In keeping with my request in Denver, that people work on making sure theism and theistic religion have a reputation that is at least aligned with what they actually subscribe to and promote, here is part of an exchange I had with an “agnostic” (read: atheist who doesn’t know he’s an atheist), who was arguing against my anti-theistic positions. He is a great demonstration of how theistic P.R. can make even secular people unreasonable when it comes to religious considerations. His comments are in italic bold:
Hey is this a gang bang or what? If I went on a Catholic thread and criticized the Church’s absurd position on contraceptives, I would not have been attacked so.
A reply is not an attack.
I happen to have an advanced degree in law and am considered extremely intelligent by those around me, so your ad hominem attacks are futile.
However well you may do in field-X does not make you expert or even reasonable in field-Y. Your law expertise has no bearing. Nor does your intelligence, as many people have areas about which they are irrational, even though they are otherwise intelligent. Francis Collins is certainly no slouch, and yet he believes in things he doesn’t dare try to promote in peer-review, because he recognizes the evidence is not on his side, as just one example.
I have not seen any ad hominems aimed at you so far. Calling you unreasonable, after demonstrating clear flaws in your reasoning is not an ad hominem. It is a conclusion, in the same way calling someone a racist after you have demonstrated from their arguments that they support segregation of the races is not a ad hominem, but a supported conclusion. They may not like being labeled a “racist,” but the label is not applied as an “attack,” but as a summation of what they have demonstrated.
Someone above pegged me…agnostic. Bingo. I know some atheists will equate themselves to agnostics others don’t.
Any person who cannot say “I accept it as true a god exists,” is an atheist (one who does not believe a god exists). I don’t know of any atheists who do not identify with this position. All atheists are required, in fact, to not believe a god exists. They may go on to assert no god exists, but they still also do not believe a god exists. You are asserting an agnostic does not believe a god exists—but that is undeniably also the atheist position.
Without splitting too fine of a hair, the atheists who are so hostile to theists are the ones certain there is no God, while other atheists adopt a more neutral position, like me.
Your “neutral” position is atheism. You may also call yourself agnostic if you like—as I noted, that’s a sloppy usage that has come into vogue due to disinformation from theists, mainly. But people do use it that way—so feel free. However, it is undeniable such people are defined accurately as atheists—most accurately.
For all the hostility you claim is aimed at theists by anti-theistic atheists, you are the only person in this exchange who has labeled theists as “half-brained.” I have addressed problems with their ideology, but nowhere attacked the people themselves, as you have done—basically calling them idiots. So you lose the high ground when it comes to attacking, prejudiced perspectives held toward theists.
It is claimed above, that the posters are not denigrating theists merely because they are “irrational” theists, but are only “intolerant of faith-based thinking that can lead to real harm.” I find that denial to be disingenuous. “Real harm” can be caused by thinking arising from theists and atheists alike.
Theists, without ever applying their beliefs to doctrines, have already adopted a position that unreasonable beliefs that are not evidenced based, are OK to hold. It is evident that unreasonable beliefs not based on evidence very, very often lead to significant harm—and not just for the individual involved. The list of such harms is near endless.
However, I do not claim that all harm done by a theist is caused by their theistic beliefs. A good example is the Catholic priest cover up of child rape. That was not caused by theists, but by child rapists, who only happened to also be theists, abusing a religious infrastructure. Theistic religion did not cause that. But preaching in HIV ravaged African nations that condoms are a sin, is very much harm caused by theistic beliefs, that can be directly attributed to theistic religion. So, I am quite careful to not simply say “a theist did X, therefore I blame theism.” That would be confusing causation and correlation.
With that in mind, I challenge you to provide a single example where “atheism” motivated harm (caused rather than correlated)—where simply not accepting belief in a deity provided the impetus to proceed with actively doing harm to anyone.
Millions have died at the hands of theists acting in the name of their religion
Small correction—not “in the name of,” but “in the cause of” their religion. They did it as part of their religious beliefs and mandates—not just in name only, but in demonstrable doctrine—in the cause of.
but millions others have died at the hands of persons without any apparent theistic belief
Correct. Please demonstrate that the killings were the result of (caused by) not having theistic beliefs. Please show causation, rather than mere correlation. Stalin had a moustache. Hitler had a moustache. However, I don’t assert that atrocities they caused are the result of people wearing moustaches. These men had proactive ideologies that drove their horrors. Atheism has no ideologies. No doctrines. No commands or calls to action.
(or at least without any attempt to rationalize or justify the conduct based on religious morality.
Theistic religious morality—if it even exists—is responsible for much atrocity. And in fact, if you read what I wrote, you will have seen that theistic religion actually is anti-morality. It mainly requires adherence to mandates and unquestioning obedience. Morality requires judgment that theistic religion requires one not to employ. That is a large problem. Many people “feel” what they’re doing is not correct, but do it anyway, because their god dictates it is “good.” These people bend their natural, human moral tendencies to religious rules because they have also accepted that “god knows better than I do.” Human morality—actually applying your reason to determining a best course—works much better than blindly following rules and laws that are above being questioned.
