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May 02 2012

From the Mailbag: A Reply to “Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?”

I got an email from dscribner, responding to my recent AlterNet piece, “Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?” With his permission, I’m posting his email here, along with my responses to it.

Thanks for your piece “Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?” that I saw on AlterNet.org.

You seem to sincerely want a response (you asked the question several times) so I’ll do my best to offer a few thoughts on the matter.

You’re welcome. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Before I continue let me preface my comments by saying that I’m not attacking you, and I hope you don’t feel as if my response is any way hostile. That’s a problem with the written word – we sometimes hear a tone that the writer didn’t intend. And I’m hoping to convey warmth, respect, and thoughtfulness.

Okay. I also think that writers sometimes convey ideas and attitudes they didn’t consciously intend, but that are nevertheless real. But I’ll certainly take this into consideration.

So in answer to your question, let me say first that you named a lot of good reasons in your piece. As you said, “People build communities, personal identities, support systems, coping mechanisms, entire life philosophies, around their religious beliefs.” And the truth is, they don’t like having to argue and defend those beliefs. They don’t like feeling mocked or ridiculed.

Yes, I understand that people don’t like this. People rarely like having their ideas criticized. They like to hang onto the ideas they’re comfortable with, and they don’t like being asked to argue and defend those ideas — i.e., being asked to think about them, and consider whether they’re really true. That’s especially true when they’ve built identities and communities around these ideas. Does that mean we shouldn’t do it? We certainly do it with other kinds of ideas. And if we think it’s okay to criticize other kinds of ideas that we think are mistaken and/or harmful, even if people don’t like hearing it… why should religion be the exception?

I’m going to be saying this a few times throughout, so I’ll start by saying it here: Move to strike as non-responsive. This has nothing whatsoever to do with my thesis — namely, that many people expect religion to get a special degree of protection from criticism, a degree of protection that they don’t expect for other kinds of ideas, and that this is not reasonable or fair.

I have had conversations with atheists who spoke of theism as if it were idiocy. They talked about my belief in a creator as if I were simply ignorant and foolish. And, truthfully, it’s hurtful and offensive to have someone speak to me and dismiss my beliefs in that way.

Move to strike as non-responsive.

I understand that this experience isn’t fun. But that doesn’t answer my question. It’s often hurtful to have people speak of any kind of idea you might hold as if it were idiocy — an idea about politics, science, philosophy, etc. But that doesn’t answer the question: Why should religion be the exception? Why should we accept a certain level of critical discourse for every other kind of topic, but give religion special protection? Why should religion be the exception?

I’m not privy to the particular conversations you’ve had with atheists, so I can’t render an opinion on whether I think they were out of line or not. I know that believers often accuse atheists of being hurtful and offensive for saying things that would be considered reasonable in conversations about any other subject — things like, “I don’t agree with you,” “I think you’re mistaken,” and “What evidence do you have to support that?” I also know that sometimes atheists can be jerks. So I can’t offer an opinion about which of these was going on in these conversations.

What I can say is this: At best, this is an argument about why people in general shouldn’t offer certain kinds of arguments, or use certain kinds of language in those arguments — not why atheists shouldn’t criticize religion, ever. And once again, it poses the question: If you have bad ideas about any other topic, people may make you feel foolish about them. Why should religion be the exception?

Most people recognize that making other people feel defensive and ridiculed is unkind, and so we have established this cultural norm that makes it taboo to deride someone’s religious beliefs.

Move to strike as seriously non-responsive.

Forgive me if I start to get a little testy here. But the more I read your email, the more it seems that you have missed the entire point of the article. Do you think it’s wrong to make people feel defensive and ridiculed by criticizing any other ideas they might have — ideas about politics, science, philosophy, etc.? I hope not. And if not, then — as I asked several times throughout the piece — why should religion be the exception?

You’re making a very slippery false equivalency here. “It’s unkind to make people feel defensive and ridiculed — therefore, we shouldn’t criticize people’s religious beliefs.” You start this statement with a generalization about discussion and debate, and end it by making religion a special case — without any explanation for that special case. You’re assuming the thing you’re trying to prove.

Oh, and I’d like to point out that the piece is about criticizing religious beliefs… not about “deriding” them. I don’t take kindly to that sort of verbal bait-and-switch. Just so you know.

