ignores what we mean when we call ourselves atheists and only pays attention to what OTHER PEOPLE MEAN by “atheist” and graft that into what we mean when we call ourselves atheists, as if that makes any sense in regard to a position self-identified people hold–people you can ASK, and people who will explain to you again and again and again what their position actually is. I’ve read dozens of books on atheism, heard more atheists talk than I can count, and NEVER have I heard one say an atheist is someone “who says there is no god” or “is part of a movement”.)

            He DOESN’T GET to redefine what WE MEAN when we call ourselves atheists, and neither does anyone else. To simply ignore what we mean, do a little dance, and try to redefined WHAT WE MEAN when we call ourselves atheists isn’t remotely fair, or conducive to understanding anything–certainly not OUR POSITION.

            WE get to define our own position, just as everyone else gets to define theirs. There is no other context in which it is acceptable to ignore what a group of people SAY their position is, and redefine their position based on what people WHO DON’T HOLD THEIR POSITION say their position is.

            If that was acceptable, we can then say Christians are people who believe in the Egyptian god Ra, and no matter how many times Christians correct us, just ignore them while explaining why believing in Ra is just distasteful and they should stop believing in him. If they get angry about this, tell them this is all their fault for believing in Ra. If they didn’t believe in Ra, we wouldn’t have this negative reaction toward them.

          5. heisenbug

            Great, so do you have a monopoly on the English language? I think not. News flash – there is no consensus on the word atheism. That is a fact.

            It is not like Neil invented the definition, it is an extremely common Christian interpretention of the word. It is the majority which decides of the meaning. I can give you an extreme example: most people will consider a man with a swastika as a Nazi and not as some Oriental monk with a sacred symbole of the sun.

            Nitpicking with words like that is just petty. So one should focus on ideas instead of symbols.

          6. jacobfromlost

            Heisenbug: Great, so do you have a monopoly on the English language? I think not. News flash – there is no consensus on the word atheism. That is a fact.

            Me: The problem is that WE are the atheists, therefore WE get to define ourselves. Simply by rejecting the word doesn’t mean the misunderstanding from NONatheists will stop. It just means we’re evading the misunderstanding. Evading the misunderstanding IS NOT THE SAME as understanding.

            Heisenbug: It is not like Neil invented the definition, it is an extremely common Christian interpretention of the word.

            Me: Too bad Christians don’t get to define us. We’re talking about a position on a claim. They don’t get to tell us what our position is on a claim simply by “common interpretation”. Sorry.

            Heisenbug: It is the majority which decides of the meaning.

            Me: The majority DOESN’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT OUR POSITION IS. That’s the error. Moreover, they also don’t get to define our position out of existence. If they get to do that with the word “atheism”, they get to do it with any other word, definition, or description also–until you get someone like Eric Hovind who tells us we are really theists because we admit we know things, and the only way one can know anything is if his god exists. The problem of redefining atheism doesn’t disappear by rejecting the WORD atheism. The POSITION can be redefined without reference to the word just as easily–and it often is.

            Heisenbug: I can give you an extreme example: most people will consider a man with a swastika as a Nazi and not as some Oriental monk with a sacred symbole of the sun.

            Me: And if you are in the Asia, and you are talking to monks, and you are confused about why they have a Swastika (as you see no other Nazi symbolism, uniforms, ideology, etc), and you ask them why they have a Swastika, and they TELL YOU WHY, and it has nothing to do with Nazis, then you don’t continually tell them that they are Nazis because a majority of stupid people will think they are Nazis.

            Heisenbug: Nitpicking with words like that is just petty. So one should focus on ideas instead of symbols.

            Me: Good grief. You can’t discuss ideas without words, and if people REFUSE to understand the word we use to commonly describe ourselves, they are NOT going to understand us simply explaining our position. In fact, we have plenty of examples of just that kind of stubborn ignorance. Even if we THROW OUT THE WORD, and just describe ourselves with our definition, they will ignore our description and redefine the description (a description made of words, by the way).

          7. heisenbug

            Jacobfromlost: The problem is that WE are the atheists, therefore WE get to define ourselves

            Me:You can define yourself all you want. You can define a pirate flague as a symbole of love or a swastika as a symbole of the sune. However, do not expect others to understand outright your definition. You will still have to explain yourself. Most people make a distinction between agnosticism and atheism even if those concepts are not mutually exclusive. That is just reality.

            Jacobfromlost: The majority DOESN’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT OUR POSITION IS.

            Me:Never claimed that the majority decides what our position is. However, the majority does decides on the meaning of a symbole. I could claim that my cup is god. However, no one will be able to understand such concept which go against the mainstream undertanding of the word.

            Jacobfromlost:and you ask them why they have a Swastika, and they TELL YOU WHY, and it has nothing to do with Nazis,

            Me:I completely agree with you. One should ask first, then make a judgement. But the initial impression is likely to be a connection with the third reich. It is a misunderstanding out of ignorance, but it still the apriori stance.

            Jacobfromlost:Good grief. You can’t discuss ideas without words, and if people REFUSE to understand the word we use to commonly describe ourselves, they are NOT going to understand us simply explaining our position

            Me: Again, I completely agree with you. You cannot discuss ideas without words, so one should clarify what he means by “atheism” which does not have common definition even among the atheists. Same thing with Christianity. One needs to define what being christian means, since there are dozens of different understandings of the word.

          8. jacobfromlost

            Heisenbug: Again, I completely agree with you. You cannot discuss ideas without words, so one should clarify what he means by “atheism” which does not have common definition even among the atheists.

            Me: I don’t think I agree. “Lack of belief in gods” or “rejection of god claims” or “disbelief in god claims (where disbelief is not absolute)” is OVERWHELMINGLY accepted by atheists as what “atheism” means. I’ve never read or listened to an atheist, besides perhaps Stenger, who would disagree with those definitions of atheism. Other definitions of atheism from self-identified atheists fit INSIDE that definition, and even among THOSE small number of people, I don’t think you’d find anyone who claimed the more general definition was invalid.

            Heisenbug: Same thing with Christianity. One needs to define what being christian means, since there are dozens of different understandings of the word.

            Me: But that doesn’t eliminate the underlying problem. The word “atheism” isn’t the problem, as the believers just project whatever they want onto it. By ignoring the word and just DESCRIBING our position, we haven’t solved the underlying problem, as the believers will just reformulate our definition, ignore what we just said, or insinuate we are lying–the very same things they did when we used the word “atheism”. The negative connotations of the word “atheism” come from theists. If we changed the word to another word, or to a discription, those negative connotations are STILL being projected from the believers in exactly the same way.

          9. heisenbug

            jacobfromlost:I don’t think I agree. “Lack of belief in gods” or “rejection of god claims” or “disbelief in god claims (where disbelief is not absolute)” is OVERWHELMINGLY accepted by atheists

            Me:It is accepted, but some do add some unneccessary baggage to that definition like absolute knowledge of the non-existance of god. Because of that, some do not wish to associate themselves to that specific label. Is it wrong? Of course it is wrong, but that is how the world is.

            jacobfromlost:By ignoring the word and just DESCRIBING our position, we haven’t solved the underlying problem, as the believers will just reformulate our definition, ignore what we just said, or insinuate we are lying–the very same things they did when we used the word “atheism”.

            Me:Again, I completely agree and I never evade the word myself. What I find stupid would be to get upset because someone used a different definition of the word. If this worries you so mush than you should just wright a polite letter to the man and explain why he is wrong in your opinion. No need to make a huge deal out of it.

          10. jacobfromlost

            Re: Definition of atheism.

            Heisenbug: “It is accepted, but some [atheists] do add some unneccessary baggage to that definition like absolute knowledge of the non-existance of god. Because of that, some do not wish to associate themselves to that specific label.”

            Me: ” Other definitions of atheism from self-identified atheists fit INSIDE that definition, and even among THOSE small number of people, I don’t think you’d find anyone who claimed the more general definition was invalid.”

            Me again: The “unnecessary baggage” is not part of the definition, even among atheists who claim absolute knowledge. I’ve never encountered an atheist who comes close to this position (absolute knowledge god does not exist) except MAYBE Stenger, and I’ve certainly never encountered an atheist who said you are not an atheist unless you declare absolute knowledge god does not exist. So why would you reject a label based on the fact that you really, really dislike some of the people who hold the label “atheist”, when those “some people” VIRTUALLY DO NOT EXIST. They are strawmen made up by nonatheists.

            Also, to clarify, it is possible to make a positive claim to knowledge that a god does not exist, and NOT claim absolute knowledge. To automatically assume the very few who MAKE the claim are making an absolute claim is also erroneous.

          11. heisenbug

            jacobfromlost:The “unnecessary baggage” is not part of the definition, even among atheists who claim absolute knowledge.

            Me:The definition as “rejection of belief in god/gods” is the best one, no doubt about it. It is also compatible with any other definition. However, that does not mean that there are no other definitions (“rejection of belief + smth”). And that does make some people uncomfortable

            jacobfromlost:Also, to clarify, it is possible to make a positive claim to knowledge that a god does not exist

            Me:I doubt you will be able to reject positive knowledge on the non-existence of a deistic god, which has virtually no properties.

  12. 12
    christiansteenhorst-baker

    On his Star Talk radio show he also plays the political centrist. I think the issue here is that so much of his work at the Hayden Planetarium depends on public funding and he doesn’t want to alienate anyone. Or as few people as possible. I think we can praise him for doing his best to raise awareness and enthusiasm for science and just get off his back for not being Richard Dawkins. It’s really up to him how he identifies and it’s really not up to us to judge.

  13. 13
    Mike de Fleuriot

    Well I think the solution is to show guys like NDT that atheism is cool and has something to offer humanity. The question that needs to be asked of him, is what would make atheism acceptable to him, and then see if we have not filled that already. Most likely we have done this, and he should be informed of it.

    But then there is the position that he holds in society, which can limit him to be associated with satanist atheists like ourselves. Funding is king after all.

  14. 14
    Brian

    It’s a shame he didn’t word it something like “I don’t like to call myself an atheist because that issue is not one I like to spend a lot of time on. My primary focus is science, so I call myself a scientist.”

    There’d be no problem I think if he said that. I agree with feminist ideals, but I don’t primarily label myself a feminist because those issues aren’t the focus of my life, at least not as much as atheist issues. Labels to me have everything to do with what your primary concern is. Adopting one label doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shun all others.

    It sounds like to me he isn’t really aware that most people who label themselves atheists have the exact same position he does. It’s evidenced by the comment he made about how ridiculous “non-golfers” getting together and talking about not golfing. If I could respond to him, I’d tell him it’d probably wouldn’t be so strange if golfing was considered a sacred duty for all Americans, and that not golfing made you a social pariah in many areas. If not playing golf was the reason some people got fired from their jobs, shunned by their families, and if being an open non-golfer made it nearly impossible for you to attain public office just on that criteria, then it wouldn’t be strange at all for a non-golfer movement to arise and start demanding change.

  15. 15
    Stephanie Zvan

    I heard things a bit differently than you did, Kazim. I didn’t hear that movements are a bad thing. I heard that they take time and commitment he doesn’t have. I didn’t hear him say that atheist is a silly word so much as that religion, like sports, shouldn’t be so overwhelmingly central to lives and identities that we should need a word to identify its lack.

    On both of those points, I tend to agree with him. I don’t particularly have to deal with much movement baggage for atheism (certainly not as much as for feminism), but a lot of that is because I’m in a position in which I can say, “Pssht, don’t be silly”, or put someone on the defensive. First off, I’m not sure Neil has ever said anything that concise. Beyond that, he really doesn’t have the luxury of being as dismissive as I can be in the work that he does.

    As for the word “atheist”, I’ve seen more than one atheist deal with this topic before. They’ve said more on the topic, explaining the cultural and political landscape that makes the identification of atheists relevant, but I don’t think any of them disagreed with what Neil said here.

    I do think the video is open to lots of interpretations. That’s probably because Neil doesn’t think much about the topic. What he has to say here just isn’t that sophisticated. So I certainly can’t say that I’m right and you’re wrong, just that what I heard was very different.

  16. 16
    Brian

    My personal impression I get from him is that of someone who doesn’t really spend much time in the same world a lot of atheists do. Neil is a scientists, so naturally he spends most of his time with other scientists, doing science. Otherwise he’s out doing events, spending time with his family, etc.

    Point is, Neil Tyson doesn’t have to worry about losing his job if his boss finds out he’s not a Christian. He doesn’t have to worry about his family shunning him for it. He hasn’t experienced what many of us have being open about our non-belief. Most of us don’t have that shield academia provides. So, it would be pretty easy for him to dismiss our concerns and compare us to people who gather and talk about not golfing, because he either isn’t aware or isn’t concerned with the fact that we live in a world where the figurative “golfers” are the ones marginalizing and persecuting the “non-golfers.” We’re not atheists because we’re making a big deal out of nothing. The theists (the loud, obnoxious ones who happen to have a lot of power and influence) are the ones making a big deal out of it. This aforementioned group of theists are the ones who are the reason there is an atheist movement to begin with. I’m sure most of us here would LOVE to live in a world where groups like the ACA, American Atheists, and FFRF don’t exist because they don’t NEED to exist.

    1. 16.1
      Leo Buzalsky

      I think you have a very good point, Brian. I would add that in his area of study, he is probably not dealing with a lot of resistance from religious people, either. There are a lot of theists who accept many cosmological ideas, including the big bang theory. (They will then claim it was their god that started the bang, but that’s another issue.) Yet, he must know that scientists in other fields, like Richard Dawkins in biology, have to deal with religious bullshit in those fields. How can he then be comparing atheists to non-golfers? He can’t because golfers aren’t constantly proselytizing to non-golfers, or, like your point, I won’t lose my job for being a non-golfer, or my family doesn’t disown me for being a non-golfer, etc.

      1. Jasper of Maine

        You’re a non-golfer? Good luck running for office.

        You’re a non-golfer? You’re out of the family.

        You’re a non-golfer? We’re going to take your tax money to pay for golf-based initiatives.

        You’re a non-golfer? Step aside as we try to replace the supreme court with golfers.

        You’re a non-golfer? The divorce court rules that your golfer spouse will get the kids.

        You’re a non-golfer? The mostly-golfer town will boycott your business.

        Guess what, I’m a “non-golfer”

    2. 16.2
      Greg Laden

      But that is not really true. NdGT does not make his living as “an academic.” He is the chief fundraiser for a major research organization. That’s not the same thing as being a tenured faculty member, who can be disdained by any and all and still be fine.

      1. Brian

        The point I was trying to make is that he happens to be under the employ of an organization that doesn’t care that he’s a non-theist/agnostic/whatever and that his “non-golfer” analogy comes from a place of privilege that too many atheists aren’t in.

  17. 17
    Thomas

    So why do diabetics have a word? Do they get together and have meetings about how they don’t eat sugar? Are there special books and magazines on how to not eat sugar? And what’s up with these nutritionists who get paid to tell people how to eat less sugar?

    You might sound like a bit of an A-hole is you seriously made that argument.

    1. 17.1
      Yuriel

      Hey, now that you mention it, why did abolitionists have a word?! what? did they get together about how they didn’t like slavery and strategise? HAHAHA Why would you need a word about something you don’t believe in? That’s so pretentious, I don’t want all the baggage that comes with it, people will think they know all my opinions. I wouldn’t want to be a part of some dumb “movement” I have no time for it! LOL

      In my first comment, I forgot to add to the homophobic homos and smug agnostics, the other part to the “perfect middle fallacy” trifecta: “centrists.” If someone has opinions that are sometimes liberal and sometimes conservative, that’d be valid; if someone has opinions but is not inclined towards political activism apart from voting, that’s fine too. What pisses me off is those who arrogantly dismiss the several sides as “just as extremists” and deludes themselves into thinking everything watered down to the middle is the perfect, “sensible” solution. NDT, Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, etc. the list goes on.

      “I let the Left and Right bicker at each other and watch from the center” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

      Bull-crap.

  18. 18
    Comment1

    The ironic thing is that he’s saying stuff that (“Big A”) Atheists wish they could say now. He’s already at a point where saying you’re an atheist and having a load of politics come from that is kinda silly. He’s living the dream!

  19. 19
    C. Albert

    I don’t feel you’ve adequately defended your side here. Your website is obviously one devoted to promoting an atheist agenda, which I’m all for. As an atheist myself, I believe that we need to organize to balance out the religious oppression on our culture. However it should be the choice of anyone to stay out of the fray. Dr. Tyson is a man who is heralded by Atheist boards and blogs, 4chan and reddit, as a hero in that community. While his endeavor to bring knowledge of science to the world aligns closely with Atheist goals, his is not the same fight. NASA is not directly oppressed by religion. I know you can make your associations, but its not. He is simply saying, I know you’re there, but I am not one of you.

    His discussion of the anti skiiers and golfers simply discusses how narrow he views the atheist fight. In his mind, you eradicate religion, you still have the people to reach. You have consumer zombies in this country, atheist and religious alike, not focusing on exploration and knowledge. You want people to discard religion, have them focus on the things Dr. Tyson promotes. It will die naturally. If you don’t like that the conversation is always about religion, change it. It’s as simple as that.

    Anyway, the problem I have with your article is that what you do is compare his words to bashing the gay movement to make your point that he’s bashing your movement. That is a logical fallacy and you should know better. This kind of rabble rousing is best left to Fox news.

    1. 19.1
      Russell Glasser

      Anyway, the problem I have with your article is that what you do is compare his words to bashing the gay movement to make your point that he’s bashing your movement. That is a logical fallacy and you should know better. This kind of rabble rousing is best left to Fox news.

      Name the fallacy then?

      That is known as an analogy, and unless the two situations are not similar in the way that I implied, it’s a perfectly legitimate way to explain something. There’s a difference between saying “I’m not an atheist” and saying “I think it’s misguided to even HAVE an atheist movement.” In my view, recontextualizing that difference by comparing it to another movement is valid.

      1. C. Albert

        The fallacy is in your use of the analogy. I’m sure you will agree with me in the idea that Atheism is not a religion. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is a sexual orientation, just like Heterosexuality and so on. What Dr. Tyson is saying is that we can make strides to help our society become more educated about things like religion, and specifically intolerance, without a moniker or title.

        Your analogy, however, makes it sound like he is oppressing one sexual orientation over the other, which is clearly dismissing that orientation. It would be better served if you had said “do A- sexuals gather around, fighting against sexuality?” Asexuality better represents Atheism. You are appealing to peoples feelings of empathy towards the Gay Rights movement in order to further discredit Dr. Tyson in his video.

        1. Yuriel

          I hope nobody minds if I intrude here.

          I think you’re quite mistaken in that asexuality would equal atheism in the analogy but I won’t bother pointing out why. I’ll just grant it for the sake of the argument.

          What if “sexual” people started going around saying that asexuals are abominations, abnormal, unnatural? and they required you to have sex or at least say how much you loved it when you took office, got a military commission, swore an oath in court, etc. What if this was claimed to be a country founded on sex and if asexuals don’t like it, they can GTFO?

          Then you bet your ass asexuals would get together and make groups and denounce the discrimination from sexually active people and call bullcrap on claims that you need sex for TRUE love. That marriage was between two people who have sex. They be all “obnoxious” and “in your face” and “loud” and “strident” and “angry.” Because that’s what bigotry against you makes you sometimes, and that’s a pretty good way to fight it.

          That would be an effective way to combat idiots saying “lolwut do asexuals get together and talk about how they don’t have sex?! how pointless!”

          Even granting the rather nonsensical nitpick about the analogy, the point remains the same.

          1. C. Albert

            I appreciate you staying on point, and I did not mean to compare Asexuality to Atheism farther than to show how the Gay rights issue was a poor analogy. I see your point, and as an Atheist myself I often find myself in positions where I speak out against religion and its oppression of the non-religious. I do not seek to discredit the movement. What I seek is to defend Dr. Tyson’s right to state that our fight is not his fight. It’s that simple.