I would argue that most of these despots you’re describing actually used similar modes of rule as this “religious morality”—that they set up systems where they demanded full adherence and no questioning, and where questioning was punished—again, similar to many theistic religious “morality.” It’s not morality at all. It’s blind obedience.
I choose to question political, economical and social positions based on my utilitarian and humanistic perspective.
That is why I ridicule proposals not to teach evolution for example or to restrict contraceptives.
You don’t just ridicule the proposals—you attack the actual people involved as “half-brains.” You go after the people themselves, not just their harmful ideas. That is one point where you and I disagree.
They don’t offend me because they are proposed by some theists. I am sure there are atheists with deplorable proposals as well,
Yes, but unlike the theistic positions, the atheists with deplorable ideas cannot point to any atheist holy book or supreme authority over all atheists, that instructed their deplorable views. Their awful ideas—which my group has addressed, in fact, on occasion—have been derived from sources other than their atheism. But these theistic religious ideas, such as creationism, are not incidentally derived, but are directly caused by the doctrines themselves.
but I would not seek to discredit them because the advocate does not believe in God.
And I don’t use “you believe in god” to discredit creationism, either. I have offered separate arguments for criticisms of theistic belief versus theistic religious doctrines. The problem I have with theism is that it stands as an unreasonable, non-evidence based belief that is praised broadly by human beings. There are many irrational beliefs that are also harmful and I also do not like—but they appear to already be often criticized and generally accepted as problematic, not praised by the majority of society as “good.” Since theism is, for whatever reason, being insulated from criticism, and is the most broad-in-scope of current irrational thinking I’m aware of, I feel it should be focused upon far more than it is, rather than insulated, and much more than other such beliefs—which are already viewed as negative most often. Theistic religion’s reputation needs to be put more on a level with other unreasonable beliefs that are not praised for their unreasonableness. I wish only that people would view theism in the same way they view claims of UFO abductions. Theism is not handled in the same way as other irrational beliefs, and is given a special status as “good,” that is wholly unearned based on the level of harm that has resulted from it. If this were not the case, I would probably not be so focused on it as a main cause to address. It’s sterling reputation, and far-reaching scope, make it more of a problem, than other, similar types of irrational beliefs.
It is also claimed above that some Gods can be disproved such as an omnipotent God. The logical argument against an Omnipotent God is simplistic and fallacious along the same lines as Pascal’s Wager.
No, it is not. And in fact, in response to the omnipotence paradox, apologists have had to redefine “all powerful” as “nearly all powerful”—which is not redefining omnipotence at all, but merely admitting it’s impossible. You take another tack, a far less reasonable one (in fact, a wholly, demonstrably unreasonable one) below, which, ironically, demonstrates how theistic religion can poison the thinking of even secular-minded folks.
An Omnipotent God can create a rock so large he cannot move it because an Omnipotent Being can act outside the rules of conventional logic.
If there is something that god cannot do (as you say it can do X that it cannot undo), then it is not “omnipotent”—by definition. Emphatically insisting “there IS SO such a thing as a married bachelor!” does nothing to make it less wrong. You’re simply arguing “An omnipotent god is wholly unreasonable! But that is perfectly fine!” And this is the major problem with theism and theistic thinking—the idea that irrational beliefs are OK and acceptable, that their ideas don’t have to make any sense at all, and that’s fine. Here you are saying “And why should it have to be reasonable? That it is unreasonable makes perfect sense.” You are, literally, talking nonsense.
This is how these beliefs are toxic, how they convince people to be OK with, or worse, praise irrationality. You’re not even embarrassed to be promoting “this is completely illogical” as though that should mean it’s acceptable and “reasonable,” even—you’re actually treating “unreasonable” as though it should be considered “reasonable”—“illogical” as though it is “logical.” And you’re not even a theist—but their arguments have demonstrably caused even you to buy into this irrational thinking, as though it’s perfectly “reasonable,” despite being an affirmation of the exact opposite of reason. When you say it’s “outside of logic”—you’ve just admitted the idea makes no sense. But you’re promoting as though you’ve somehow offered a reasonable, rather than a nonsense, rebuttal.
It is also claimed above that the God in the Old Testament is a “Jewish” God or the God of the Jewish People. Without getting into an extended debate, that is silly.
Not if you understand Hebrew and Ugarit history and the stories themselves. God was specific to Abraham, making a pact that he would be the god of Abraham and his descendants, making of Abraham a great nation, in exchange for sole worship status—to the exclusion of the other gods in that region and surrounding regions. In fact, this was a new idea for that area and time. Generally people paid homage to the gods of the territories they were entering, in order to ensure safe passage. The idea of bringing a god around with you, regardless of your movements, was unique. (Ref: Karen Armstrong, “A History of God”)
It is very clear if you read the entire Old Testament that by the time the books were written and assembled over the centuries, it was understood there is only one God and He is God of the Universe (and not just of the Jewish People or the Earth).
This is inaccurate. The authors of some of the texts used terminology and statements clearly consistent with polytheism. This is because Hebrew gods are a variant on the Ugarit pantheon. And references to other gods the Hebrews believed in and worshipped are made in the Old Testament—including Asherah, the wife of Yahweh. King Hezekiah was a demonstration of one Hebrew ruler who worked to create a monotheistic belief, by pushing the other gods in the pantheon out of the Hebrew places of worship. Words the authors used in the Hebrew texts are known to represent plural usage of “gods”—but scholars attributed a singular usage to them as well. However, the discovery of the Ugarit texts undeniably demonstrated that it’s actually a hold over of a polytheistic past.
You appear to be confusing modern Christian interpretations of the texts with what the original authors intended. If you were to say that modern Christians take this view, you’d be correct for the most part. But to say that this was the view at the time they were “written” would be inaccurate. To say it was the view at the time they were collected would depend on your view of when that happened. Was it at the time they were regularly read in the temple or synagogues? Or at the time the books were canonized—around the same date as the New Testament canon was created?
It is also understood that God chose to use one group, the Hebrew tribes, to introduce Himself to (so to speak) and one might even say as a sort of Lab Rat.
See how you have attacked me,
Is any response to you an attack?
someone generally supportive and certainly sympathetic to your views.
You don’t even demonstrate you understand the views expressed here. So, to claim you are supportive is premature.
And you wonder why Atheism
Atheism is not capitalized. This is not pedantic criticism. Some people capitalize it in order to profess it as an ideological “ism”—and that is generally intended as a slander. This is the only reason I call it out here.
has made little headway convincing theists to adopt their viewpoint.
And yet I get letters from people daily saying that I have changed their views. So, I assert you are wrong. I think the reason we don’t get heard is that theism pretty well, up to now, has owned the information highways. With the rise of the Internet as an information source, levels of religiosity have declined more rapidly in the last generation than in prior generations for a very long time.
This does not demonstrate a rise in atheism, per se, but of people dropping their religious affiliations. I believe that is due to more information being available to more people than ever before via the Internet. When I was a Christian, I had to research this out of books in a university library—because there was no Internet. And all I knew about atheism was the concept of the “godless communist” from McCarthy’s slanders. Today, that has changed immensely.
Christian apologist, Josh McDowell, who was the man who convinced me at the tender age of 15 that Christianity made sense (and it took some study, as I noted, to undo the flawed ideas he’d convinced me of), has been quoted as saying publicly, “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.”
And I agree with him—if only on this particular issue. However, as I’ve noted earlier, it’s disappointing to me that people trying to undo the damage wrought upon young minds by people like McDowell should be framed as the “bad guys” in this. But when racism was heavily supported in the Southern U.S., the assaults against racism were also framed as people trying to tear down historic, traditional, good, moral values. So, it’s not unexpected.
It is like the socialists squabbling among themselves over idiosyncratic details while the Plutocrats continue their plunder. Oh, and I know you would like to believe Atheism is a growing movement, but it really is not.
You often assert things without any information to back your claims.
There has certainly been a decrease in the support for organized religion in some countries, and there certainly is an increasing tendency to downplay the concept of an Activist God who intervenes in day to day life. But that is not quite the same thing as Atheism is it.
Correct. But it does represent a decline in the willingness of people to affiliate with an organized religious institution, and this is definitely a step in the right direction and a potential reflection on religion’s reputation status. At any rate, by interfering with organized indoctrination efforts, it seems reasonable to believe the hold that religion has on society will only loosen. Children raised in unaffiliated theistic homes, who aren’t indoctrinated in constant church ideology-mills, will have a much better chance of considering their views reasonably later in life, without prejudice, as they won’t have to first undo the damage of indoctrination.
Or at least it would apparently not be enough to satisfy the purists on this forum.
It’s a step in the right direction that makes me very happy. It means that people are seeing it as less attractive to affiliate with specific religions, and that may be an indication the bloom is fading off the rose, even if only slightly.
Rosemary [another anti-theist in the same discussion], Surely someone as educated as you knows there were no Jewish Genocides in the Old Testament. Those accounts, like virtually all the “numbers” (numbers of troops, numbers of people in the Exodus, etc.) were greatly inflated by the recorders of history.
This is like trying to argue that Hitler did not commit genocide, as some Jews were left when he was stopped.
I will let her answer the rest of the reply to her.
By the way, it is quite possible for an Atheist to be unconcerned by the deaths from Aids in Africa because he or she simply does not care about “those people.”
Yes, I agree.
You seem to be equating Atheist with being “moral” which is just as bad as the theists equating their religious doctrine with morality.
Morality requires employment of moral judgment. Following rules is not “morality.” Religious “morality,” where people are told what to do and how to behave, and assured that these rules are “best,” even in cases where they may seem to be damaging, is not exercising anything that could reasonably thought of as morality. It is exercising obedience. They are not the same thing at all.
Atheists are not always moral, I agree. But at least they have the opportunity to attempt to be moral, which is denied to many, if not most, theistic religious adherents.