            What I believe he is trying to say in the video is that, from his point of view, the things that he sees as important to this country, transcends religion. So when asked, of course he’ll prefer to stay out of it. He doesn’t share this authors anger and passion towards religion, and so this author looks to argue and to blame Dr. Tyson for downplaying a movement. That’s not what he’s doing. He’s simply saying “I see your goals, and I’m doing it a different way because I think mine is better, and I don’t see the point in meeting my enemy on their level”. This is where you and I differ. Getting in peoples faces and succumbing to anger and fighting isn’t effective, it only intrenches people in the views they had before. What he promotes, instead, is to let religion die a natural death through educating the masses beyond such silly myths. That will solve all your problems of bigotry and oppression, but it also solves a lot of other social issues independent of your religious one. He’s playing a different game, fighting a different fight. And that seems to have everyone very angry.

          2. Yuriel

            “…this author looks to argue and to blame Dr. Tyson for downplaying a movement. That’s not what he’s doing. He’s simply saying “I see your goals, and I’m doing it a different way because I think mine is better, and I don’t see the point in meeting my enemy on their level”.”

            Um, that IS downplaying the movement. So, he’s not minimising atheist activism, he’s just saying it sucks and his way is better?

            Like I said at the top, if his point had been only “I don’t use that label” or “I’m not interested in activism, I work a different side” it would’ve been perfectly valid. He didn’t do that. He took an amateurishly crappy shot at atheists for no good reason. I’m still incredulous that he stoop so low to the level of the dumb “no word for non-X-ers.” The whole “if you’re mean, you harm the cause!” argument has been dealt with several times already, as well. I don’t think accommodationism has a leg to stand on.

            Do you think slavery, civil rights, social justice has ONLY been gained by being nice and polite? Repeating myself once more, we need all sorts of approaches(vocal, passionate, strong activists; gentle, non-alienating popularisers; silent, out-of-the-public-arena workers) but it’s irritating to be dismissed as “angry, in-your-face, detrimental to scepticism” atheists by those of the other types.

            I don’t jump on the throat of people who don’t want to fight directly, but I’m not going to accept when the people in the other “schools” do such self-aggrandising stunts like it’s their way or the highway(see homophobic homos and “sensible” centrists above).

          3. jacobfromlost

            “Getting in peoples faces and succumbing to anger and fighting isn’t effective, it only intrenches people in the views they had before.”

            I’ll just concede your characterization of firm argumentation for a moment. The problem with this statement is that IT JUST ISN’T TRUE.

            We have innumerable examples of people who changed their views based in large part on confrontational argumentation that challenged their views. Many people had NEVER had their religious views challenged–firmly OR gently. The first time they have someone use impeccable logic and forceful rhetoric to tear them apart, they often reaccess. Does that mean EVERYONE exposed to a firm argument will reaccess their beliefs? No. But the claim that it is ineffective is flatly false, as MANY DO.

            And this shouldn’t be surprising. The way ANY group of people changes their minds about any dogmatic beliefs (and becoming more reasonable) is by being challenged with long, difficult arguments that are by their very nature confrontational. The less confrontational they are, the LONGER IT TAKES for people to change their minds and give in to reason. The more confrontational over longer periods of time, the more people change their minds. History is filled with examples.

          4. C. Albert

            I had to watch the video again, to see if I was truly missing the point you all seem to share. After seeing it I have two things to say, which are separate points:

            First is that, once again, my initial argument is that the Author of this article is unfair in his anger towards Dr. Tyson. His analogy of comparing the Atheist movement to the Gay Rights movement is unfounded, and uses a topical issue to paint Dr. Tyson in a poor light.

            Second, based on arguments I’ve received that have nothing to do with that initial criticism, I still see nothing wrong with what he’s saying. You like to quote his non-Xer bit quite a lot, but what you fail to see is how he came to that part of his talk. The first thing he says on the subject is that he doesn’t want to be identified with any movement because they cannot possibly share his exact feelings on the subject, whatever that may be. The second piece is that all of the Atheists he knows, and I’m hoping he’s rubbing shoulders with the best of the best, are people who are passionate enough and convicted enough and ALIGNED enough with the cause that they will speak out and with a fervor say “No, there is NO god”. As a self proclaimed Agnostic, Dr. Tyson is merely saying “That’s not my belief”. So if you’re still mad at this point, you’re hating on someone for their beliefs and you need to go home and rethink your life. His comment, then, on the non-Xers is simply his expression of misunderstanding for Atheists to say, without conviction, that there is no god. That your assertion without proof is just as invalid as any religious persons assertion without proof. No burden of proof established, no blame laid. Simply that until we know, we cannot say. If that breaks your argument, if that does detrimental damage to the Atheist cause, than I would say that you’re thinking much to small. We’re not out to convince anyone that there is no god. We’re out to make it a non-issue.

          5. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: You like to quote his non-Xer bit quite a lot, but what you fail to see is how he came to that part of his talk. The first thing he says on the subject is that he doesn’t want to be identified with any movement because they cannot possibly share his exact feelings on the subject, whatever that may be.

            Me: Sure, he SAYS that, while simultaneously agreeing with atheists about any given issue in the “atheist movement.”

            C. Albert: The second piece is that all of the Atheists he knows, and I’m hoping he’s rubbing shoulders with the best of the best, are people who are passionate enough and convicted enough and ALIGNED enough with the cause that they will speak out and with a fervor say “No, there is NO god”.

            Me: This is flatly not true. The only famous atheist who makes an absolute claim is Stenger, who bases his accessment on a specific list of traits of “god” that many theists agree with, and how they are logically impossible. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, etc, etc, all say what most atheists say–I don’t believe there are any gods, which is not an absolute statement of “There are no gods.”.

            C. Albert: As a self proclaimed Agnostic, Dr. Tyson is merely saying “That’s not my belief”.

            Me: Wow. And it isn’t OURS EITHER. That’s the misunderstanding. He doesn’t appear to understand the definitions of “agnostic” and “atheist”, and how they relate to each other, belief, and knowledge.

            C. Albert: So if you’re still mad at this point, you’re hating on someone for their beliefs and you need to go home and rethink your life.

            Me: The reason we’re mad is because neither you nor Tyson understand what we are mad about, and respond as if we are mad about something completely different EVEN WHEN WE TELL YOU WHAT WE ARE MAD ABOUT.

            C. Albert: His comment, then, on the non-Xers is simply his expression of misunderstanding for Atheists to say, without conviction, that there is no god.

            Me: Tyson is too smart and too educated to not know the atheist position on atheism. He just doesn’t care, as he already has us in the science camp. Now he wants to get those who are still reticent, and he things it would be easier if he pandered to them. Einstein did this, Sagan did this, and even Hawking did this until recently.

            C. Albert: That your assertion without proof is just as invalid as any religious persons assertion without proof.

            Me: Almost no atheists make the absolute assertion “there is no god”. Moreover, not believing something is not an assertion.

            C. Albert: No burden of proof established, no blame laid. Simply that until we know, we cannot say.

            Me: The problem is that you can be agnostic (“I don’t know as I see no evidence yet”) and an atheist (“I don’t believe in things I don’t have evidence for yet”) at the same time! The only defining characteristic of atheism is lack of a belief!

            C. Albert: If that breaks your argument, if that does detrimental damage to the Atheist cause, then I would say that you’re thinking much too small.

            Me: You’re missing the point entirely. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. The fact that theists are afraid of the word “atheism” doesn’t mean “agnostic” is mutually exclusive of atheism.

            C. Albert: We’re not out to convince anyone that there is no god. We’re out to make it a non-issue.

            Me: I’d be happy if we simply communicated what an atheist IS. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone insinuate, as you did here, that an atheist is one who claims there is no god. Tyson played right into that misapprehension in the video, which is why we are mad. Or at least annoyed.

          6. C. Albert

            A thorough reply. Your first point that he says he’s not atheist while agreeing with some atheist points spoken about in this video does not make him atheist. It’s a self identifier that he chooses not to use as he explains in the video.

            Your second issue about the atheist claim being that they simply don’t believe in any gods is valid, but does put you on the other side of the fence as agnostics who say “I don’t believe in any gods, but I also think there could be that we just don’t know yet”. But regardless of this distinction here is the larger argument that Dr. Tyson makes which is that he’d rather not be a part of this all together. His first statement is I don’t like being labeled. He then says If you want to know where I stand on religion, here it is (I don’t believe in any gods but I’m willing to hash it out with the right evidence). He then says he thinks of himself as Agnostic, but if you argue that they’re the same thing, fine. He literally doesn’t give a shit. You say that the defining distinction is belief. Belief is faith with lack of evidence. He’s taking that faith out of it. I want evidence, plain and simple. Atheists believe there isn’t without evidence, Theists believe there is without evidence. But again, THIS ISN’T THE POINT OF THE VIDEO.

            You say that he’s to intelligent to not get atheism, which I can understand as a flattery to his genius on one hand, but you’re also ignoring the possibility that religion just doesn’t matter to him. At all. Not just religion, but any talk of religion. Does that help him learn more about the cosmos? No. It’s social dogma. And he’s not a social scientist, he’s an astrophysicist. A Scientist. An Educator, who wants to get people thinking straight in the first place. So it is entirely possible that he doesn’t understand something he has no interest in discussing. I’m sure he doesn’t understand the details of Occupy Wallstreet either. His last words are “At the end of the day I’d rather not be any category at all”. You and I can argue over these details, but when you look at your argument you’re angry at me for saying what I’m saying, and you’re angry at him for not caring about your cause. And dude, that’s a waste of anger.

          7. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: A thorough reply. Your first point that he says he’s not atheist while agreeing with some atheist points spoken about in this video does not make him atheist.

            Me: If you agree with atheists on everything related to atheism, and are simultaneously not an atheist…what are you?

            C. Albert: It’s a self identifier that he chooses not to use as he explains in the video.

            Me: Indeed. But the word has meaning. And if we want to play sematic games with the word, forget the word. THE MEANING HAS MEANING. And he fits the meaning.

            C. Albert: Your second issue about the atheist claim being that they simply don’t believe in any gods is valid

            Me: So why do you keep ignoring it? Even in this post below.

            C. Albert:, but does put you on the other side of the fence as agnostics who say “I don’t believe in any gods, but I also think there could be that we just don’t know yet”.

            Me: Those agnostics are also atheists. In fact, that’s what most atheists ARE. Strictly speaking, that is the very position Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, Hawking, etc, ARE. None of these people take an absolutist position on things for which there is no evidence. Even Matt Dilahunty, who says he happens to believe “there are no gods” says that this statement IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE ONE. He admits he could be wrong, therefore “there could be” a god “that we just don’t know yet”. What you are doing is trying to redefine atheism into a tiny little box that almost no atheists find themselves. (Refer back to your statement that atheism is simply not believing in any gods. You said it was valid, then proceeded to ignore it.)

            C. Albert: But regardless of this distinction here is the larger argument that Dr. Tyson makes which is that he’d rather not be a part of this all together.

            Me: Sure, but he is regardless.

            C. Albert: His first statement is I don’t like being labeled. He then says If you want to know where I stand on religion, here it is (I don’t believe in any gods but I’m willing to hash it out with the right evidence). He then says he thinks of himself as Agnostic, but if you argue that they’re the same thing, fine.

            Me: You can be an agnostic theist also, but since he doens’t believe in any gods, he’s an agnostic atheist. He doesn’t know, and doesn’t believe.

            C. Albert: He literally doesn’t give a shit. You say that the defining distinction is belief. Belief is faith with lack of evidence. He’s taking that faith out of it. I want evidence, plain and simple. Atheists believe there isn’t without evidence,

            Me: NO WE DON’T. The only defining characteristic of an atheist is a lack of belief, and a lack of belief in something is not a belief it doesn’t exist.

            C. Albert: Theists believe there is without evidence. But again, THIS ISN’T THE POINT OF THE VIDEO.

            Me: Again, the point of the video is based on erroneous assumptions about atheism and atheists.

            C. Albert: You say that he’s too intelligent to not get atheism,

            Me: That’s not what I said. I said he knows what the atheist’s position is on atheism. And he does.

            C. Albert: which I can understand as a flattery to his genius on one hand, but you’re also ignoring the possibility that religion just doesn’t matter to him.

            Me: But it does matter to him. He DOES care about religion blocking science and rationality. He DOES care about attempts to get creationism in the classroom, etc, etc.

            C. Albert: At all. Not just religion, but any talk of religion. Does that help him learn more about the cosmos? No. It’s social dogma. And he’s not a social scientist, he’s an astrophysicist. A Scientist. An Educator, who wants to get people thinking straight in the first place.

            Me: Which all requires him to recognize that religion matters, as religion directly impacts all of those things.

            C. Albert: So it is entirely possible that he doesn’t understand something he has no interest in discussing. I’m sure he doesn’t understand the details of Occupy Wallstreet either. His last words are “At the end of the day I’d rather not be any category at all”.

            Me: The problem is that some categories are dichotomous. He knows what that means also.

            C. Albert: You and I can argue over these details, but when you look at your argument you’re angry at me for saying what I’m saying,

            Me: No, I’m angry for you telling me why I’m angry, and getting it wrong…just as you did there.

            C. Albert: and you’re angry at him for not caring about your cause.

            Me: Again, no. He does care about our cause, as he demonstrates it in all his values every day. He just SAYS he doesn’t care. That’s the problem.

            C. Albert: And dude, that’s a waste of anger.

            Me: It would be if you were right, but you are not, so it isn’t.

          8. C. Albert

            So you are presuming to know what he does and does not care about more than he does in his own video?

          9. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: So you are presuming to know what he does and does not care about more than he does in his own video?

            Me: No. He’s a science educator. It’s a safe assumption he cares about attempts to block science education, even if he hadn’t spoken about it hundreds of times (thus not requiring an assumption).

        2. C. Albert

          So once again, I state that simply because he has issue with parts of religion influencing education does not mean he has to pick up the cause of Atheism. I know to us they are all connected, and I also believe that you could convince him that he is pro atheism in many of the core tenants, but that doesn’t mean he must be a part of it. He doesn’t have to fight for it. You can’t hate on him for his choice. It’s about not being labeled, not putting down one cause or another.

          1. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: So once again, I state that simply because he has issue with parts of religion influencing education does not mean he has to pick up the cause of Atheism.

            Me: There is no “cause of atheism”. Any atheists who are active politically are active for the same things scientists, rationalists, and skeptics are active for.

            C. Albert: I know to us they are all connected, and I also believe that you could convince him that he is pro atheism in many of the core tenants, but that doesn’t mean he must be a part of it.

            Me: There are no tenants of atheism.

            C. Albert: He doesn’t have to fight for it.

            Me: He already is. Name ONE THING that atheists in the “atheist movement” fight for politically that he DISAGREES WITH and doesn’t already advocate himself.

            C. Albert: You can’t hate on him for his choice. It’s about not being labeled, not putting down one cause or another.

            Me: I find your use of “us” cute. lol Tenants? Pro atheism? Cause of atheism?

        3. C. Albert

          Advocating for and believing in are two different things. He’s not advocating for women’s health care rights in Church run hospitals. He’s not advocating for an end to religious oppression in other countries. He may be opposed to those things, but that’s also not his cause. That’s the difference you’re not seeing. As for my own beliefs about atheism and its responsibilities, we clearly see them in a different light.

          1. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: Advocating for and believing in are two different things.

            Me: If you are going to cut the hair that thin, I’ll concede the point, as it no longer matters.

            C. Albert: He’s not advocating for women’s health care rights in Church run hospitals. He’s not advocating for an end to religious oppression in other countries.

            Me: Does he believe in these things, or is he opposed to people who believe in these things? If people believe in these things and act on them, AND he believes in them, why would he NOT want to be associated with those who actively advocate? It’s like saying you are against racism, but you don’t really want to be associated with those people fighting racism because someone might think you are advocating against racism.

            C. Albert: He may be opposed to those things, but that’s also not his cause. That’s the difference you’re not seeing.

            Me: That’s because there is no difference. The causes are the SAME causes, with the exact same roots of rationality, science, and skepticism.

            C. Albert: As for my own beliefs about atheism and its responsibilities, we clearly see them in a different light.

            Me: Indeed. I’ve never encountered an atheist who thought atheism had tenants before. Not one. But I have crossed paths with hundreds of theists who thought it had tenants, and refused to back down no matter how many atheists chimed in to dismiss the notion.

          2. C. Albert

            Well again, I don’t know how to prove to you I’m atheist, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t understand how you can say that because he has an issue with creationism in schools he must thereby support and advocate for and speak out against religion as a whole. If religion wasn’t an issue, budget cuts to NASA still would. A lack of education in the hard sciences and a lack of understanding of the natural world still would. These are the things he worries about and fights for. Creationism is just one thing that is fighting against his cause. Now, as for his beliefs, he states them quite clearly. You’ve told me that I don’t understand why all the dissenting voices on my comments are angry at his video, but from the article I was commenting on it’s pretty clear the author thinks that because he’s saying that he’s not fighting for Atheism and that he doesn’t quite care for the argument Atheists are having that he’s somehow assaulting the movement. Also, my main point if you look at my original comment was the issue with his analogy. All I’m saying is that the anger is unjustified.

          3. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: I don’t understand how you can say that because he has an issue with creationism in schools he must thereby support and advocate for and speak out against religion as a whole.

            Me: What a gross oversimplification of what I said. Find me an issue where there is a choice between religion/superstition, and demonstrable science, where Tyson DOESN’T support, advocate for, and speak out against the religious side. When the rubber hits the road, he’s against religion. If he can let others insulate him from the fight, he poo-poos the people doing the insulating. That’s rather annoying.

            C. Albert: If religion wasn’t an issue, budget cuts to NASA still would.

            Me: That’s quite an assertion. Even if you ignore unfounded, faith-based beliefs like trickle down economics, religion is STILL very much an issue in the economy as a whole, and thus for NASA’s budget. There is no way claim they are disconnected. (And if you think the anti-science positions against stem-cell research, evolution, even physics, doesn’t bleed into affecting NASA’s budget, you are flat wrong.)

            C. Albert: A lack of education in the hard sciences and a lack of understanding of the natural world still would.

            Me: Apples and oranges. Simply being ignorant is different than having ignorance parading as knowledge. It is much easier to teach someone who is simply ignorant than it is to teach them what they’ve already been taught is patently wrong, and THEN teach them what they need to know. Ask any teacher. They’ll tell you.

            C. Albert: These are the things he worries about and fights for. Creationism is just one thing that is fighting against his cause.

            Me: There would be no creationism except for the roots of the religious impulse to explain the unexplained by making things up.

            C. Albert: Now, as for his beliefs, he states them quite clearly.

            Me: He does? As I said previously, if a position is dichotomous, you can’t simply hide in “I don’t like labels”. If someone asked him if he was human or not human, he wouldn’t dance around and claim he doesn’t like the labels. And even if he DID, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s human. Theism and atheism are dichotomous. You either have belief in a god, or you don’t.

            C. Albert: You’ve told me that I don’t understand why all the dissenting voices on my comments are angry at his video,

            Me: Yes.

            C. Albert: but from the article I was commenting on it’s pretty clear the author

            Me: Russell. The fact that you don’t know Russell, as you comment on the AE blog, is suspect also, lol.

            C. Albert: thinks that because he’s saying that he’s not fighting for Atheism and that he doesn’t quite care for the argument Atheists are having that he’s somehow assaulting the movement.

            Me: I think if you reread the article and the responses Russell made here, you’ll see you are recasting his words much the same way you recast mine.

            C. Albert: Also, my main point if you look at my original comment was the issue with his analogy.

            Me: And you never explained how the analogy was faulty, while others explained (further) how it was apt.

            C. Albert: All I’m saying is that the anger is unjustified.

            Me: But you still don’t understand why I’m angry. How can you know if it is unjustified? If you don’t like Russell’s analogy, what about the word “scientist”? That’s a label. And I can tell you many religious folks have VERY negative connotations with that word. They even sometimes tweak it into “scientism” to illustrate their disdain (and misunderstanding). Should Tyson reject that label also? Should he not be associated with those “in your face” scientists who claim evolution is real, the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and people do not rise from the dead, walk on water, or bodily levitate into the clouds?

          4. C. Albert

            Well I’ve run out of ways to say my piece. You seem hell bent to say that he should be fighting religion at every turn. You’re right in saying that it affects every part of our life, including his teaching of science, but you’re missing what I’m saying, which is that, to him, religion isn’t part of his cause. He says he likes the label scientist, he self identifies as such. He chooses not to self identify as Atheist. the fact that many of the responses here bastardize him for that seems judgmental and small.

          5. Question Everything

            C. Albert: You seem hell bent to say that he should be fighting religion at every turn.

            You still don’t get it. No one is saying he should be fighting religion more, or taking a harder stance. We are just disappointed that he went out of his way to criticize and straw-man the atheist movement.

          6. jacobfromlost

            C. Albert: Well I’ve run out of ways to say my piece. You seem hell bent to say that he should be fighting religion at every turn.

            Me: Huh? I love a good strawman argument as much as the next guy, but really?

            C. Albert: You’re right in saying that it affects every part of our life, including his teaching of science, but you’re missing what I’m saying, which is that, to him, religion isn’t part of his cause.

            Me: I’m not missing what you are saying. You are wrong. So is Tyson. His cause is science and rationality. You can’t divorce that from a political fight against superstition and nonsense. If you CLAIM they are separate, you are just avoiding the issue, much like refusing to accept you are either “human” or “not human” because those are labels and humans do such nasty things, who wants to be associated with them?

            C. Albert: He says he likes the label scientist, he self identifies as such. He chooses not to self identify as Atheist.

            Me: Sure. And if he chose not to self-identify as human, would that mean anything?

            C. Albert: the fact that many of the responses here bastardize him for that seems judgmental and small.

            Me: But he, and you, are not bastardizing US by redefining atheism into the most common misunderstanding of nonatheists, then claiming we are judgmental and small by pointing it out? Good grief. Science doesn’t live in a political vacuum. Pretending it does insults those of us who fight to maintain it, no matter how much you want to pretend it is above the fray.

    2. 19.2
      Jasper of Maine

      If you don’t like that the conversation is always about religion, change it.

      It is – perhaps not this blog specifically. Blogs like this, and shows like the Non Prophets are more about venting.

      When a highly visible person dismisses a movement that IS more than about bashing on religion, then that’s detrimental to the movement, as it perpetuates the perspective, which means we have more work to do.

      That’s what’s disappointing about his comments.

      Anyway, the problem I have with your article is that what you do is compare his words to bashing the gay movement to make your point that he’s bashing your movement. That is a logical fallacy and you should know better.

      Which logical fallacy did he use? Analogies aren’t fallacies.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    I completely disagree that “atheism” now means movement atheism. No it doesn’t. Atheism just means atheism; it doesn’t carry with it induction into a movement. (Other “ism” words do, even though the membership of the movement can be very passive and notional.) Lots of atheists are not movement atheists in any sense.

    “New atheism” probably means movement atheism – but that’s exactly why the “new” is there, innit.

    1. 20.1
      Greg Laden

      Well, here we have a major voice in Atheism disagreeing with some of the other major voices in Atheism. Either way is fine with me, as long as nobody hurts me.

      1. michaeld

        Well if my childhood has taught me anything there’s only one way to solve this…. a battle to the DEATH!

        1. Russell Glasser

          You might even call it… a Battle Royale.

  21. 21
    codyreisdorf

    The concerns over the word “atheist” being so absolute reminds me of an essay by Bertrand Russell titled Am I an Atheist or Agnostic?, in which he describes the difficulty in speaking to a hyper-rational crowd of philosophers with a word conceived to be absolute, like atheism, versus one that conveys any modicum of uncertainty, like agnosticism. I remember my own struggles at the time I found this essay, at which point I felt the matter was satisfactorily resolved. On another occasion I recounted this dilemma to a friend who immediately proclaimed the defining of atheist as holding no doubt was ridiculous, and obviously some degree of doubt ought to be implied since no one can be so certain.

    However, after watching a wonderful debate with Dawkins & Grayling v. two Catholic apologists, I adopted a line from Grayling, which in brief is that I hold absolutely no doubt that the god of Abraham does not exist. That is, I am a 7 on Dawkins’ scale of theistic belief—absolutely certain atheist with respect to the god of most people, since there is both an overwhelming lack of evidence in support of the extraordinary claims of the Abrahamic god (whether expressed by Judaism, Christianity, or Islam), and there is an equally overwhelming mountain of evidence against the god claims (hypothesis) of Abraham, from evolutionary biology to psychology & neuroscience which provide many well confirmed hypothesis as to how & why people come to believe weird things.

    Also, I think Tyson is a contrarian, a common trait among intelligent free thinking people everywhere, which leads to his reluctance to identify with ‘isms’. If there were a word separating flat-earthers from approximately-spherical-earthers, of course he would be one. We happen to live in a time when such evidence is so overwhelming & publicly known there is no longer a debate about the shape of the Earth. Likewise from the point of view of science, many of the central religious claims, such as life after death or the origin of life and intelligence, are ruled out with similar levels of confidence.

    As for atheism identifying with an absence, well it would be lovely if we lived in a world where people were not commonly assumed to believe in ridiculous things, where people who did believe ridiculous things did not influence public policy (or worse yet, torture those who raised questions for the many centuries our species did), or where expressing disbelief didn’t lead to ostracizing—but we don’t yet live in such a society. And until we do, identifying oneself openly as a non-believer will be one way to pressure the society towards those goals.

  22. 22
    jacobfromlost

    I think Neil is afraid of poisoning the well, so to speak, in regards to being a spokesperson for, and educator of, science. Einstein played this game some, as did Carl Sagan. You can find quotes from both where they do this dance so they don’t step on the toes of religious people for fear of undermining their own goals of educating people about science.

    My knee-jerk reaction to Neil’s comments is negative, but as Sam Harris has said before, maybe there are a variety of parts for us to play in the fight for people to be rational. There may be many ways to skin a cat…or, at least, get more skin off the cat then had been previously accomplished. lol

    Of course, the counter argument to that is Neil’s position could be viewed as condescending (ie, assuming most people are just dumb and won’t get it unless we tip-toe around their dogmas). And, I would argue, in many instances assumes that “in your face” argumentation doesn’t or can’t work. Well, we know it CAN work because we have innumerable examples of it working. (And it CERTAINLY isn’t making fellow atheists into believers, thus offsetting the numbers.)

    I would also note that if rigorous argumentation DIDN’T work, how did anyone reject any dogma ever (and why isn’t EVERYONE a faith-based believer)? Even formulating an argument in your own mind to figure something out IS an argument–it’s how we come to understand anything. If “in your face” argumentation for fact-based positions determined by falsifiable methodology is ineffective or inappropriate, why is anyone rational at all? ANY negation of a dogmatic position by the GENTLEST of fact-based evidences is “in your face” to the dogma. How could it not be?

    And thus I have argued myself out of my previous stance. Neil is just wrong.

  23. 23
    Corey

    What Dr. Tyson says in this video is identical to saying “I eat only vegetables, but i’m NOT A VEGETARIAN. Personally i’m agnostic about meat and vegetables; i’m open to eating meat if someone can prove to me that it’s good for you, but until then i’m not eating it, just don’t call me a vegetarian.” Seriously, when scientists start talking about language, as if their expertise in one subject applies to all others (a common failing, i’ve noticed) they tend to embarass themselves.

    1. 23.1
      jacobfromlost

      “Seriously, when scientists start talking about language, as if their expertise in one subject applies to all others (a common failing, i’ve noticed) they tend to embarass themselves.”

      I’ve noticed this before also, as I have had several arguments with an online scientist friend of mine about language, narrative/mythological structure, psychology/emotion, etc, and it never fails to amaze me how often he just DOESN’T GET IT–so much so, that he doesn’t think there is anything there to “get”. Even when the discussion is about something that we can use as a predictive marker (so that I can demonstrate I was correct), he dismisses it after the fact as if it was just a fluke, no matter how many times I’m demonstrated correct. lol

      I think part of the problem is applying rigorous critical thinking (that would be used empirically to understand reality) to “story logic”, myth, imagined reality, and the ambiguities of language. Tyson here takes the word “atheist”, and instead of acknowledging it can have many shades of meaning for many people, jettisons the basic meaning held by self-described atheists and seems to EMBRACE the meaning held by those who are not atheists, those who misunderstand the term, or those who don’t WANT to understand it. Rhetorically and linguistically, that simply isn’t fair, and could be called dishonest if I thought Tyson understood this problem, but I don’t think he does.

  24. 24
    Really?

    Really? I am an atheist and did not find this offensive what so ever. So he doesn’t want to run around calling himself an atheist, he doesn’t want a label, big deal, get over it.

    1. 24.1
      Yuriel

      Hey, thanks for not reading at all what the fucking argument is, yet still smugly telling us to “get over it.” Nobody cares about what label he wants for himself, it’s his bullshit distinction between atheist and agnostic and the arrogant dismissal of groups that work towards positive atheism, equality, separation of church and state, etc. as dumb reunions of non-golfers.

      1. Really?

        I DID read the article and did watch the video and feel it is an over reaction. Yes, I agree the golfing/skiing was a bad choice for him to pick as a comparison. But, I think that’s all it was, just a bad choice of words, on his part, for what he was trying to express. I also did not take what he said as to be an “arrogant” dismissal of atheism, just a statement that he prefers not to be locked into a label, and that he thinks that these labels can be kind of silly. So, yes, get over it, because it really seems silly. Sorry, if you think that’s “smug.”

        1. jacobfromlost

          Well, some of the annoyance comes from the fact that it is the “atheist movement”, aka “secular movement”, aka “humanist movement”, etc, that is and has been fighting to keep creationist nonsense out of the science classroom (all the way back to Scopes), fighting for stem cell research, among many other things, that safeguards Tyson’s ability to be a scientist in this country. To poo-poo the political part of that fight smacks of inattention at best and naivete at worst.

          Scientists stand on the shoulders of scientific giants, yes. But they also stand on the shoulders of political giants, and what sustains those political giants TODAY is living, breathing people who fight to keep those things we’ve worked so hard over so many years to establish. If we DIDN’T fight for them, we wouldn’t have them, and Tyson wouldn’t have the privilege to poo-poo the “atheist movement” while agreeing with them on EVERYTHING they fight for. He’ll happily take the benefits accrued, but pretend as if he finds the continuing fight to keep those benefits too messy–as if the fight and the mess are unrelated to his privilege to say he can’t be bothered with fighting.

          And “smug” is even more smug when you put quotes around it. lol

          1. Really?

            While I can understand what you are saying, and I do agree some of it. I, however, still have a hard time thinking that he needs to state that he is an atheist, or backs the “atheist movement.” I understand me saying “get over it” probably was not the best thing to say in my first post, but I didn’t agree with the whole argument and felt he was being thrown under the bus. I did like your reply, and at least that leaves me with food for thought on this subject. I’ll shut up now, but I’ll double quote my “‘smug’” because you mentioned it, just for extra smugness. lol :)

  25. 25
    Max Entropy

    NdGT’s video just raises more questions. Now I want to know if he considers himself a rationalist?
    a secularist?
    a humanist?
    a skeptic?
    an African-American?
    an American?
    a New Yorker?
    an occurrence of impermanent, non-continuous, interdependent, conditional phenomena?

  26. 26
    miker42

    NdGT closes the video with the statement “at the end of the day I’d rather not be any category at all.”

    I can relate with that sentiment. I felt that way before 9/11 when I thought other people’s beliefs didn’t really affect me. I’m okay with the atheist label now because I recognize that other peoples beliefs do affect me, and we all have a responsibility to ensure the beliefs we act on are as accurate as possibly.

    I’m sure Neil exerts great effort to ensure his actions are based on true claims. I think his sentiments show he doesn’t think it is important for others to do the same when it comes to spiritual claims. He is probably one of those people who thinks that it is not polite to challenge the obviously untrue claims of a huge number of people in this world.

    Maybe he just doesn’t recognize the link between some untrue claims and the harm caused when people act upon them.

  27. 27
    John Kruger

    “Agnostic”.

    He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

    It seems a lot like asking “Do you believe in gravity?” and getting an answer along the lines of “Well, we can’t be absolutely sure of anything, can we?”

    I can only think Dr. Tyson is pandering here. He is not using the word atheist correctly either, but I am fairly sure everyone around here already knows the strong/weak atheist distinction.

  28. 28
    Jasper of Maine

    I think we just revealed another schism, or is this just a variation on accomodationalism?

    Say what you will, but FtB is not an echo chamber.

    1. 28.1
      Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

      Not so much an issue, since we generally neither need nor want someone to tell us how to work our atheism… and the first person who says that I’m not representing them is simply proving my point! Tyson comes off as a dick to some of us? Cool. We argue a bit, but it doesn’t shatter anyone’s worldview and isn’t likely to split up friendships or cause people to lose much respect for one another.

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    Nooooooo that’s not right: FTB is both a hive-mind and a pack of screaming fighting hyenas.

    1. 29.1
      Greg Laden

      Being stung by bees from the hive. Who are buzzing discordantly!

      1. colubridae

        hive-speak a la hellstrom

  30. 30
    Alpha Bravpo

    Support his view for people to examine things for themselves. Forget about trying to be right.

  31. 31
    Greg Laden

    If you are a New Atheist, then there are four kinds of people in this world:

    1) People who call themselves Atheists and are just like you.

    2) People who call themselves Atheists but really, they are accommodationist appeasing swine and should all be killed.

    3) People who have picked up on the fact that New Atheists define themselves rather stridently and chose to place themselves outside that definition for their own reasons. By doing so, they are insulting all True Atheists and must be killed.

    4) Everybody else, which includes non-religious people who have kept their mouths shut, Evangelical Fundies of any and all religious persuasion, and everyone in between. They too must all be killed.

    :)

    1. 31.1
      Russell Glasser

      5) A snarky know-it-all would-be guru who believes himself to be “above the fray” and validates this by throwing darts at all parties.

      :D

      1. Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

        Beat me to it… too scared to make a real stand, perfectly happy to sit in judgment over EVERYONE on all sides.

      2. Greg Laden

        Right. Or, maybe, just distracting the attention of my pointy-headed fellow New Atheists while Neil gets back to his business of being much more well known, much more well liked, and much more an effective spokesperson for science than the rest of us combined!!!

        Yeah, I would love it is NdGT thought what I thought and said what I would say, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I’m just happy that he’s not Spritual or something. Astronomy has a history of that kind of thing.

    2. 31.2
      LykeX

      Greg Laden thinks there are three kinds of people in the world:
      1) Himself, the always perfectly correct, master of all intellectual pursuits, who is humble, decent and wonderful
      2) Those who agree with him, who are unworthy, but at least have the good sense to follow the one true, righteous leader
      3) Those who disagree, who are wicked, foolish and smell bad, and should all be killed

      Does that seem reasonable? If not, maybe you should shut the fuck up and let us define what we think.

      You say what you think and I say what I think. Your pathetic line of bullshit is entirely unproductive.

      1. Greg Laden

        No, there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who spit when they talk, and those who don’t.

  32. 32
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    You know, it reminds me a bit of the political asshats who call themselves “independent” while holding views identical to or even more extreme than the party that they always end up voting for (usually Republicans). You’re not actually independent if you hold most or all of the same views as an identified group, you’re just being a coward if you refuse to accept the labels that fairly apply to you.

    And if you actually want to avoid the issue, then STFU and avoid the issue entirely. Don’t comment on the issue, embrace all or most of the points of one side, and then insinuate that people who actually accept the labels are a bunch of dicks for not being pretentious fence-sitting gasbags like you.

  33. 33
    michaeld

    I guess I’ll put in my 2c worth. While I think some of the criticisms of Neil go a bit farther then I would go I still have to admit the video still rubs me the wrong way. I think its just kind of a carelessness to it where a brief edit and a couple bits removed (like that stupid non-golfer bit) and it would have been fine with me.

    On the stupid golf bit and people comparing it to gay rights. I admit I do find that kind of golf argument dismissive (although I don’t think Neil meant it that way). If I was doing a video on my sexuality and said” while I am attracted to men I didn’t see a need for a label to describe my attraction to men. I mean it’d be like having a label and movement for being attracted to brunettes.” I can see how people could find that argument to be a bit dismissive and irksome since there is negative attitudes towards gays that create a certain need for a label/groups.

  34. 34
    gadiv

    While people in general need to get over labels and labeling, none need to get over it more so than those who refuse to use them or attribute them to themselves.

    Language is an imprecise thing as it is without arbitrarily introducing hurdles to its use out of a need for individuality and autonomy.

  35. 35
    ZachsMind

    I am both atheist and agnostic. It IS possible to be both. I don’t know if there’s a god, but if you claim to believe in a god, I don’t believe in your god, cuz you can’t prove your god is real.

    If you don’t believe in any gods either, that’s great, but don’t make me a part of your Atheist Movement w/o my permission. People are claiming Neil Tyson is on their side. With this video, Tyson’s making it very clear he ain’t taking sides cuz like me he’s not interested in fighting this war with you.

    Cuz we don’t need any more wars among our species. We’ve already had enough.

    If there is something that you might call a god, I will probably call it something else. I won’t call it a god. I’d rather use a better descriptor than “god” cuz that word has too much baggage. All these words have too much baggage now. I may have to learn Esperanto so I can discuss these topics with intelligent people using words that don’t carry any mainstream social baggage.

    If someone can find what actually created this universe, maybe I’d call it The Creator, but I would not immediately assume it’s a god. I could think up many scenarios that might have made this universe. It might be a machine or device of some sort which was made by a race of silicon based life forms long dead. That’s just as likely as the crap in any ancient tome, and can be proven just as not at all. We coulda been sneezed out the nose of some really big non sentient creature that lived outside our known universe. This universe could be the result of where energy from a black hole in an older universe goes. Maybe the black holes in our universe create ‘big bangs’ that generate other universes. That’s actually MORE likely than anyone’s fantastical god magically waving his arms and saying “let there be light.”

    But I don’t know what DID make the universe. Neither do you. Neither does anyone who claims a god exists. We have no proof. We have no evidence, either way. Neil Tyson isn’t taking a stand here, cuz there’s no stand to take.

    Neil Tyson is a scientist. He doesn’t waste his time filling in the gaps of what we don’t know with uneducated guesses. He takes what we do currently know, walks over to the edges of what we don’t know, and he uses what we do know to help us figure out what we don’t. That’s what a scientist does.

    Rather than dwell on what we don’t know, we could help him and others focus on what we do know, and go from there. Neil Tyson is merely suggesting that instead of being “no god” -ists, perhaps we could be “yes science” -ists.

    Cuz right now, astrophysics could use a lot more yes men for science, for things that ARE right in front of us like outer space, and a lot less naysayers wasting their time on what’s obviously not there at all.

  36. 36
    Steely Dan

    Do non-gnostics get together and strategise, Neil? Then why give it a word?
    Unfortunately he’s said stupid things about atheism before. I recall an interview where he said he wasn’t an atheist, because ‘nobody could ever prove there wasn’t a god’…

  37. 37
    rusty

    The first time that I heard Neil interviewed, he claimed that he didn’t want to be identified as an atheist because of the atheist stereotypes. I thought that was fair enough until he started attacking atheists with the exact same stereotypes that he himself objected to. Now I consider him to be a hypocrite.

  38. 38
    Mary

    NGT says being labelled can interfere with conversations. There are those who have preconceived negative ideas about scientists. So, he already has that to deal with. Also, he is making the same mistake by seemingly having a preconceived idea about how all atheists act.
    He devotes his energy to science education and does not have the time nor interest to get involved in other areas. He is terrific at what he does and is a wonderful embassador for science.
    A lot of what he said was fine. Unfortunately, his part about why the word atheist is not needed was frivolous. Comparing non belief to non golf was flippant for reasons other posters have explained. It showed a lack of understanding and sensitivity. Hopefully, when it is pointed out to him, he will realize his remarks were inappropriate.
    I am a major fan of NDT. That does not change.

  39. 39
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I feel like this matters, so I’ll stake my claim here: I’m a gnostic atheist.

    “I don’t know” is a nonsensical and cowardly position. None of us pretend that Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny are beings that could exist, and that we can’t make a claim against. If one of you is really “agnostic” towards the Tooth Fairy then I’ll eat your insoles.

    We get noisy about not respecting the religious POV, but a lot of us hide behind the “atheist/agnostic” divide to maintain some level of respect for the stupid beliefs based on lack of evidence. The reality is that you reject outright the belief in fairies and unicorns and fire-breathing dragons and aliens who abduct people from trailer parks in order to shove things in their butts… and you don’t play the BS “but it is possible, and I’m an agnostic” card for those delusions.

    So why fake it for the more formal religious beliefs?

    1. 39.1
      heisenbug

      If you are a gnostic atheist than prove that the existence of god/gods is impossible. Do not forget that you need to disprove all the concepts, including deism

      1. colubridae

        No you don’t have to disprove gods.

        all you have to do is provide evidence that your knowledge is correct.

        and “absence of evidence is evidence of absence” is enough to demonstrate one’s knowledge.

        Of course you don’t have to accept/believe such ‘knowledge’

      2. Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

        Sure, just as soon as you disprove the existence of polar bears in Miami sipping cocktails poolside while checking their email on rhinestone-studded Blackberries. You know there’s no such thing, and if someone asked you outside of this sort of conversation you would just say you know there’s no such thing.

    2. 39.2
      jacobfromlost

      Improbable Joe: I feel like this matters, so I’ll stake my claim here: I’m a gnostic atheist.

      Me: I think there needs to be clarification, as when an atheist says that, believers see it as an absolute statement of knowledge…which it could be. But it could be many things.

      A) I absolutely know there is no god and I don’t believe.
      B) I know there is no god as far as I am able to know anything (not absolutely) and I don’t believe.

      Letter A has a burden of proof. Letter B does not, as new evidence could change the position.

      Improbable Joe: “I don’t know” is a nonsensical and cowardly position.

      Me: Depends on your definition of “knowledge”. If you are talking absolute knowledge, some rationalists would say there is no such thing, or they might reduce it down to the only thing that can be known absolutely is the logical laws. If you are talking about demonstrable knowledge using falsifiable methodology, Occam’s Razor, etc, then “I don’t know” is perfectly sensible if the proposition either has no evidence for it, or the proposition is seems incoherent. Having said all that, I think it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I know there is no god” if by “know” you mean “as far as I as a human being am capable of knowing anything”. Theists, and the general population who don’t think much about epistomology, often equate “know” with an assertion of “absolutely know and can’t possibly be wrong”. That leads directly to confusion about what each other is saying.

      The theist hears: “You are saying you can’t possibly be wrong when you say you know god doesn’t exist, therefore you must prove it is impossible for gods to exist.”
      When the atheist could be saying: “I know god doesn’t exist to the exact degree I know anything else.”

      Improbable Joe: None of us pretend that Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny are beings that could exist, and that we can’t make a claim against. If one of you is really “agnostic” towards the Tooth Fairy then I’ll eat your insoles.

      Me: Example in point. To the exact degree I am capable of knowing anything, I know Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist. But I must acknowledge I could be wrong about anything, even when that chance is so small it is hard for me to imagine.

      Improbable Joe: We get noisy about not respecting the religious POV, but a lot of us hide behind the “atheist/agnostic” divide to maintain some level of respect for the stupid beliefs based on lack of evidence. The reality is that you reject outright the belief in fairies and unicorns and fire-breathing dragons and aliens who abduct people from trailer parks in order to shove things in their butts… and you don’t play the BS “but it is possible, and I’m an agnostic” card for those delusions.

      Me: That’s a good point. But if I opened your garage, saw the fire breathing dragon, had some friends come to confirm that they saw it too, petted the creature, called news crews to film the creature, had scientists test its blood to no conclusion of its origin, invited thousands of skeptics to line up and confirm the creature was there, allowed dozens of experimenters to rule out hoaxes, and repeated any and all observations to reconfirm it existed…then after a few months, and a few psychological tests on myself, and no other extraordinary experiences that would suggest I am having a psychotic break, I would believe the dragon existed. But that belief would be contingent on new evidence, just like the belief it DIDN’T exist was contingent on new evidence. There would be no “absolute knowledge” in any case. (The “I don’t know” position, I think, is countering the notion that knowledge is absolute, which is why it pops up around extraordinary claims, and not around claims about buying milk at the grocery store at noon. One can say, “I know I bought milk at noon.” But if that becomes important for some reason, you can probe that certainty, and the most you can get is, “I know I bought milk at noon to the exact degree I know anything. I am very, very sure, but not absolutely.” If a video and receipt shows up that you bought milk at 11AM, there is no evidence of you buying milk at noon, and you are sure you only bought milk once…you have to reaccess your certainty, and come to the conclusion that you are now MORE certain you did NOT buy milk at noon, as the evidence is more reliable then your “certain” memory.)

      1. heisenbug

        Thumbs up for the reply

      2. Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

        Sure, all of that is mostly valid?

        I’m talking about knowledge in the common everyday sense, which isn’t absolute. I feel like we atheists sometimes slip in between casual and formal definitions as they suit us, and formality can sometimes be used as a shield, for instance to avoid the burden of proof. I think a lot of the “I don’t know” stuff often falls into the same general category.

        1. jacobfromlost

          Small point:

          When believers say they “know” god exists, they are talking about absolute knowledge. They then project that absolute knowledge onto the person who says, “I know god doesn’t exist” as the topic (god) is the same.

          This point is often lost on believers, as even when I TELL them none of my statements are absolute and I could be wrong about anything, they turn around and start quoting my sentences back to me as if that proves they are absolute statements! That’s when I have to explain to them to feel free to take anything I say as possibly wrong, as I don’t know how to make something I say absolutely true no matter what. When I ask them if I can extend the same courtesy to THEIR statements, specifically the “I know god exists” statement, they suddenly balk. I have never had a believer admit that it is possible they could be wrong regarding the statement “I know god exists”. Which tells me the “knowledge” in that statement is being asserted to be absolute.

  40. 40
    colubridae

    hive-speak, a la hellstrom

  41. 41
    greg1466

    I too am a huge fan of Neils, but he is way off base with some of his arguments here. As I believe Matt put it in an an AETV episode at least once, as soon as golfers/skiers try to pass legislation forcing everyone else to golf/ski, there will be a reason for non-golfers/skiers to identify as such and fight back.

  42. 42
    fred jones

    I like Neil but it’s pretty spineless of him to be unable to openly admit he is an Atheist and feel his position is not worth making some kind of effort to defend in the face of massive religious insanity and hatred of those who are ACTUALLY Atheists.

  43. 43
    Orin

    Well Neil think of it this way if the fundies get their way you’ll be out of a job. Us non-golfer oh I mean Atheists that sit in a room all day and talk about how their isn’t a god stands up for you and your job. Im a bit saddened by your statement and that it reaks of betrayal for the people who actually want you to do your job unhindered by the fundies. But your still kick ass at what you do so go back to the lab find some awesome stuff and tell us all about it we will help keep you in that lab even if it seems you don’t appreciate our position in your job market.

  44. 44
    Kimberly Hosey | Arizona Writer

    Super well said, Kazim. I agree passionately with 99.9999 percent of what NDT says, and will likely continue to do so, but I just couldn’t buy this. I guess I’m trying to think that for all his eloquence and genius, he’s still a human being with social repercussions to deal with and with lapses in understanding and hangups, just like the rest of us. He’s so exacting and dead-on with so much of what he says that it’s seriously hard to keep that in mind.

    Of course it’s about how one chooses to identify, and it’s fine that he doesn’t want to be “about” atheism. But he’s not NOT an atheist, and that, as Kazim points out, is what the video was about.

    I don’t go about saying “Hi! I’m a female, straight, humanist, atheist, agnostic, intellectual, socialist, progressive, feminist, animal-rights-supporting, Star-Trek-watching, webcomic-reading, developmental-disorder-having; writer, mother, wife, and science advocate! Wanna have lunch?” Truthfully, I don’t “identify as” all those things. Socialist, for example. Still, I hold major ideas that coincide with socialist concepts, so the shoe does fit, even if I wish to rejigger the definition to make myself more comfortable.

    Some of those labels are much less appealing to own than others, especially depending on current circumstance and audience. For example, I almost never emphasize my nonbelief on my nature and parenting blog, because honestly, that’s not what I want it to be about. So I kind of get where he might be coming from. But still, I wouldn’t deny it, or rail against it (since that would be making it “about” that anyway). I wouldn’t say “Hey, you guys! I don’t have time to talk about that Star Trek crap! And I’m only an overlapping member of that community, and here’s why hard-core Trekkies are stupid.”

    To the “labels only cause problems” crowd — I totally disagree. Discriminating based on labels causes problems. Mucking up the definitions of labels definitely causes problems. Using labels is kind of how we get by.

    Also? Did I miss the memo about changing the definitions of atheism/theism and agnosticism/gnosticm? Atheism is about whether you accept a faith/deity claim. Agnosticism has to do with whether you believe knowledge about that claim can be had. We all have positions on both spectra. They don’t address the same question. Agnosticism isn’t atheism-lite. I think more than anything, the fact that a scientist would be inaccurate about that distinction bothered me.

    1. 44.1
      jacobfromlost

      I join all of Kimberly’s groups. She seems super awesome. (I’ll have to be an honorary female though.)

      1. Kimberly Hosey | Arizona Writer

        :-)

        Thanks!

        I’d say as long you don’t plan to make a video pointedly disavowing membership in the female-supporting group, you’re fine.

  45. 45
    twilight guardian

    You could say the same thing about A-gnosticism, though. That makes the whole prejudice against the WORD A-theism ridiculous. So it’s OK for himself to be called a non-gnosticer but being called a non-believer is absurd. It’s OK for non-gnostics to have support groups or meetings or whatever and “talk about their non-gnosticism” but not OK for us to do the same. For a smart guy, he’s really stupid. :/

  46. 46
    theBuachaill

    “I don’t associate with a movements.” That, to me, seems like an oddly broad denouncement not only of atheism, but of a lot of valid and worthwhile movements in general.”

    The fact that he doesn’t associate with movements is in no way a denouncement of any particular movement. He clearly states in the video the reason for his unease for the association is that he personally prefers individuals learn about each other “in real time”, rather than having preconceived ideas appended to you because of some association.
    Calling this a denouncement of atheism or anything else is simply wrong, and unfair to boot.

    I believe Mr degrasse tyson demonstrates a somewhat different understanding of atheism and agnosticism than most atheists on this forum, myself included. And certainly it is disappointing that he really misses one of the fundamentally important goals of “active atheists” he has terms them, i.e. to get people thinking straight. Maybe someone can send him some links to a few episodes of the AE to demonstrate this?

    However I do appreciate his point about distancing himself from the behavior of atheists. I recently looked into joining a local atheist group, and I participate in various online forums and debates on religious topics, and the behavior and aggressiveness I have encountered with a lot of atheists groups is a major put-off; as is the often poor quality of logic and debating skills demonstrated by these same groups. It would be hugely encouraging to see more atheist groups adopt the reasoned, dialectic styles use by the AE team to tease out ideas and expose flawed arguments, and help ourselves and others to think straight on matters of spirituality, religions, etc.

    On a related note: is the communication battle to win hearts and minds being lost, when even people like Nial deGrasse Tyson do not clearly understand what Atheism is or that the main motivations of most atheists are for skepticism, rationality and truth?

  47. 47
    Farouk

    I am an atheist and I support Neil deGrasse Tyson’s view.
    I may be wrong but you (or better: y’all) seem to operate under the assumption that either you’re a theist or an atheist.

    I call that a false dichotomy.
    Let’s talk about numbers. Numbers of gods, that is.
    Both theists and atheists, are people who hold believe in the existence of n gods.
    Where n > 0 for theists, n = 1 for monotheists(subgroup of theists) and n = 0 for atheists.
    (Let’s say n is limited to integer numbers. Which isn’t a given, when talking about stupid crap like gods. I wait for a religion with “pi” gods: Trinity+)

    So far the old dichotomy. But there is actually more. You can believe in a set of numbers. I know the name is suboptimal for this position, because that name has a different meaning, but let’s call it “agnostic” in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s sense.

    So said “agnostic” also believes in the existance of n gods; with n = {0, 1, 2, 3,…}
    If this set n is expanded to include any number concievable and unconcievable, because yet unknown or undiscovered or whatever (negative numbers, irrational numbers, complex numbers, infinities etc.) you’ll hold a believe about something unknowable, namely the actual number of gods existing, that is correct with exactly 100% certainty! Which is a feat neither the atheist nor the theist believe can claim for themselves.

    Some may say I am full of shit and that my babbling makes about as much sense as “timecube”. I’d disagree and counter with a more down to earth analogy: The good old six sided die.

    I may roll a six sided die and, in advance, ask you which number will come up, something unknowable. If your answer is any one number from 1 to 6, you’ll have 1/6 chance of being right. But if your answer is n = {1,2,3,4,5,6}, you’ll be correct with 100% certainty. It is entirely reasonable to believe and propagate the answer that has a 100% probability of being true. (Assuming the die doesn’t do crazy shit like balancing on its edge.)

    1. 47.1
      theBuachaill

      “Both theists and atheists, are people who hold believe in the existence of n gods.”

      This is a false premise. An atheist isn’t necessarily someone who believes in the existence of 0 gods.

      1. Farouk

        If that premise is false you should easily find some counter examples. So what other number than zero fits an atheists answer to the question: “How many gods do you believe to exist?”
        (Yes, I want an answer to that.)

        As soon as “god” is sufficiently defined (however that definition may look like) you’ve gotta be able to come up with one or more numbers as an answer.
        Another answer could be of course a simple: “I don’t know. I cannot know.” BAM! Agnosticism, as most people understand it, outside of intellectual masturbation circles.
        And now the kicker: Even the person giving said answer “I don’t know.” will actually hold believe in the existence of exactly zero gods, I would argue. But again: Feel free to come up with an other number than zero and your reasoning.

        1. Farouk

          Clarification:
          Even the person giving said answer “I don’t know.” will actually hold believe in the existence of exactly zero gods, if he can be described as an agnostic atheist, not an agnostic theist, I would argue.

  48. 48
    Chrish

    The way I see it (and my opinion counts for very little) is that atheism is not the problem here. Atheism is an individualistic statement, and no one gives a shit if your an atheist or not.

    An atheist by their self simply doesn’t believe in gods or the supernatural. BUT…when we get together and discuss or get around proselytizing religious folk what we usually become are anti-theists, and that’s what sticks in peoples craw, that’s where the negative view comes from and what get the most flack.

    We don’t get together to discuss our non belief. We get together to discuss how ridiculous a belief in gods and the supernatural really is. We point out facts for our position, we point out inaccuracies and fallacies in the opposing views and a lot of times ridicule them.

    We try our very best to not simply let everyone know that we don’t believe, but to tell everyone why they shouldn’t believe either. An atheist movement is passive, accomplishes nothing and isn’t even worthy of note, but the current anti-theist movement sees the problem and attempts to come up with a peaceable solution.

    I very proudly describe my self as an anti-theist because atheism isn’t enough.
    Atheism isn’t going to stop the blind devotion to an antiquated belief in some tyrant deity. It’s not going to stop the religious inspired bigotry and hatred, and it most certainly will not stop the march of those who would happily see this country run as a Theocracy.

    1. 48.1
      johnratcliff

      Chris,

      You state that an atheist doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Sorry, that’s not part of the dictionary definition of the word atheism. Atheism is a rejection of God/Gods. It says nothing about rejecting the supernatural.

      While it may be true that *most* atheists do not believe in the supernatural, it is not a requirement.

      A person can be an atheist and believe in UFOs, alien abductions, ghosts, telepathy, ESP, you name it. So long as that person doesn’t believe in any God/God’s they are still a textbook atheist.

      It’s yet one more reason that I reject the ‘atheism’ label because so many people assume that atheism=materialism.

      And, last I checked, materialism actually isn’t very well supported by our current scientific understanding of the nature of reality.

      John

  49. 49
    Oddree

    –That aside, here’s what bothers me about this video. Neil not only doesn’t want to be called an atheist — which is fine — but he went out of his way to make a video complaining about atheism–

    I really don’t think it is fair to say that Neil went out of his way to make a video complaining about atheism. Lots of people have interviewed Tyson and they are the ones who determine what to ask. I am sure someone went out of their way to asked him what he thought about this issue and he merely responded. It’s not like he set out with the goal of discussing this issue.

  50. 50
    Panurge

    NDG basically asks why there is a word for not believing in gods, when there isn’t a word for not golfing. Here’s the best reply I’ve seen to this question:

    (to paraphrase Michael Nugent):

    Atheism in the real world is like “not golfing” – in a society where almost everybody golfs, and most people believe that the inventor of golf created the universe, and that we have to read Golf Digest before we decide what’s right or wrong, or before we decide what laws to pass. And if we did live in such a world, I can assure you, there would be a word for not playing golf, and there would be conventions dedicated to discussing not playing golf.

  51. 51
    J.R. Reynolds

    In this video, Neil says sometin like’once you adopt a label, people assume things bout you becaue of that label’. Then later he goes on abot how “atheists behave”.

    If he is going to complain about being ‘labeled and therefor judged’, he could refrain from doing it himself.

  52. 52
    johnratcliff

    Umm..err…guys..It’s *all* semantics. Atheists acting like the word ‘God’ can be substituted as a boolean operation in a math equation is what seems to be causing a lot of these problems.

    It’s *all* semantics; top to bottom.

    I would love to have a ‘debate’ on this topic with someone from the self-professed ‘atheist’ community. You guys like to debate don’t you?

    It’s gotten so bad that even though I am an atheist/freethinker I don’t like to call myself an atheist because I cannot stand to be associated with the bone headed ideas I keep hearing espoused by most self-professed atheists in public discourse.

    You guys act like stating your are an atheist is tantamount to declaring that Jesus Christ is your personal savior. It’s some sort of purity symbol you require to prove positive your endorsement of the militant atheist agenda.

    I would welcome a debate on these semantic niceties with any taker.

    John

  53. 53
    sinceretheghost

    Kazim,
    You make it sound as if he went out of his way to “make” this video. It is obviously a segment of a bigger interview that was taking place. So, I don’t see where you got that idea from, which seems to be a big part of your discontent with the video itself.

    Also, he seems to be referring to New Atheism when he talks about the more oppositional forces that people think of when someone is labeled an Atheist, and why he would rather be considered Agnostic. I can understand how someone may not want to be connected to New Atheism for the exact reasons he gave at the beginning of the video- it creates assumptions/presumptions about the person before conversations even take place. As a scientist he might think it will be easier to create a dialogue with, and expand the mind’s of people, to the possibilities and validity of science (who may be religious) if he is not seen by them as such a contender to their faith. It is actually pretty smart from the position he is in as such a popular face in the country as a scientist. As far as the quip about the word Atheism, someone already mentioned he was borrowing from something Sam Harris already said.

    Basically, I think you really went too far in how you perceived what this video’s intentions were, as well as your misgivings with Tyson’s opinions in it. If anyone deserves to NOT be ridiculed by the Atheist community, it is this man, and anyone like him.

  54. 54
    Dean

    I sympathise with Tyson. The word “atheist” is a somewhat combative term. I suspect that he wants to engage with others, not fight with them. I suspect that he feels that calling himself an atheist will alienate him from certain people in our society. That’s why I usually call myself a “humanist” (i.e., whatever beliefs people have, I believe that human dignity, concerns, and capabilities matter most). However, I think it’s dangerous to *always* call one a humanist or an agnostic. The terms are a bit vague, a bit wishy-washy, and open to gross mis-interpretation. A theist might think: “Ha! He’s merely undecided! He is not convinced one way or the other.” In fact, it is clear that Tyson is not wholly agnostic. He is a skeptic, a critical thinker. Because there is no evidence that god exists (and no evidence that a god is even necessary or even remotely likely), he, Tyson, doesn’t believe in god. This makes him at least an atheist-agnostic. And we live in a time when we have to be clear and concise, especially in public. To quote Stephen Fry: “At a time when the achievements of the enlightenment are questioned, ridiculed, misunderstood and traduced by those who would reverse the progress of mankind, it is essential to nail one’s colours to the mast as a humanist
    “For me, that is not a turning away from mystery or a cold rational dispute with the numinous and spiritual in life, it is an acceptance of the awesome and splendid responsibility we each have for our own destinies, ethics and morals. I repudiate the authority of churches, revealed texts and vain unsubstantiated assertions and embrace the shared glories of humanity’s intellectual and spiritual struggle to understand the universe into which we are born with honesty, openness and faith in our own natures.”
    This is why I adopt the label “atheism”, because I need atheists to understand that I do not believe in god or in their religion. I think Tyson should do the same. But I still like him!

    1. 54.1
      Greg

      I agree. I think that avoiding the label of “atheist”, in favor of “agnostic”, is a tacit apology for not believing in God. Perhaps the word “atheist” is a bit more “in your face”, but it’s also honest and accurate. It’s time non-believers came “out of the closet”.

  55. 55
    Dean

    I meant to say: This is why I *also* adopt the label “atheism”, because I need *theists* to understand that I do not believe in their god or their religion.

  56. 56
    subzerobob

    what happens when an average joe sees Neil deGrasse Tyson (NDT) denounce atheism publicly like that? And especially since atheists had already claimed NDT as their own. In Your Face, atheists! LOL!
    atheism is hard stand, and as by definition alone – the belief that there is no god, doesnt leave room for sceptism at all. When you say that you cannot disprove the existence of god, because there isnt any such thing as god, you are affirming your belief that there is no god, and you are not providing any proof at all. sceptism leaves room, and in such way does actualy state a belief that god could possibly exist. when you start throwing terms like agnostic atheist or not a hardcore atheist, thats when you start pissing at the wind and makes your apperant hardstand not so apparent after all, and more so the proof that i’ve knocked you out of your balance and in a sense won your mind games battle.
    Signed: Bobby

    1. 56.1
      Martin Wagner

      You’ve been corrected on this idea that atheism is a “hard stand” a million fucking times, and it’s getting tiresome correcting what seems to be willful stupidity on your part. If you insist on turning into one of those dishonest idiots who refuses to listen to anything we have to say and attempts to dictate our position to us, then I for one am through with you.

      1. subzerobob

        i am sorry, i apologize! i forgot what you’ve told me and i had to look it up again in the dictionary.
        but anyway something even more troublesome emerges here – how would you treat idiots like me in your perfect “humanity is all we have” society? round up the idiots like me in concentration camps and shoot us? very humanitarian approach! rather than just love us, take care of us and be friendly with us?! Love you man! Peace and take care!

        1. Question Everything

          how would you treat idiots like me in your perfect “humanity is all we have” society? round up the idiots like me in concentration camps and shoot us? very humanitarian approach!

          Who the fuck is advocating that!? Where the hell did you come up with that? Someone criticizes your beliefs and you immediately jump to death camps? Seriously, that is some fucked up internal logic you’ve got going on…

          You might want to take a hard look at yourself… just saying…

          1. subzerobob

            your language is extremely vulgar! both of you! and that is what is advocating that! that and history shows that rowdy crowds do such unthinkable things as burning witches. if there is one faith in humanity that i have, is that there will always be certain people, maybe not particularly the two of you, that would be stupid enough to get rowdy enough to commit such horrific atrocities. and it is vulgar language that is the spark to such behaviors of the low. and the fuel that could keep it going to unseen extreme – is the belief that there is no god.
            you guys [atheists] remind me – and not just because of your odd choice of haircuts, but the lack of understanding of certain divine truths; you [atheists] remind me of the “observers” from the fringe show. when the observers rounded up and shot “natives” on the street during “the purge.” I can’t think of a better example of how the earth would look like under atheist [observers] rule than watching the fringe episode “letters of transit” There is also another episode where September seemed so puzzled that Peter Bishop “bled through” and September said something like: “I guess you call this love” That is the ultimate final cross over step for a scientist is when you completely disregard feelings to the point that you don’t even feel them anymore. etc. etc. etc. call this rambling, i don’t care. I am communicating to you by trying to express my feelings, and that’s why it probably looks like rambling to you, cuz you’re just an advanced observer who’s lost touch with feelings. this is the resistance! Bishop: “Resistance must take place at any opportunity!”

          2. Question Everything

            Subzerobob-

            I find your casual accusations of mass psychopathy of the atheist community to be much more vulgar than any swears I could hope to think up. As I recall, it was Christians who went around burning witches, not atheists. Methinks you are projecting…

            I have not seen the episode you are referring to, but it sounds like you have a very dehumanizing view of atheists. You might want to stop telling us what you think we would do and try asking us what we would actually do.

            Also, yes it looks like you are rambling. Not because you are speaking from a place of emotion, but because your points are disjointed and make no sense in the context of the discussion. Emotions are fine and dandy, but they do not lead you to a cogent argument. I am no dispassionate vulcan, you just got done chastising me for being too vulgar! I would say I had a fair bit of emotion in my post as well… which makes your points seem laughably detached from reality.

          3. subzerobob

            look at what atheists do, and tell me that isn’t rowdy and antagonizing:

            caller Bobby’s idea of reality is scary, hope he doesn’t have any kids.
            spareaxe 3 days ago

            Bobby has a stupid sounding voice.
            jmhizon83

            Just wait to you hear Rei… 10x dumber voice!
            tourettesdetectives

            fucking trolls.
            803brando

            MY GOD MY GOD MY GOD …
            SHUT UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!
            Beastkingzetta

            Lmao Bobby is so fucking stupid.. and he’s not even trolling haha
            Scooda912

            Hey Bobby ,
            PLEASE don’t have any kids .
            Thanks .
            fekinel

            He probably believes contraceptives are evil. We’re pretty much fucked.
            BareknuckleRoo

            Darn it, Bobbeh!
            BohemianBlasphemy

            That boy ain’t right, I tell you what…
            BohemianBlasphemy

            That’s your brain on theism.
            Xiknyn

            Shut up Bobby!
            TheMagicRobot

            … and down the abyss we go. if this is not 21st century burning witches, i don’t know what else is? The dogma is strong with atheists, and you guys are not showing this antagonizing, adverse effect on regular every day society that atheism has on majority of those of us who look at experience subjectively.

          4. Martin Wagner

            if this is not 21st century burning witches, i don’t know what else is?

            It’s not. It’s people on the internet making fun of you and your arguments. If you honestly can’t tell the difference between that and being killed, then I’d say their perception of your thinking is not inaccurate.

          5. Question Everything

            Subzerobob-

            So, let me see if I have this straight… Telling someone to shut up on the internet is the equivalent of burning someone alive at the stake? I am sure all those girls were thinking “At least they did not tell me my voice sounded stupid!” as the flames were scorching their flesh and smoke was filling their lungs. Their screams of agony were likely much subdued by the comfort they felt at not having some stranger send them an anonymous telegram that read “Don’t have kids, please” on it.

            Do you seriously believe this?

          6. subzerobob

            i’ve actually seen a comment asking me to kill myself. but that comment was removed by the guy who runs the youtube channel. i also see that you guys are getting the same comments via email, and that’s not right! silencing my soul, or anybody’s soul, these days is comparable to burning witches in the 21st century, because it just the next logical step if we didn’t have this kind of control in modern times.

          7. Question Everything

            Subzerobob-

            But they did not silence your soul. They made a comment on the internet. Equating your hurt feelings with actual physical violence and death is absurd.

            Death threats are not OK. But anonymously telling someone on the internet they should kill themselves is still worlds away from actually strapping someone to a stake and burning them alive. If you cannot see the difference then there is a lot more wrong with your beliefs than just god belief.

          8. subzerobob

            thanks, that actually makes me feel better… [not!]
            knowing that there are people out there expressing what they really feel [anonymously mind you; which is the only way to show true colors] and what they really feel is the need for apocalyptic and utter annihilation. yes, we are indeed capable of being gods in our minds, the gods of total destruction. i will comment now on the other post under TAE #756 in the same line of thinking and why I am never giving up my misanthropy, regardless of “how good” some atheist make me want to feel, which is just deliberate enough to make me want to believe in them so that they can win some stupid pointless argument.

          9. subzerobob

            did you know that in the “population sample” [sort to speak], – the people who have attempted to commit suicide, the overwhelming majority are atheists? And here we have atheist telling us that they appreciate humanity much more once they become atheists. But this for me is an extremely moronic statement, because the biggest disappoints and heartbreaks, even bigger than natural scarcity and limited resources and abilities due to the limitations of space and time; the biggest of them all – come from humanity! Then how can you anchor yourself to humanity this way?

            do you ever think this: “Uhrr, I hate myself!”? If yes, then how can you be sure that that there is a person out there for you that is flawless, who never hates himself or herself, someone that is the perfect match for you [as a response to love and compassion; the hopeless romantic argument] who you will unconditionally love forever, even if you can’t unconditionally love yourself!? what’s the guarantee that if you hate yourself, you won’t hate him or her?
            In other words, this perfect match person exists, he or she is exactly like you, and you love him or her always and forever – even if sometimes you can’t stand your own damn self?

            the detectable ways that god exists is not through science alone, in that I mean materialism alone, the way is through feeling. feeling for an intent for the existence of life. your everyday will to stay alive, is God in your life
            When you are sick, or unconscious, you continue to live because of your natural given will to stay alive (or God) kicks in and takes control. You can say that God is caring you on his shoulders and moving you forward.

            therefore it is inherent that in your deepest self you believe there is a God, otherwise you would loose this will to stay alive, and kill yourself. But the biggest proof that there is an intent to stay alive, is the fact that there are so many unsuccessful suicide attempts. In other words, even if you loose the will to live, the rest of what your experience is comprised of, continues to fight on on this basic principle of intent to stay alive. For me the ultimate suicide or disproof of intent is to loose the will to live on the micro cellular level and spontaneously combust.

            The most important part is to remember that this life is not yours to take away. it is given to you. Once you agree on this point, then that will be your ultimate proof that God exists through the power of intention. God is this will to stay alive and continue to fight and carry on.

          10. Martin Wagner

            I’m really starting to get a headache from all this. I feel like I lose 10 IQ points with every sentence I read.

          11. sinceretheghost

            It is not an overwhelming majority, but its not surprising you would use such drastic language..not to mention without any actual numbers. Regardless, there is no causal link between atheism and committing suicide, if anything one person’s depression and hopelessness that leads them to suicide also creates a disdain for the god they thought would help them in a time of despair but did no such thing, thereby leading to their rejection of his existence. Also, there are punishments for suicide within religious dogma that stops people from going through with such a horrible act and as this is a good thing, there is nothing to say their beliefs do anything to alleviate their pain. So religion cannot claim any prominence over atheism in terms of mental health. It can only try and make assertions as to its benefits in light of what sick people choose to do in taking their life. It’s unfortunate that people like yourself will manipulate information in any attempt to validate a belief in god, once again pretending to know something, this time what it is that goes on in another persons head. It’s shameful.

          12. subzerobob

            sinceretheghost says:
            May 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm
            if anything one person’s depression and hopelessness that leads them to suicide also creates a disdain FOR THE GOD THEY THOUGHT WOULD HELP THEM IN A TIME OF DESPAIR BUT DID NO SUCH THING, thereby leading to their rejection of his existence.

            OMG! Here is the problem! Your view of god!
            ok, i rarely speak of “personal experience” but I feel I need to say where I am coming from here.
            I was born in an atheistic country [at that time]. Before I was born – it was against the law to go to church. the bible and the koran, were forbidden to be even mentioned in school. Only after I turned 4th grade is when things started to change, so i got a chance to familiarize myself with the “native” religion before I left. it was kind of mystical, the least to say. But when I came to america, in Arkansas at that time, i encountered a much stranger, more fundamental and literal religion, and i despised it myself due to its outlandish claims! I want to say that it seems to me that you are the product of this religion, you awoke and you are going to where I was born from. Now, I am not sick, I am not even depressed, but when I was there, i didn’t think that god would help me at all. However, it didn’t lead to my rejection of god at all! It actually led me to what I call – the true feeling of god, or understanding of what god is and how god works. it was when i was reflecting on the perfect suicide, by means of loosing your intent not only in your mind, but subjectively forcing that intent for non existence down to your molecules and wishing to spontaneously combust in order to arrive at the perfect suicide. meaning that i would not want to be freakishly revived in be missing body parts or confined to a bed for the rest of my life. that is when it occurred to me that it doesn’t matter what i think, everything else in my existence will continue to fight and continue its intent to live. cell will continue to multiply and replace dead cells, and attempt to revive me. this is the will and intent to live that is beyond me. that is divine in nature. that is god. your will to stay alive, just like the laws of the universe have all led down to this moment for you to discover, and i can’t describe that to you unless you experience it for yourselves. and it is funny that you mentioned humanity, and that you anchor yourself to humanity, because humanity is what led me to that awful place to begin with. my utter distrust in everything everyone says, especially religions and atheist alike. the truth is in the middle and I just feel compelled to share that with you. be it my purpose, be it for advocating life, i love you and i wish you love me too! peace be with you! goodnight!

          13. Question Everything

            I am done with you bob… I have said my piece.

            Take a week off, then come back and reread these comments. Of everyone here, you are the only one talking about death camps and killing people. I pity you, but you are not worth my time.

        2. subzerobob

          Martin Wagner says:
          May 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm
          I’m really starting to get a headache from all this. I feel like I lose 10 IQ points with every sentence I read.

          martin, only 10% per sentence? i’m flattered! :-) it means the longer my sentences, the more chance I have to stay right above complete moron :-) and even if I am a complete moron, so what? empirical evidence shows that in america people with mental disabilities get further in life, simply because everyone else feels sorry for them. federal grants, assistance, no disabled child left behind, etc. etc. the love is enormous! i love america! so propel me further in life, love me, don’t kill me! don’t brush me off, for I carry within a chance for undiscovered talent! feed me! I am hungry like a moronic wolf!

          1. Martin Wagner

            You’re just goofing with us now, aren’t you, Bob?

          2. subzerobob

            if you can’t tell, then you’ve really lost touch with your feelings dude…
            just like Sheldon Cooper from TBBT tv show, who has to be told every time somebody uses sarcasm.
            i love you man, and i love the sheldon character, and i believe that we can all perfectly co-exist in the same family of humanity, as long as we all remain pacifists

          3. Martin Wagner

            You’re a wacky guy, Bob!

          4. subzerobob

            Martin Wagner says:
            May 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm
            You’re a wacky guy, Bob!

            …what worries me is not how wacky i am, but the fact that I don’t see a smiley face at the end of that statement! :-)

          5. Martin Wagner

            Come on, you don’t have to be told every time, right? :-P

          6. subzerobob

            you made my day! :-) and it is only 7AM here! now i can go to work happy knowing that there is hope for peace!

          7. subzerobob

            Question Everything says:
            May 16, 2012 at 7:19 am
            “I am done with you bob… I have said my piece.
            Take a week off, then come back and reread these comments. Of everyone here, you are the only one talking about death camps and killing people. I pity you, but you are not worth my time.”

            ahh, it’s been two weeks, and nothing has changed in my views, except that the host Matt spoke about wiping out all religions! i can’t shake off the feeling that a war is coming if not in the so distant future…

            oh that, and now I am thinking that my views of the world are panentheistic [rather than deistic] for a lack of a better word… I still wouldn’t call it a belief, because that would mean that i am subscribing to something that is religiously organized and hence perhaps falsifiable. My views are called for by means of observations. If anything i’ve shown to you, i hope, is how unorganized my views of the divine are, and hence hardly a religious standpoint at all.

            Albert Einstein, amongst several other scientists, held a panentheistic view of God, and named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein’s belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram:
            “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

            Einstein had previously explored this belief that man could not understand the nature of God in an interview published in 1930 in G. S. Viereck’s book Glimpses of the Great explaining:

            “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

  57. 57
    Greg

    It is likely Neil was never religious. There seems to be an essential difference between atheists who were once religious, and those who never were. Those who have never been religious, I think, have the luxury of being much more dispassionate about their atheism, and often cannot understand why anyone would make it a central topic of their daily discourse. Also, there seems to be much more of a stigma attached to the word “atheist”, than there is to the word “agnostic”, primarily because of the widespread misunderstanding of the meanings of these words. Atheism is widely interpreted as a positive assertion or downright certainty about the non-existence of God, and is therefore seen as arrogant or evil, whereas “agnostic” is seen as a more “humble” stance. So, many people who are clearly atheist, prefer to call themselves agnostics. The fact is, the majority of atheists are probably agnostic. But they are nonetheless atheists, simply because they lack a positive belief in God.

  58. 58
    subzerobob

    you atheists don’t know with anymore certainty that god doesn’t exist, just the same way as people who claim that god exists. if anything you owe your existence to people who claim that god exists. if it wan’t for these people – you got nothing. and yet, instead of choosing to pay these people homage, you chose to take the deliberare stance to provoke and agrovate them with the “god doesn’t exist, it makes me puke” – in their face. You ware your badge so proudly, without really knowing, and then you ask yourselves – why would someone who should technically be just like you, isnt…

    1. 58.1
      Martin Wagner

      you atheists don’t know with anymore certainty that god doesn’t exist, just the same way as people who claim that god exists.

      Yes, but as you’ve had explained to you approximately a thousand times, the believers have the burden of proof in the question, so the point is moot.

      if anything you owe your existence to people who claim that god exists.

      Uh…I guess…maybe…in the same way that people who don’t believe in unicorns “owe their existence” to people who do, or that people opposed to white supremacism “owe their existence” to white supremacists.

      if it wan’t for these people – you got nothing.

      If it wasn’t for these people, the World Trade Center would still be standing, plus we’d never have had the Crusades, anti-Jewish pogroms, the Salem Witch Trials, and on and on. On balance, I’d say it’s not a bad thing that some of us choose to stand against stuff like that.

      and yet, instead of choosing to pay these people homage, you chose to take the deliberare stance to provoke and agrovate them with the “god doesn’t exist, it makes me puke”

      See above. People who believe things that aren’t true, and who harm others based on those beliefs, deserve a little provocation. They deserve a lot of it. What I don’t see they deserve is “homage.” How does that even make sense? “We shall now pay homage to your institutionalized ignorance and irrationality.” Yeah, that’ll work.

      – in their face. You ware your badge so proudly, without really knowing, and then you ask yourselves – why would someone who should technically be just like you, isnt…

      The only thing I wonder is why you appear to be getting more rambling and incoherent every single time you post.

      1. sinceretheghost

        Nice response Martin. That “argument” was certainly the most incoherent that I’ve seen of all the ones I come across. It defines “poe” in my opinion. If that person is truly serious with what they said, it is hard to distinguish from a joke.

      2. subzerobob

        i’m loosing it martin, i’m loosing it…
        maybe because this post is long that i can’t scrow anymore, and especially on my tiny phone at morning break at work, or maybe its because i was trying to put more feeling to what NDT was saying. going at religious freaks is fine by me, but thats not what this post is about and def. not NDT is saying by being a pacifist or whtevr

        1. subzerobob

          there are two types of theists for me
          1. believe there is a god
          2. believe in god in the sense that they can get god on their side
          i am certainly the first kind, and i also believe that we are in god’s image, meaning that we are capable of being gods ourselves, even though the only thing we have figured out how to do is to destroy not just the planet but each other. it is funny how we are the only species that can commit pre-meditated murder of the same species, thinking that this somehow will advance the continuity of oneself and our own species all at the same time.

          with that being said (killing etc)
          Why do we need to present the world with the illusion of choice: paper or plastic, democrat or republican, atheist or theist? Isn’t this just another deliberate separation? Means to arrive to another simplified political choice and hence real control of the masses? Is atheism just a beta test like in this commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_elqLDSt36k replace the words “smartphone” or “phone” with the words [atheism] or [atheist] however it fits, and the [Nokia Lumia 900] part with [theism], a beta test to stimulate the search and true discovery of god, why does it have to have this all-out-war approach to it? Why can’t it be simply a beta test until the final product is “FDA Approved” kind of way…

          1. subzerobob

            … about the “FDA approved” stamp, and I know I am going to get a lot of kicks from you guys, is the fact that on the federal level, everything mentions god. the currency, the constitution, even the pledge of allegiance. in other words, for thousands of years people have battled this seemingly easy problem, and even in the dawn of new age of science, we can’t explain a simple thing like the subjectivity of consciousness. Moreso, the “fight” prevails with the winners manifested at the federal level. Namely – the currency, the constitution and even the pledge of allegiance are “under god”. History is written by the victors, and I do believe that we have a true democracy which still allows you to come on top, but yet [keeping it in perspective to what this post is about, namely NDT] – unless you start convincing people like NDT to call themselves atheists, you are wasting your battles and soldiers with the regular folk. You should focus your efforts on the 40% of scientists in the world, who are religious – pray to a personal god! It is the yes to that question that should be your main trouble, not me, not even the federal (that should follow, because we are truly democratic). You are lucky that it is only 40% of scientists! In a sense you have less of a battle to go through! Don’t get bloody now, save yourselves for the battles that really count! Or be a pacifist just like NDT, which is what I would prefer!

            [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbvDYyoAv9k&w=420&h=315

          2. subzerobob

            “history hasn’t been kind to atheist” and i predict that it never will. so, until further notice, and as far as skepticism is concerned with finding god, i prefer to stay on the winning side, until further notice :-)

          3. Martin Wagner

            “history hasn’t been kind to atheist” and i predict that it never will.

            Well, it’s heading that way, actually. The European democracies are almost completely secular and have a high standard of living, while the world’s most religious nations are in terrible shape with a low standard of living. But if history has been unkind to atheists, that just says more about the people being unkind, than anything about the atheists they’re unkind toward. History hasn’t been kind to women, black people or Jews either. But doesn’t mean the ones maltreating them deserve to be thought of as the “winning side” whom you should envy and want to join, unless “winning” to you has nothing to do with things like truth or human decency. But you’re pretty confused on every single issue you try to discuss, so it’s no surprise you’re confused on that as well.

            Now, are you just going to keep flooding the comments with rambling foolishness all night?

          4. subzerobob

            Martin Wagner says:
            May 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm

            The European democracies are almost completely secular and have a high standard of living, while the world’s most religious nations are in terrible shape with a low standard of living.

            let’s talk empirical shell we?

            Lack of Importance of Religion in Europe
            by Gallup poll (2007–2008)
            Country Percentage
            1.Estonia 84% [former "eastern block"]
            2.Sweden 83% [highly socialist! almost communist!]
            3. Denmark 80% [feudalistic]
            4. Norway 78% [still overwhelmingly socialist]
            5.Czech Republic 74%
            6.France 73%
            7.United Kingdom 71%
            8.Finland 69% [socialist]
            9.Netherlands 66% [feudalistic]
            10.Belarus 65%
            11.Albania 63%
            12.Bulgaria62%
            13.Latvia 62%
            14.Belgium 61%
            15.Hungary 59%
            16.Slovenia 59%
            17.Spain 59%
            18.Germany 57%
            19.Switzerland 56%
            20.Ukraine 54%
            21.Lithuania 52%
            22.Slovakia 51%
            23.Montenegro 48%
            24.Serbia 45%
            25.Austria 42%
            26.Ireland 42%
            27.Moldova 31%
            28.Croatia 30%
            29.Greece 30%
            30.Armenia 29%
            31.Bosnia and Herzegovina 29%
            32.Portugal 27%
            33.Italy 26%
            34.Cyprus 24%
            35.Poland 23%
            36.Macedonia 20%
            37.Romania 18%
            38.Turkey 9%

            so while there are countries from both east and the west at the top and the bottom, one emergent pattern is obvious — former “eastern block” aka communist countries rule this chart of secularism.

            now lets look at the top 10 of an actual GDP chart of economies of Europe and lets see where they are on the secularism list

            Nominal GDP list by the International Monetary Fund[1]
            (sortable; in billions of $US)
            2010
            Rank Country 2007 2008 2009 2010
            1 Germany 3,333 3,651 3,338 3,315
            2 France 2,598 2,865 2,656 2,582
            3 United Kingdom 2,812 2,679 2,178 2,247
            4 Italy 2,119 2,307 2,118 2,055
            5 Russia 1,299 1,666 1,231 1,465
            6 Spain 1,444 1,601 1,467 1,409
            7 Netherlands 783 877 796 783
            8 Turkey 649 730 614 741
            9 Switzerland 434 502 491 523
            10 Poland 425 529 430 468

            so where are these countries on the secular list
            –Germany #1 in GDP; #18 in secular, hmmm way after poor third world communists…!?
            and may I add that Germany is so far ahead of anybody else in GDP, is not even funny! Why isn’t Germany not even in the top 10 in secular? Oh yeah! I forgot! Cuz they have those poor old communists oppression soul mass murders to move out the way…
            what’s that?! your statement is debunked? refuted?
            –France #2 in GDP; #6 in secular, but that’s cuz the french are highly biased and discriminatory against the Muslims. they have them tucked away in the french ghettos and forgotten them. probably don’t even include them in their census at all, or just guess it cuz they are too afraid to go down to the ghetto to conduct any kind of… anything
            –the almighty UK, [home of richard dawkins and christopher hitchens] #3 in GDP; #7 in secular. After Sweden and the Czechs? The question is – why aren’t they #1 in secular? after all that’s the home of the leaders of new atheism!? And the answer is – they have too many foreigners which are listed on their census as their ethnic background, nor religious orientation. So they should be much lower on the secular chart as well.
            –Italy #4 in GDP; #33 in secular. Well they house the Vatican after all… No surprise here… But can I mention the Roman Empire? Once the center of everything “high standard of living” in the world! Nowadays they are still living off that long lasting fame and good life! Along with religion. Perfect example is Leonardo, and I quote: “We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God.” In the 1550, an autobiographer wrote about Leonardo, “his cast of mind was so heretical that he did not adhere to any religion, thinking perhaps that it was better to be a philosopher than a Christian.”
            –Russia #5 in GDP; Russia in Europe?! Hmm, but oh well We can just take Armenia from secular to compare #30 in secular, cuz the Orthodox religion in Russia is absolutely huge!
            the rest are kinda obvious aren’t they? Spain #6 GDP and #17 in secular; Netherlands #7 GDP and #9 in secular; Turkey #8 in GDP and LAST in secular; Switzerland #9 in GDP and #19 in secular; Poland #10 in GDP and #35 in secular [after all – where does the pope

            SO TO SUMMARIZE – ONLY 3 OF TOP 10 HIGH GDP COUNTRIES IN EUROPE ARE IN THE TOP 10 SECULAR COUNTRIES IN EUROPE. HARDLY THE “almost completely secular” THAT YOU MENTIONED, NO?! HMM, WONDER WHAT ELSE DID I LISTEN TO YOU ABOUT AND THOUGHT YOU WERE CORRECT?!

            Now, are you just going to keep flooding the comments with rambling foolishness all night?

            ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ME OR YOU?
            I GUESS I HAVE TO DO WHAT I DO, IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT THE WORLD WOULD STAY SANE?!

            BTW – I had a great idea about your show. Why do you have 2 atheists against 1 theist caller? the battle doesn’t seem fair. 2 to 1?! it’s like beating up kids in high school. why don’t you have me on hold on every show and ask me to comment on every theist caller? I think that would be fair. adding 1 wild card to balance the forces 2 to 2. i’m just saying – mix it up a little bit. afterall – i’m kinda atheist friendly by means of my pacifism.

  59. 59
    David R

    Don’t forget Einstein, he also was uncomfortable with the term Atheist and even expressed contempt at the so called professional atheist and was very upset that atheists tried to use his name and bite off his fame to help progress their movement. Einstein was not a Christian or orthodox Jew, and he made references to Spinoza’s god but he MOST CERTAINLY was not atheist. The problem with most so called atheists is that they have a really annoying tendency to claim any movement that is not Christian. Pantheism = Atheism, Agnostic = Atheism, Buddhist = Atheism. So in closing count Einstein as a physicist who didn’t like atheism either…

    1. 59.1
      Martin Wagner

      Where do you get the idea Einstein “MOST CERTAINLY was not atheist”? His own writings pretty clearly refute that view.

      “…The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this.”

      If you have any verifiable sources backing up your additional claim that Einstein “was very upset that atheists tried to use his name and bite off his fame to help progress their movement,” I’d like to see those too, especially as, at the time, I cannot think of anything like an existing atheist “movement” that could possibly have been doing this.

    2. 59.2
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      This reminds me of Sagan, who had a similar position. Sagan and Einstein both appeared to have beliefs about a personal god indistinguishable from the common modern day self identified atheist, including the hosts of the show. They just didn’t like the word “atheist” and its cultural connotations. Doesn’t change the fact that they lacked a belief in (a personal) god.

      You could call my dog “god”, and I would then believe in god under your dishonest definitions. Similarly, Spinoza’s god is not a “real” god any more than my dog. It’s a misuse of terms if you drop “Spinoza’s” from “Spinoza’s god”.

  60. 60
    David R

    Wow, a verifiable claim that Einstein was not an Atheist where should I start? Are you a physicist? Do you know anything about Einstein other than the cherry picked quotes you get from wikipedia? Try reading a book like Einstein: His Life and Universe and flip to the chapter Einstein’s God, in case you don’t want to here are some great cherry picked quotes that hopefully will make you at least flip through more books and wikipedia and the interwebs for the next 50 minutes desperately trying to rebut the immutable fact that…Einstein was no atheist. Its basically no different that this article. Tyson can come right out and say I’m no athesist and yet atheists who just want him to be one so bad so they can be in his company claim him and say “well he really is he just doesn’t want to say it.” Thats not only ignorant its simply untrue and speaks volume to the atheist flag planters who claim any philosophy that isn’t Christian as atheist.

    Einstein said while talking about his hatred of Quantum Mechanics “God doesn’t play dice,” this was in regards to QM’s innate unknowability and randomness within the universe. Einstein didn’t like that things in the universe where random and unknowable and believed in a higher transcendent power that created order and he desperately wanted to find the unified theory or equation for, well the universe and everything, impossible to do if your an atheist because most atheists believe its just a fantastic set of random occurrences that gave rise to our species over the course of 16 billion years. A set of circumstances so fantastic and truly unbelievable it would be akin to winning the NY state powerball lottery every day for a year on the same set of numbers.

    Einstein said quote: “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.” (one of my favorite quotes lol, and describes so many atheists i know!!) Later he blatently said again “The fanatical atheists are creatures who cannot hear the music of the spheres. I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” How much more plainly can he say I’m no atheist and that he thinks atheists as a group are off kilter? In Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography “Einstein: His Life and Universe” it provides ample evidence that Einstein not only believed in a higher or transcendent power, but also that Einstein despised atheists. Two more for the road: Einstein said “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of nature a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.” “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.” So when you say Einstein’s God was nature that makes him squarely not atheist.

    So I’m sure your next argument will be his rejection or personal gods and you’ll probably mention Spinoza, and before you do let me stop you and say if you believe in Spinoza’s god and Pantheism you are not atheist. Dawkins says you are but its just another case of the atheist camp planting a flag on anything that isn’t Christian. Jew’s don’t claim Christians, Muslims don’t claim Jews why do atheists claim everyone who isn’t Christian? Atheism is the rejection of all dieties. Spinoza had an elaborate though misguided mathmatcial proof for proving the existance of god. Most atheist doctrines don’t start out let me prove god, phew now thats done, Im atheist! Come on guys. So I can easily accept Einstein was no orthodow Jew or Christian why is so hard for atheists to accept he was no atheist or for that matter why is it so hard for atheists (even in this article) to accept Neil DeGrasse Tyson is also not an atheist. I’ll tell you my opinion why: Most professional atheists have a firm belief that science and religion are incompatible however over 40% of polled American scientists disagree. How can it be that scientists can be religious? I would say their belief is that science is simply the study of God’s Laws and how it was done but they care more about the how not why. God created the universe and physics at the big bang (if you believe in the big bang which takes a pretty good bit of faith in and of itself I mean where did the singularity come from ?) and from that point on man has struggled to understand science because by mastering the laws of physics we become more godlike in the process.

    1. 60.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      I’ll respond to the rest later, maybe, but I do want to talk about this common fallacy of math and probability.

      impossible to do if your an atheist because most atheists believe its just a fantastic set of random occurrences that gave rise to our species over the course of 16 billion years. A set of circumstances so fantastic and truly unbelievable it would be akin to winning the NY state powerball lottery every day for a year on the same set of numbers.

      I want you to do a (thought) experiment for me. I want you to go to Vegas, and play standard 5 card poker for 8 hours a day, for 5 days straight. I want you to record the exact hands you were dealt and record the order they were dealt. After those 5 days, I want you to calculate the “probability” that you were dealt those exact hands in that exact order. Nigh infinitesimal, isn’t it? Yet neither you nor I are likely to dispute that it happened. In fact, let’s suppose you had a video recording of the entire proceedings, with several signed affidavits of eye witness testimony and so on. I would call it unusual and maybe even perverse for someone to deny that you got those exact hands in that exact order. Do you really want to claim that it didn’t happen because the “probability” was so low?

      Your argument from probability is incredibly naive and ignorant. Please learn some basic math and probability before doing that again. See: “conditional probability”.

    2. 60.2
      Martin Wagner

      Do you know anything about Einstein other than the cherry picked quotes you get from wikipedia?

      Do you know that I wasn’t linking to Wikipedia, but to an actual document written by Einstein himself, where, in his own words, he rejects theism?

      I’ve read the Isaacson biography, and went back to consult the various passages on atheism. Einstein, indeed, did not like being associated with those who attacked religion. I can see this as being a natural feeling, stemming from his cultural heritage. But his own ideas about “God” are still symbolic, a la “Spinoza’s God,” representative of his feelings of awe at his understanding of the universe. (And this is where I’d part company with Einstein. I see no reason to attach mystical and divine labels to the universe to share feelings of awe about it. In fact I think such labels cheapen it.) He didn’t believe in a personal God like the Abrahamic God, and his distancing himself from outspoken atheists doesn’t negate his own rejection of theism, spelled out in his letter. There are quite a number of outspoken atheists I don’t like, and don’t like to be associated with, and openly criticize. Doesn’t make me a believer, though.

      God created the universe and physics at the big bang (if you believe in the big bang which takes a pretty good bit of faith in and of itself I mean where did the singularity come from ?)

      Where did God come from?

      Anyway, the Big Bang has been confirmed.

      Another fun fact about Einstein. When he toured the US he charged $1 for autographs.

  61. 61
    David R

    Typical ad hominem attack from someone who realizes really quick I’m right, and need a quick distraction from teh point I made, which again is quite simply Einstein was no atheist. You want to argue math with me lol? I was making a bit of a joke on that stats example but truthfully there’s quite a bit of difference between the number 16 billion and playing poker for 8 hours a day for 5 days. I actually don’t care to argue with you on anything other than the topic at hand, I just want to make sure everyone including you realize Einstein was not an Atheist by his actions, or his own statement which said as much. Basically just like Tyson he said it accept it, move on, I’m not trying to get you to be a theist so try not to make a dead hero of mine an atheist. He said “I’m not an atheist…they make me angry…don’t care for the professional atheist.” How much more plain does it need to be? If Einstein was resurected from the dead by Jesus Christ and made a youtube mashup video with Psy for Gangnam Style and that sounded like op op op E=MC2 and then at the end said I’m no atheist while folding his arms and standing back to back with PSY I’m sure there would still be someone somewhere to deny it all. So take all the time you need to read wikipedia and then read the entry on Ethics and pantheism (don’t actually read Ethics that might take too long just stick with wikipedia) Throw together a few more quotes from Eistein about how he rejected a personal god and at the end of the day he will still squarely be… not atheist.

    1. 61.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      I’m going to take a note from Jeff Dee’s book. I’m not going to let you Gish Gallop me. I am not going to let you just throw out all the shit you can and see what sticks. To prevent you from using the Gish Gallop style, if I refute a point, you are going to agree with me that the point is refuted, or you are going to defend your point, or the conversation is over.

      You are the one who first brought up that completely ignorant and bogus argument of probability. I then rebutted it with a simple and clear straightforward counter-example.

      Afterwards, I called you ignorant. That is not an ad hominem. An ad hominem a form of “argument” where you dismiss an opponent’s argument by making an irrelevant attack on his character and not addressing the argument at hand. I did not do that. I clearly rebutted your argument, and then called you ignorant, which you are. You being entirely ignorant of how to apply probability to real life situations is not an irrelevant attack, aka an ad hominem. It is a substantiated observation of your complete lack of mathematical skill; I substantiated it just before stating so.

      It is not a good sign that you are throwing out names of fallacies (i.e. “ad hominem”) without understanding what the fallacy actually is. This is another example of you using Gish Gallop.

      I was making a bit of a joke on that stats example but truthfully there’s quite a bit of difference between the number 16 billion and playing poker for 8 hours a day for 5 days.

      This is what we call a “not-pology”. It looks like an apology, an admission that you are wrong, but it contains enough wiggle room that later you can claim you were error free. It is a dishonest tactic. Here, in a single sentence, you appear to maybe have admitted fault, but also said that my argument doesn’t apply to yours. Pick one. State clearly what your position is.

  62. 62
    David R

    And not for nothing but I love the song codemonkey my degree is in computer science :)

    Here’s a friendly salute to you 0\

    David

    1. 62.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      I actually have two bachelors, math and CS, from an accredited university even!

      1. David R

        Martin: your credibility has instantly risen sir, I commend you for being an informed debater and reader of actual books I realize it seemed like I implied you just read wikipedia only :) Kudos to you sir, it seems like there are so many of those type of people around, and you clearly are not one of them.

        However codemonkey your credibility continues to degrade, more ad hominem attacks, now my opinion is “throwing shit and seeing what sticks.” That would be a great statement on the university debate team…

        Anywho I digress, I’m not here to argue the existence of God. I’m not here to argue the big bang theory, hell it was a priest that came up with that theory and the Catholic Church doesn’t discount it!! I’m not here to argue mathematical statistics or the Spinoza mathematical proof of God Q.E.D. I’m not here to call atheism wrong (although I am a theist.) I’m simply here to call out you and any other atheist that tries to chisel the moniker of atheist on Einstein’s tombs stone as so many have. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to Tyson after he’s dead, I’m drawing parallels between Tyson and Einstein on that subject. Tyson is clearly an agnostic. Einstein clearly believed in Spinoza’s god. Now you say its misuse of the term if you drop Spinoza from god. Well Einstein did it all the time! Einstein was obviously Jewish but he absolutely did not accept the concept of what he called “a personal God.” A.K.A the God of Abraham. Codemonkey you are obviously an intelligent fellow, but can you please just stick to the point I’m trying to make, let’s not let it degrade into a God exists no he doesn’t neener neener. The question of God’s existence is not a question for science it cannot be proven any more than it can be disproven. God’s existence is now and always will be a matter of faith not science.

        Point blank Einstein was not an atheist. Refute it, I’m sure you will try for that matter call Neil deGrasse Tyson an atheist too, I mean sure he said he wasn’t (Just like Einstein many times…) but we all know what he meant I saw the wink wink nod nod at time index 00:23.

        To help you focus on my point and drop the rest, I will concede your correctness: I made a joke about the ridiculously small chance we are the product of pure randomness (which I precisely calculated as winning the NY lottery power ball every day in a row for a year) in a vast and infinite universe in a small part of a little known galaxy. In a universe whose age we can’t quite compute, surrounded by stars whose distances from us and each other we don’t altogether know, filled with matter we can’t identify, operating in conformance with physical laws whose properties we don’t truly understand. A planet in which we happened to be just the right distance from the sun, giving rise and fall over several mass extinctions events to the creatures that would have hampered our evolution, and at some point before that all happened our planet was struck by a planetoid which violently ejected a huge chunk out of our planet that coalesced into a moon that keeps us on just the right axis that allows the temperature and revolution of our day to be just right to support us all over the course of 16,000,000,000 years and you refuted it by saying well it could still happen! Ok you won that argument I guess, I mean hell the chances are probably like winning the lottery every day for a year with the same numbers but yeah i guess your right its still possible, the big bang doesn’t refute God, nor does that whole incredibly fantastic journey over the course of untold eons. Dishonest tactic exposed sir…I guess, I mean did you literally believe I sat down and crunched the numbers on an incalculable statistics problem and posted them that quickly? Lighten up man. I don’t dispute the big bang at all! I just think its a matter of how not why. That an analogy for science and religion/philosophy how and why. Spinoza’s god tries to marry it all together and make a feel good god for the masses.

        Moving on hopefully…Let me RESTATE my clear position: Einstein was not an Atheist. Once I asked an atheist if he might be open to Einstein being a deist although he wouldn’t even give an inch on that one! However Einstein wasn’t a deist. He absolutely believed in a transcendent higher power that created/was the universe. That was/is Spinoza’s God (not a symbolic god which is claimed by atheist flag planters), Just because Richard Dawkins said pantheism is sexed up atheism doesn’t make it so. I’m restating my clear sub position: Atheists tend to plant their flag on any philosophy that isn’t Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. My minor was philosophy and it was a decade ago but we dealt with Ethics and I never felt Spinoza was an atheist: caveat I’m no PHD however when Spinoza generated a mathematical proof to prove the existence of god he pretty it didn’t seem to me — a simple man –something that Atheists do at the beginning of a treatise. I’ve never seen Penn Jillette, Dan Barker, or Richard Dawkins start out debunking God by saying let me show you this proof on why God exists, that will form the basis of my philosophy.

        Now codemonkey focus: Einstein was not an atheist- Go! Also watch this video and start about 1:50 and then see the the correlation between Einstein and Neil. He also agrees that Atheist’s plant their flag on any different philosophies in so many words.

        1. Martin Wagner

          David R, if you don’t believe in a god, and your only use of the word “God” is as a metaphor for “feelings of awe about the universe,” then an atheist is what you are, whether you choose to call yourself one or not. You may not be an activist atheist, but really, all you need is unbelief. An anthropomorphic, creator deity is something Einstein stated clearly he didn’t believe in.

          1. David R

            I guess i would have to argue that this would be an example of atheists planting the flag on pantheism before it was pantheism. Spinoza’s god is universe and nature and that’s a valid point, I think Martin. Let me pose this:
            Let’s assume that for a moment that Spinoza was talking about a god that was metaphorical and that word should be interchangeable with Nature, and certainly many pantheists will tell you that, so I guess you might be able to argue Spinoza’s god wasn’t theistic but what about this:

            From “Ethics”
            PROP. XI. God, or substance, consisting of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, necessarily exists.
            Is anything in nature infinite? No. Also for that matter why do you need a mathematical proof to prove the existence of nature or the universe? That seems somewhat odd. It seems to me Monotheistic pantheism conceptualizes God as the all-inclusive essence or substance, maybe I’m wrong. These are some examples of when I hear Einstein (and others) say Spinoza’s god, I say not atheist. Spinoza’s god is an unconventional type of monotheism and yields at least some sense of spirituality. God of Abraham? No. Atheist? No. Theistic? Hesitant Yes. Einstein was squarely not an orthodox believer no question but definitely not atheist, and if this argument bears no merit because hell I minored in philosophy, Im no expert, I would simply say ok lets just go with what Einstein said then and to recap some of the doozies:
            Einstein said quote: “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.” (one of my favorite quotes lol, and describes so many atheists i know!!) Later he blatantly said again “The fanatical atheists are creatures who cannot hear the music of the spheres. I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of nature a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.” “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”
            So remember its not just me saying Einstein is no atheist and wanted no part of people quoting him for support on being an atheist (but what do so many people do….) that’s what he says too pure and simple.

          2. David R

            I disagree and I know at least one uber astrophysicist who would agree with me, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Want proof? Watch the video at the top of the page.

            Now codemonkey says you can be racist and say you’re not. So can you secretly be a theist and claim your an atheist too? Codemonkey is there something you want to tell us?

            Come on your hero must be Dan Barker, but at least Dan Barker will address the arguemnt and not just spin his wheels all day say “oh you’re rhetoric is so flawed i don’t even want to talk with you, you are so far beneath me!”

            Cause i’d say that’s the fallacy you are falling into, you don’t like the substance of my argument so you attack the rhetoric of the argument not the argument itself and claim itso facto victory by claiming straw man straw man!

            Come on man, face it. Einstein was not an atheist, Tyson not an atheist I know you want them to be. I know in your heart you want to put their bobble heads on your wall and feel good about knowing you are right but you’re wrong, don’t ask me ask them, well since Einstein’s dead just read what he wrote, but as for Tyson just watch the video at the top of the page….

  63. 63
    David R

    Martin your question about Where did God come from is absolutely a valid (and unanswerable question.) No different than where did this singularity come from that created our entire universe.

    I mean these are questions that we can’t know the answer to and I won’t even offer up a suggestion.

    The theist looks at things we don’t understand and say God! Faith!
    The atheist looks at things we don’t understand and says oh…my…Science (southpark reference) We just don’t understand it yet.

    I think its just that simple.

    1. 63.1
      Martin Wagner

      My layman’s understanding is that if the universe was a singularity up until the Big Bang, it would not have “come from” anywhere, if in fact it contained all the matter of the known universe in a point of infinite density. To suggest it would have had to “come from” somewhere implies, at the very least, the existence of another universe or realm for it to have come from. And now you have to explain the existence of that realm, which could lead you towards infinite regress, and that way lies madness. But it isn’t necessary. If the universe is defined as the set of all that exists (and I see no reason to define it any other way), then the singularity would have contained the entirety of existence, and cannot have “come from” anywhere.

      But you’re right: we don’t have the definite answer to that question, and I don’t claim to know for certain either. But at least science offers a method of inquiry to follow, which I’d say gives it several legs up on religion.

  64. 64
    David R

    Also Martin I guess perhaps its a matter of semantics.

    I (as the dictionary) define
    Atheism as a rejection of all dieties

    and likewise

    Theism as a belief in at least something (one or more dieties)

    So its simple binary, and we will throw in null for the agnostics.

    For my fellow computer scientist codemonkey I would make the analogy:

    Its simple boolean logic, one believes (1), another disbelieves (0) and then you have agnostics (null value)

    If Einstein believed in Spinoza’s god, then he was not atheist.
    If Einstein believed in no gods even the tree hugging god of Spinoza then he would be an atheist.
    If Einstein didn’t have an opinion or didn’t really care then he would be agnostic (like Tyson)

    Now after we all agree to the above then all thats left to do is refedine Spinoza’s God as “not really being a god” so that we can invalidate the above argument. I just don’t buy it and neither would Einstein.

    1. 64.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      I (as the dictionary) define
      Atheism as a rejection of all dieties

      Then no one is an atheist. That definition is a strawman.

      Einstein is as much an atheist as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris (mostly), Dennett, the hosts of AXP, and so on.

      1. David R

        Codemonkey what the heck are you talking about straw man? I’m just reading you the dictionary, and making a logical argument. Webster’s: a disbelief in the existence of deity. b : the doctrine that there is no deity. I mean perhaps the atheist PR department needs to get out there and start changing the image to lobby a new improved c version definition, I mean hell Richard Dawkins is doing it already. Since your saying straw man I’ll get start with this proposal:

        Atheist: Everyone who isn’t Christian. Because let’s face it that’s what the professional crusading atheist does when the claim CLEARLY non atheist scientists like Einstein and Tyson to their cause. When an atheist goes to Tyson’s Wikipedia page and edits it to say “Neil deGrasse Tyson is atheist, he changes it to say agnostic and someone changes it again, that’s the metaphorical equivalent of an atheist puppy peeing on your couch to show that he owns it.

        I personally think this definition would really suit most atheists quite well especially Dawkins, and at the very least would totally boost the world wide numbers of atheists so now instead of saying some studies say as high as 20% you could say like 50% maybe (well better amend it to say Atheist: Everyone who isn’t Jew, Christian or Muslim — because they all believe in the God of Abraham.) But you get what I’m saying.

        That and the fact that Einstein said and I want to capitalize this but im not yelling at you I promise: EINSTEIN SAID QUOTE QUOTE QUOTE “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” Remember I didn’t say Einstein was not an atheist, he did, I’m just trying to remind atheists, and having quite a bit of trouble doing so no matter where I go and mention it…Quite the unpopular argument among atheists. Jews have no problem not claiming him as a practicing Jew. Christians claim him sometimes but incorrectly he clearly wasn’t. But Atheists man, atheists are married to Einstein the only problem was he despised atheists….I had seen Tyson’s video when it came out, I love the guy! And when I saw this thread I thought I would point out the glaring similarities between his situation and Einstein.

  65. 65
    David R

    Not for nothing $1 for autograph of Einstein…totally worth it.

  66. 66
    David R

    I also make a blanket statement that I won’t really try to argue. Science and religion don’t have to be mutually exclusive, there are tons of physicists, astronomers, geologists, computer scientists, and all other type of science oriented folk who claim a religion so there is no conflict for them so it must work just fine for a large number of scientists. Faith on this hand, science on the other hand.

    1. 66.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Is there any fallacy you won’t commit?
      Famous people think X, therefore X is true.
      Famous people believe both X and Y, thus X and Y are logically consistent.
      Someone makes all the usual claims of position X, but says they really aren’t an X, and thus they aren’t an X.

      1. David R

        I I guess if its a fallacy i don’t see it, I’m just a lowly university educated software engineer i thought my boolean logic was quite clear. But it sounds to me like your saying Einstein was really an atheists because he believed what i do so even though he didn’t say he was an atheists (in fact he said many many many times he wasn’t and he didn’t share the crusading spirit of the so called atheist but lets ignore that) he must be an atheist because he shares the characteristics i do. I guess the dictionary is written by a bunch of theistic, atheist hating hate mongers who are just out to put definitions you don’t like on words. How bout if we just take Einstein’s word for it and not let people like you piss all over his tombstone and claim him for your movement he wanted no part of?

        The big atheist fallacy I encounter that you keep going back to for instance:

        Atheists don’t believe in Christ and thats true
        Atheists don’t believe in Christ and don’t believe in Thor.
        Einstein didn’t believe in the Thor so he must be atheist.

        Did I just blow your mind? Quit claiming people who don’t want claimed for the love of Spinoza’s god!!

        Atheists try to claim everyone who is not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim. It seems to follow your same logic. But again stick to the point at hand you keep trying to punch holes in the logic of my argument but you aren’t refuting the immutable, inexorable, and so far undisputed by you statement that Einstein was not an atheist he despised atheists and he said so many times.

        So again in closing I’ll just ask you to refute the Statement Einstein was not an atheists because he said so many times, and made several statements that indicated a religious belief and reverence for the universe. (its a two part statement take your time, I’ll go to bed so you can get all your atheist friends and maybe some sexed up pantheists (to quote Dawkins) together and really think up a whopper in the time it takes me check this thread again :)

        David

    2. 66.2
      Martin Wagner

      It “works fine” because they choose to compartmentalize. But yes, science and religion are mutually exclusive. Science draws conclusions only based on evidence and experimentation, and only when those conclusions can be independently confirmed through the process of peer review. Religion insists that dogmatic claims made without evidence be taken on faith, and brands those unwilling to do so as heretics and infidels. You could not find two more diametrically opposed disciplines. And you won’t find any point in history where the correct answer to some question about the nature of reality and the world around us turned out to be a religious one and not a scientific one. Human history shows an unbroken pattern of scientific answers supplanting religious claims, not the opposite.

      1. David R

        So you’re making a blanket argument that you know better than the 40% of American Scientists that say they are religions? I mean why do you think that? There are plenty of Torah Reading, Bible reading, Quran reading Physicists / scientists out there. That would be quite the insult to claim that you know their heart better than they do and make a statement like “Yeah I know what you said about your personal identity but you are too ignorant to know you got it wrong. You don’t even know yourself you’re actually just a bad Muslim because Science and the Quran don’t work together just thought I’d tell you.” We’re at war pick a side! (Where have I heard that argument before…)

        It seems to me the majority of people who seem to think there is a problem with believing in both science and religion are atheists, not scientists (remember 40% of scientists are religious in America,), I mean don’t take my word for it they did a poll for you! In some regards science has become the religion of atheists (which i would assume is a badge of honor they would proudly wear) In that respect you have to forsake any personal faith or religion you have in order to seek peace, enlightenment, and salvation at the merciful altar of science. Tyson doesn’t see a conflict with science and religion in our modern age, and he’s agnostic. In order to see a built in modern day conflict you have to be atheist, or perhaps fundamentalist. Again the vocal minority of either side of the theist/atheist debates.

        I think this reason is central to the reason why its sooooo painful for atheists to accept a religious person such as Einstein (who acknowledged a transcendent higher power) was not atheist. Because in one letter he can rebuke the Jewish people and say he does not practice, and in several other sources he can rebuke atheists and call them misguided, and fettered by emotional baggage, but the atheist closes his eyes covered his ears and says I won’t believe it I won’t believe it, he’s still an atheist because the alter of sciences needs him to be. Remember he said he wasn’t atheist, his words not mine, how are we even still debating this?

      2. David R

        That’s like saying philosophy and science do the same thing of course they don’t. Believing in religion and science are not mutually exclusive because ultimately they have different aims. Does science make any attempt to save your immortal soul or prove it’s existence? Of course not. So I think (although I can’t say for sure) that the reason the 40% of religious scientists in America have no problem with science and religion is because they view it like this: Science is the study of How God did it. (I’m not trying to argue the correctness of that statement because you can’t) I’m just trying to illustrate there are plenty of people who don’t have a problem with both, however show me an atheist that will believe its ok to believe in God and Science. Now that would improbable indeed, however Penn Jillette would be one of those people.

        I don’t study philosophy or religion to understand the speed of light. I study science. The study of the speed of light rarely comes up in church. Its comparing apples and oranges, I like them both, I eat them both, I do have a slight preference to eating oranges.

        1. Martin Wagner

          because they view it like this: Science is the study of How God did it.

          Until you prove a God exists at all, that’s a wasted line of study. Things that have not been shown to exist cannot rationally be considered the cause of things that do exist. The best you can do is hypothesize in that direction. But if your hypotheses aren’t quickly backed up by some kind of credible, tangible evidence, then God is no better an answer than The Great Pumpkin.

          Its comparing apples and oranges

          No, not at all, because while apples and oranges may be different, at the very least we know that both exist. We do not know a God exists. Therefore, trying to claim that science and religion are disciplines of equal epistemic value in understanding reality, that they just “come at the question from different angles” or what have you, is nonsense.

          1. David R

            I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, my point (well concede the number is in dispute) is there are many scientists out there who are fully confidnet with religion (a personal God no less) and science. Again I can’t prove the existance of God, I enjoy watching debates and hear people argue back and forth about it, but neither side can ever win. And again its not my mission in life to prove atheists wrong on the position of the existance of God we will just be tit for tat for eternity. My soul mission in life on this thread about Neil deGrasse Tyson who gets claimed against his will as atheist parallels another guy we all know Einstein.

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            This is how the argument goes.

            -person A- Young earth creationism is true.
            Me- No it’s not. The evidence disagrees.

            -person B- A mostly untestable old earth thingy is true.
            Me- Stop saying that. You have no evidence to support that claim, so you’re being dishonest.

            -person C- For a god, I either have evidence against its existence, or have no evidence one way or the other.
            -Me- Agreed.

            That’s winning the argument. There are more positions besides “X is true” and “X is false”. There’s also the position that “you cannot possibly know if X is true, so stop saying so”. (There’s also the weaker “I don’t know”.)

  67. 67
    David R

    Also Martin, a similar argument exists for God that draws at least some parallels with the Singularity problem of where did it come from theists would simply say God. Hence the so called God Particle (which makes most physicists cringe and rightfully so) or more accurately Higgs-Bosson particle. If you say the singularity came from somewhere else you do get the recursive argument of “where then” that breaks your computer, and boggles all contemplation.

    I don’t want to go all scripture quoting on you but here is jist of the argument:

    God has no beginning and end. He is all eternal. He is uncaused. He caused all things to exist. (Bible psalm 90:3)

    Most physicists will say time didn’t exist until the big bang, the laws of the universe, physics themselves came into existence after the explosion. So the argument says everything, we humans think of, must have a beginning and an end…but there always has to be something before the beginning and after the end. It’s hard to imagine something without boundaries, yet there’s always something beyond the boundary. We can’t understand a concept of “outside time” hell relativity based timetravel makes my head hurt as it is. There are several other theistic arguments too, but again not really wanting to talk about that so much as the fact that Einstein was not an atheist but i thought I’d draw a brief corollary, while stating one more time, using the Fox News tactic of pounding a sentence home until you say it in your sleep or quote it verbatim to people without even thinking or questioing it lol, Einstein was not an atheist, he said so many many times, Einstein despised atheists.

    1. 67.1
      Martin Wagner

      He could say that all he likes. But if he didn’t believe in a deity, he was one, by definition. And as his own letter, recently auctioned, dismissed God as a symbol of human weakness, then the issue is settled.

      As for something existing “before the beginning and after the end,” the best you can say about it is that it’s a purely speculative idea that will remain so until the evidence is in.

      1. David R

        I’m following what you’re saying Martin but it goes back to my sub argument that atheists like to claim everyone who is not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.
        I would simply disagree with that and say that is the standard atheist rhetoric out to claim everyone who doesn’t believe in the God of Abraham. By that same logic I guess Tyson is atheist too, even though he just said he wasn’t but then again so did Einstein.
        I’m well aware of the letter, of which you speak, and I’ve read the translation and to me it undoubtedly confirms Einstein did not believe in Orthodox Judaism or Christianity (by default.) But why is it when Einstein always references an underlying higher power and then says things like, I’m not an atheist…they make me angry…I don’t like atheists claiming me…. and speaks with general disdain and pity for atheists do you still want to claim him?
        How can you then say, “Ah!! But you know what I know better than Einstein what he felt in his heart, sure he may say he’s no atheist and ragged on atheism and said he despised atheists but i know better he totally was…” That is exactly what this video is all about. Tyson is precariously in the same boat as Einstein. A boat that atheist camps keep firing 20 inch guns at saying come over to our side, and they politely say “Thanks but no thanks, Ill just sink out here in my own beliefs that are squarely not atheist.”
        No question Martin I have no desire to argue atheist vs. theist (that is clearly an unwinnable argument for both parties.) However there are still plenty of American Scientists who are religious and yet you have people saying “well they compartmentalize it” “they aren’t Real Christians…” “they are scientists first Christians second.” I wish people would hold that type of argument they make to their own standards. But it all points back to the blaring point.
        Einstein demonstrated contempt time and time again for atheists and then said I’m no atheist. Atheist response Poppycock! You’re still an atheist buddy.
        Tyson gets irritated enough to go on YouTube and tell the world he’s is no atheist and he’s a bit baffled by the entire movement of passionately progressing a negative. Atheist response: Poppycock! You’re still an atheist buddy.
        This type of logic just generally isn’t seen in most people who argue atheism because one thing you can’t say about is they are stupid. However clinging to the belief Einstein was atheist is a passionate argument not based on evidence. You know evidence like personal testimony in affidavit from Einstein saying “Hey I’m no atheist!”

        And settled?? Hardly! Poppycock I say, you give a couple of references in his own hand to say he’s an atheist (when in actuality he simply says I’m not a practicing Jew) when i just gave you 4 that were in his own hand that says he wasn’t an atheist 4 > 2 = Einstein not atheist (and to be certain there are way more than 4 instances of Einstein busting on Atheists and their movement) Why is this so important to atheists, is it like Shinto the more dead scientists we have on our side the more powerful we become?

        1. Martin Wagner

          I’m following what you’re saying Martin but it goes back to my sub argument that atheists like to claim everyone who is not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.

          For a guy who’s so quick to criticize on the basis that I supposedly “know better than the 40% of American Scientists that say they are religions,” you’re very quick to claim to know what atheists say. I’ve never claimed what you say above, nor would I ever, making your argument a straw man at best.

          As for the whole “higher power” concept, guess what: I too believe in such a thing. I think the laws of physics are a “higher power,” inasmuch as there is nothing I can do to supplant or violate them. Will you then argue that my acceptance of the existence of such a “higher power” makes me not an atheist either, if it means you get to expand the definition of theism to include such vague criteria — criteria which the accepted definition of theism does not actually include?

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

          That’s about as unambiguous as it can be (making your remark that “clinging to the belief Einstein was atheist is a passionate argument not based on evidence” little more than denialism at this point), and yet you’re bound and determined to split every hair you can find and count Einstein’s disdain for atheist activism and feeling of religious awe about the universe to add him to the theist camp. (Indeed, you’re clearly far, far more intensely invested in claiming Einstein for theism than any of us are to claim him for atheism.) But theism is a word with a specific meaning (see above). If you don’t believe in creator deities or similarly anthropomorphic universe creating gods that are meant to be worshiped, then an atheist is just what you are. Can a person be an atheist and still have religious feelings, or even practices? Sure. Look at Buddhism, a religion that, lacking deities, is atheistic. It’s mystical and spiritual, but it’s not theism.

          Finally, your figures on the religiosity of American scientists are wrong. The most recent survey of the National Academy of Science reveals that only 7% of members believe in a personal God, with over 70% openly atheist and a further 20% agnostic. And just so you don’t think I’m cherry picking sources that only provide me with confirmation bias, here’s an article from the enemy, Answers in Genesis, openly acknowledging (and of course decrying) those stats. A 2009 Pew Research study of AAAS members found 33% belief and 41% nonbelief. The only field that shows belief at as high a level as 40% is among chemists, and that still makes them a minority in their field.

          But which of these scientists has actually done peer-reviewed research that has confirmed the existence of a God? If they have not done so (hint: they haven’t), and hold their beliefs as exactly that, beliefs, then yes, I say they’re compartmentalizing. Scientists are people, not infallible, and can make the same emotional and irrational judgments as the rest of us, even if they do so less often. That some respected scientist might choose to believe in a God will not, on its own, persuade me to do so. I will still demand the same rigorous evidence for this God as I would any other scientific claim. And if it isn’t forthcoming, and the scientist tells me, as does every other religious person, that it all boils down to “faith,” then I can dismiss his beliefs as no less unfounded and irrational than anyone else’s.

          1. David R

            I see what you’re saying about being atheist and having religious feelings I suppose what clouds my thought process on that that is yes I feel if you believe in a higher transcendent power then that makes you not atheist perhaps that’s wrong of me. Saying religious people are atheist just seems unintuitive to me personally, I suppose religious feelings to me are something different, but I think see your point.

            As for the pew study yes thats the one I’m citing, I absolutely almost :) stand by what I said here is a link to the pew forum that ran the study. http://www.pewforum.org/Science-and-Bioethics/Scientists-and-Belief.aspx

            33% of scientists claim they believe in a personal God (probably the God of Abraham) 18% believe in a higher or universal power, I’m pretty sure i said 40% of scientists claim they are religious (I did say religious not believe in God) so yes i was wrong the figure on scientists that believe in a higher transcendant power is higher than i thought. I am unfamiliar with the study you mention, but its on a pretty pro atheist website which doesn’t necessarily mean its skewed no doubt but its from 8 years before the PEW survey. 33% believed in a personal God in 2006 and only 1998 only 7% of scientists believed, so aparently in 8 years a lot of people found Jesus? I’m just joking its obvious to me that probably both of these polls had an agenda, its all about how you word the question, Even Tyson touched on that. What i will say is the PEW poll is pretty transparent in what it asked and how it did it, and your article is just a blurb in a pro atheist website that says 93% of the scientists are atheist. The pew survey is on a pretty pro faith site. Obviously both can’t be right pick the one that goes in line with what you already believe deny the other as ridiculous and repost at will on your favorite website.

            But maybe you didn’t realize this: Which of these scientists has actually done peer-reviewed research that has confirmed the existence of a God you ask? There is a man in Stockholm Sweden by the name of Frederick von Liptonstein who has imperially done an experiment and imperially proved the existence of God. And I know what you will say you looked that up on the interwebs and I’m totally wrong , and you’d be right that’s because I’m lying lol. I’m not here to argue the existence of God with you, I can’t prove it to you by the scientific standards you require, end of story you win? You lack the faith required to believe end of story I win? I can’t prove God to atheists, and Atheists can’t disprove God either, and of course the cop out argument is but the burden of proof lies on the believers. And that’s ok for me and ok for you! We don’t have to believe the same thing! Its ok! I’m not here to disrupt your fundamental belief system unless your fundamental belief system is wrapped around the false tenant that Einstein was atheist (because he wasn’t.) I just want atheists to realize Einstein was not an atheist. He said it no less than 4 times.

            If I got on YouTube and said I don’t subscribe to the Atheist movement would you still call me an atheist? I’m not the only one that makes the distinction in fact agnostics don’t want to be claimed by atheists, but get claimed either.

            If I said to you Martin: I’m no atheist, I despise them, they can’t hear the music of the spheres they are misguided, I Don’t share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. But Martin between you and me what really get me is I’m able to recognize, there are people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views. (That’s Einstein said…)

            Would you then turn around and tell everyone, man that David guy he’s a hell of an atheist, best atheist i know, he really gets it. Would that be my funeral eulogy from you after I’ve crossed the great threshold?

            Then why do so many people make such a passionate argument that Einstein was atheist when he clearly wasn’t? Again i dont want to Gish Gallop, my only point is Einstein was not atheist.

          2. David R

            Also as far as Einstein quoting not believing in a personal God, no question both you and I are 100% correct. Remember I never said he did, and I’ve never disputed it so we are both in agreement there, Q.E.D. However, Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God, a tree hugging hippy unorthodox deity to be sure. I’ll give you another Einstein quote to chew on and mull over, and before you tell me pantheism is sexed up atheism like Dawkins asserts:
            Einstein said: “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.”
            Hmm so he claims Spinoza’s god but doesn’t subscribe to atheism or pantheism. Sounds like he just believed and was in awe of a higher transcendent power that man can never truly explain. That sounds almost theistic…
            One of the key arguments I make is that Einstein believed in a higher transcendent power plainly he wasn’t just casually religious he often spoke of his God, that is one of the reasons he isn’t atheist, well that and the fact that he said time and time again “I’m no atheist” again his words not mine. Sort of like Tyson, also a self-proclaimed non atheist who is often claimed by atheists.

  68. 68
    David R

    Quit Gish Galloping me (I learned that word from you thanks.)

    You have to back up your statements like “Einstein is as much an atheist as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris (mostly), Dennett, the hosts of AXP, and so on.” Well to me it just sounds like you are watering down the definition to include anyone who isn’t a Christian but even if you do that and I conced your point (like I conceded the statistical inaccuracy of winning the NY power ball every day for a year–wow what was I thinking!) And if you don’t backup your statement this conversation is over (tough love but its the only way)

    So what do you say to the Spirit of Einstein who reads this post in the Ether when he clearly said “I’m no atheist,” in written word and you keep claiming he is! Again its just like the ridiculousness of claiming Neil deGrasse Tyson as an atheist against his will, the only difference is Neil had YouTube to set the world straight, Einstein only had the written word that mostly doesn’t get read except in cherry picked statements that support the cause of the debater.

    But since you trounced me so well with my obvious lack of mathematical statistical probability knowledge, I sat out to see if anyone smarter than I had made the calculation, about the probability of the universe, and Earth, and good old human race existing as a random event. Turns out there is such a fellow. I confess I haven’t read the book although I can assure you I have ordered it and will read it soon. Oxford physicist Roger Penrose’s book, “The Road to Reality” shows over 50 constants and quantities in nature that had to be just the way they are for the universe to sustain life. (although I’ve heard this argument before) There’s nothing in nature that determines they have to be the way they are, in fact string theory predicts there are 10x500power possible universe configurations. Moreover he’s calculated the odds of our universe being the way it is to be roughly 1×10^123. I’m no PHD but that sounds like winning the NY powerball lottery every day for the rest of my life on the same numbers, then my son takes those same numbers and wins for the rest of his life every day on those same numbers, and then passes it down through about 5 more generations. (Preface that is a joke, don’t say my fallacy is sticking out an my logic is wrong please)

    Now as a mathematics major you would probably agree the mind starts to boggle at 1×10^40. I mean I think your homework should be to write that number 15 times (1×10^123) to adequately grasp its vastness. I mean sure the Earth is estimated to only have around 1.3×10^50 total atoms in it, but sure I think your argument of (well it could still happen could be plausible…) Now of course the atheist argument is just that it could still happen and it doesn’t mean God exists, and sure if science could prove or disprove God we wouldn’t debate it, I would just have to say I wouldn’t want to bet my soul on such an infinitesimally small number. But crap, now I’m distracting from my own point that Einstein was not an Atheist, he said so. He despised atheists, he wasn’t one so quit claiming him. Just because you put a flag under the ice of Antarctica doesn’t mean you own the continent Russia. Just because you want Einstein to be an atheist, and he shared some of the characteristic traits of atheists (like not believing in Abraham’s God) doesn’t make him one. It doesn’t make him anymore atheist than it makes me Jewish because me and Einstein both share the common traits of being male, human, incredible intelligence and an innate coolness. I’m not Jewish Einstein was not Atheist (are we getting clearer on that point at least?

    1. 68.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Ok, I’ll answer your question, again, for like the third time.

      You’re a theist if you believe there is a anthropocentric creator god thingy, or at least one that answers human prays, cares specially about humans, etc. You are not a theist if you merely believe in Spinoza’s god.

      Effectively every self identified atheist believes there is no naive interfering god like that of the bible, and does not know about other less-interfering gods. Einstein is an atheist. He just doesn’t like the label, doesn’t like the activism. Tyson probably too. I recall an interview where he said as much, that he just wants to avoid the topic publicly.

      Of course, please, continue with your straw man that to be an atheist you must positively believe there is absolutely no god including positively no deist gods (basically no atheist does that), and to be an atheist you have to call yourself an atheist. Protip: Ex: You can be a racist without calling yourself a racist.

      That’s a token of good faith. Now admit fault with your bullshit probability argument, or defend it.

      1. David R

        I don’t think I can in good faith (pun intended) argue with you anymore codemonkey, you just said Neil Tyson was an atheist probably, when the video at the top of this page is a freaking 4 minute video of Neil Tyson saing hes not an athiest and is quite annoyed by people claiming him as atheist and then critcises the atheist movement. Holy crap man, I can’t give you any more evidense than that. I’m just shaking my head….

        Neil deGrasse Tyson says “I’m no atheist” codemonkey says your wrong Neil you actually are.

        Einstein says “I’m no atheist, they make me angry” codemonkey says your wrong Albert I know you really are.

        Please take a moment to look at those two exhibits of evidense and refute them please instead of just making an argument based on pashion and pre conceived notions, sheesh i thought you were on board with science and reason.

        1. David R

          Now codemonkey says you can be racist and say you’re not. So can you secretly be a theist and claim your an atheist too? Codemonkey is there something you want to tell us?

          Come on your hero must be Dan Barker, but at least Dan Barker will address the arguemnt and not just spin his wheels all day say “oh you’re rhetoric is so flawed i don’t even want to talk with you, you are so far beneath me! Science damn you!”

          Cause i’d say that’s the fallacy you are falling into, you don’t like the substance of my argument so you attack the rhetoric of the argument not the argument itself and claim itso facto victory by claiming straw man straw man!

          Come on man, face it. Einstein was not an atheist, Tyson not an atheist I know you want them to be. I know in your heart you want to put their bobble heads on your wall with the little “confirmed athiest plaque” and feel good about knowing you are right but you’re wrong, don’t ask me ask them, well since Einstein’s dead just read what he wrote, but as for Tyson just watch the video at the top of the page… or is that still too straw man for you?

        2. EnlightenmentLiberal

          Did we just watch the same video? Let me summarize what I saw from the video:

          1- Please don’t call me an atheist because it carries a lot of baggage, and because it tends to pigeonhole my position and inhibit conversation.
          2- I’m not an atheist because an atheist is necessarily an anti-religion activist.

          The fact remains that if you sit Tyson down, and get him to answer the questions, then he’ll answer the same as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, the hosts of the show, myself, and basically every modern atheist.
          Did Noah’s flood happen? How old is the universe? Is the evidence for human evolution consistent with the mere application of physical laws without a god? Is there any evidence for the efficacy of prayer? Is there evidence against the efficacy of prayer? Is there any evidence for any purported supernatural stuff? Is there evidence against a lot / most supernatural claims?

          If he doesn’t want to be known as an atheist because of the social stigma, fine. If he doesn’t want to be known as an atheist because he thinks you need to be an activist to be an atheist, then I think he’s being dishonest.

          Still waiting on you to address your bullshit probability argument.

          1. David R

            Dear codemonkey:

            You probably missed me and the probablility argument resolution with Oxford physisist Roger Penrose and my public no pology for being incorrect with my stats (they are way smaller than i thought they were) see above.

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Argument from authority now?

  69. 69
    David R

    codemonkey, I mean are you what’s the deal with your rhetoric arguments, does that make you look smarter than me? If that type of back peddling, rehetoric attacking arguments, worked to in real debates (like courts) I wonder why more lawyers don’t simply ignore all the evidence that a prosecutor presents and just cry straw man! argument from authority! fallacy! Dude you are officially suffering from the Mr Spock fallacy (now your next quote will address that instead of the substance of the argument namely Einstein and Tyson are no atheists, and atheists like you tend to claim any scientist that doesn’t believe in the God of Abraham as atheist when they don’t want the label or subscribe to your movement…what have I done…)

    Because from my point of view you are simply back peddling and not addressing the substance of the argument and trying to come off as somehow a superior intellect while at the same time blatantly coming off as completely flaky whos position is built on a house of cards. You say you know Tyson and Einstein better than they know themselves, watch the video again and then 10 more times because I think you are watching it through “I-have-to-be-right atheist goggles.” And I think the burden of proof is squarly on you if you make a flaky statement like Tyson is atheist when all I have to do is point to this video and say nope.

    I mean that you can argue that Tyson is dishonest, and that you can sit him down and really talk to him and show he’s an atheist how incredibly naive are you? Do you play cribbage with Tyson on Thursday nights? Are you a family friend that spends thanksgiving with him? Me either, so I just take him at his word, why can’t you? How do you know his heart better than he does? I mean holy crap if you can’t accept a friggin 5 minute video of a man critiquing atheism and then saying I’m not atheist, there is no hope for you, I think you are being dishonest with yourself, because you feel you have to win the argument dispite a completley flaky position.

    At this point I feel like you are just arguing to argue, and you know you’re wrong. I mean people let’s not be gish galloped and focus on codemonkey’s claim that, he knows that Tyson is dishonest and really an atheist, becasuse I could swear the video at the top completely contradicts that. I mean holy crap am I in the twilight zone here? You are a mindless slave to an argument that has no merit just leave the field you are routed sir, Tyson blatently says hes not atheist (wow just like Einstein) and even this article is written on an atheist site with a title “surprising disappointment,” and the author even expresses his dismay at Tyson not being an atheist.

    I present my empirical evidence as the above video and the blatant critique of atheists (that part where he says non skiers don’t have a word or group) and the part where he says im no atheist and agnostic is not the same as atheist let me tell you why…

    What the hell are you using for evidence, come on the only person being dishonest in this thread so far is you on this issue. I mean at this rate I’m just going to call you a theist, I mean you say things that might be construed as atheist in your writing, but i know your heart, deep down you believe in God, and love him with all your heart. Does that help you wrap your mind around the complete incredulity of your position on this matter?

    I’m guess no…because Tyson could get a tattoo tramp stamp that says no atheists on his lower back and sing the national anthem at the next world series in a G-String, and at the end say I’m no atheist peace everyone then turn around and drop it like it’s hot showing off the tatoo, and somehow I’m sure you could come up with some desperate argument how he’s really atheist.

    I call to the stand Neil deGrasse Tyson, do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God? I do. Please be seated. Neal tell us are you an atheist? [now click play on the youtube video]

    No further questions.

    If we just did that with a jury of 12 people what would be the verdict? Be honest please!

    Well sorry he isn’t an atheist, he said it just accept it and go back to arguing with theists about creation with one less bobble head scientist on your mantle, and while you’re at it relinquish your claim on Einstein, he wasn’t an atheist either, he said it many times, remember they made him angry — again his words not mine. He despised atheists!

    1. 69.1
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      Last time. People don’t get to redefine words to suit their tastes. That’s dishonest. If you hold the same beliefs about the existence of god as an atheist, then you are an atheist, whether you want or not you want to call yourself one.

      1. David R

        Wow I hope it really is your last post you have done a horrible job of attacking the structure of the argument’s presentation you just haven’t addressed the substancance, and what kind the heck are you talking about people don’t get to redefine words to suit them! Thank you for agreeing with me, I’ve been saying the same thing for pages now about atheists who claim people who don’t want to be part of your movement (Like Tyson and Einstein), now quit redefining atheist to include everyone who isn’t a follower of the God of Abraham.

        You act like the ‘correct’ definition of atheist is the one you hold (aka everyone but followers of God of Abraham), my point is you are wrong, just like you are wrong about Einstein being an atheist and super-duper wrong about Tyson being an atheist, he says hes not, he says agnostic is not the same as atheist, did you forget about that? How incredibly arrogant of you to claim a man in your movement or label him in your movement when he clearly says “I want no part of it.” I mean the hubris you exhibit is simply beyond belief!! Watch the video at the top of the page once more please. So who’s being dishonest when you take an agnostic scientist and say he’s an atheist? I mean codemonkey you take the cake, your argument has degenerated from rhetoric to simple, I’m right and you’re wrong because I say so, and you are ignoring the eyewitness first hand testimony of the guy who says he’s not an atheist.

        Let’s recap what you just said quote:
        “People don’t get to redefine words to suit their tastes. That’s dishonest. If you hold the same beliefs about the existence of god as an atheist, then you are an atheist, whether you want or not you want to call yourself one.”

        Holy crap dude you just redefined atheist to mean what you thnk it is! I mean i know that’s what you want reality to be but Tyson rejects your friggin definition, just like me, just like Webster’s dictionary. Seriously man I just don’t see how much more terrible your argument can get.

        I agree you should stop posting its just looking desperate at this point. And ill just wait on your letter writing campaign to Webster’s to change the definition, and cc it to everyone you are claiming to let them know they are actually something they feel like their not because YOU said so.

        Recap, Einstein not atheist (he was religious), Tyson (not atheist he is agnostic) AGAIN not my words, their words.

  70. 70
    Wally

    Atheism and homosexuality are not the least bit analogous. One chooses to be believe, or not believe, in a deity. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is not a choice.

  71. 71
    Gandalf's Beard

    Maybe Neil is just trying to distance himself from racist “atheists” who advocate torturing, profiling, assassinating and nuking Muslims (not Jews or Christians, only Muslims)… i.e. Sam Harris :P

    I know that as a Non-theist Agnostic myself, I sure as hell don’t want anything to do with Sam Harris (nor Dawkins for that matter). As long as Harris and Dawkins are on a mission to destroy the credibility of Atheists with their over-the-top Trollish attacks on Theists, my mission is to knock them off their pedestal as the face of modern Atheism. I’m embarrassed by their vitriolic verbiage, and I suspect Neil is too.

    And by the way, Sam Harris flirts with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Parapsychology. So maybe we should question his Atheist credentials too.

  72. 72
    David R

    I think you are probably more correct than you realize. Much as Einstein wanted to distance himself from what he referred to as “the professional atheist” as he constantly said in much of his writings whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth, Einstein clearly disdained the “professional atheist.” Neil, being another great physicist is probably of the same disdain, which I think is clear from this video. (The only ist I am is a scientist.) There is a big difference between someone who isn’t sure or doesn’t care and someone who is foaming at the mouth to prove/disprove the existence of God scientifically which of course is impossible for either camp to accomplish.

  73. 73
    Jonse

    Totally missed his point. The term atheist is often misunderstood to be the claim that god does not exist, as opposed to simply a lack of a belief in a god. I understand those agnostic atheists who choose to distance themselves from the term and simply identify with “agnostic”. Personally I do the same, it’s just less confusing to the general public.

  74. 74
    David R

    i don’t think you can have a new subdivision of atheists called “agnostic atheists” agnostics are not atheist by definition, that’s why there is another word called agnostic it has different definition than atheists (don’t take my word for it google it or crack a dictionary.) Again Atheists trying to relabel words to suit their needs, to plant the atheist flag on anyone they feel that can advance their religion. (thats right atheism is a religion you just replace God with Science – Southpark has a great episode on that — OH MY SCIENCE! SCIENCE DAMN YOU. etc.)

    Are there any agnostic theists? I’m sure you’d say no. However you are perfectly content with your made up term agnostic atheist…. Neil has asked atheists to quit claiming him, Einstein did the same, however this lengthy thread has proven clearly that will most likely never happen. Ill end by saying atheism is more of a religion with foaming at the mouth believers than just about any theism I’ve seen. Atheists have more faith that most religious people I think.

    Einstein and NdGT (not atheists by their own accounts)

  1. 75
    ZachsMind

    [...] following is a response to a post at FreeThoughtBlogs/axp which is the official online message board thingy for The Atheist Experience. I’m reposting [...]

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