And if everyone respected one another’s religious beliefs better, I think we’d have a more peaceful society and our “culture war” would be more of a “culture discussion.”

Move to strike as non-responsive.

I’m going to set aside for the moment the question of who is responsible for the culture wars, and whether atheists being more polite to believers would calm down the right-wing theocrats who are bent on setting their religious agenda into law.

Instead, I’m going to say this: I think it’s reasonable to ask for respect for the believers — but not for the beliefs. For the Nth time: We don’t expect respect for any other kind of idea, if we think it’s mistaken or harmful. Why should religion be the exception?

And I’m going to ask this: Why can’t we have a “discussion” about which ideas are right and which ones are wrong? Why is it such a disrespectful, hurtful, offensive thing to say, “I think your mistaken, and here’s why”? Why is that contributing to the culture war? Yet again: We consider that a valid thing to say about almost every other kind of idea. Why should religion be the exception?

Imagine if you had a friend who was determined to convince all Korean-Americans that their culture was stupid, and your friend was on a mission to persuade Korean-Americans to give up their old-fashioned, patriarchal, cultural traditions and values and embrace the more enlightened, progressive white-Amercian culture more fully. Wouldn’t that seem offensive and bigoted?

I see. So you’re treating religion, not as an idea, but as an identity, or a culture.

I understand that identity and culture are certainly aspects of religion, and are connected with it. But the core of religion is an idea — the idea of the supernatural. Just as many communities have political ideas at their core. We still consider those ideas fair game for criticism in the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion be the exception?

I don’t know very much about Korean-American culture. If there are specific traditions and values in it that I think are mistaken and harmful, then yes, I’m going to criticize them. I try to be respectful of other cultures — but when they do serious, non-consensual harm to people inside the culture and out of it, then yes, I’m going to try to persuade people out of them. I’m going to try to persuade people out of the Mormon cultures that kick their gay kids out of the home; the Quiverfull cultures that teach girls that their only purpose in life is to pump out as many babies as their bodies can bear, and that God will torture them forever if they don’t; the Islamic extremist cultures that cut off their little girls’ clitorises. And if you’re not going to speak out against these atrocities, in the name of not being “offensive” or “bigoted” — then shame on you.

Once again: Move to strike as non-responsive. You’re still not responding to the point — which is that other kinds of ideas and other aspects of culture are considered fair game for criticism, but religion gets special protection.

I suppose, you might say that my example isn’t a fair comparison because cultures are equal, and we cannot say that the white-American subculture is better than the Korean-American subculture, but we CAN say that atheism is better than theism. I’m afraid I would disagree with you on that. Which leads to my second point: just as religion is a truth claim, so is atheism. The belief that the natural universe came to its present state without any outside agent is (like religion) “a statement about what is and is not literally true in the non-subjective world.”

Move to strike as non-responsive.

Yes, I understand that atheism is a truth claim. (More accurately, it’s a null hypothesis, but I won’t quibble about that here.) Atheism is the assertion that the religion hypothesis has never been shown to have any good evidence or arguments supporting it, and that in the absence of any good evidence or arguments, we can provisionally reject it.

And I’m prepared to defend that claim. I’ve done so, many times. I’m not asking anyone not to criticize atheism. If they think it’s mistaken, they should criticize it. I’m prepared to defend my case for atheism. I’m not trying to make atheism exempt from criticism in the marketplace of ideas. I think it’s a better idea. I think we can say that atheism is better than theism — because the case for theism is really lousy, and the case for atheism is really good. Atheism is better than theism — because atheism is almost certainly true. And I’m not afraid of a fight. In a fair fight, I think atheism will flourish. It’s just that religion has been setting the terms of the fight for far too long, and for far too long the fight has not been fair. And this notion that it’s inherently offensive to criticize religion is one of the main tropes keeping atheist ideas out of the conversation, and keeping the fight unfair. Again: We criticize every other kind of idea. Why should religion be the exception?

My third point is that that you’re right: “persuading people out of their religion is often seen as proselytizing or evangelizing.” And people don’t like being the objects of evangelism. The people who do evangelism know that for every 1 person who accepts and believes their message, they get at least 99 doors slammed in their faces. People just don’t like to be evangelized. Certainly some approaches are more effective (and less repulsive) than others. But when it comes right down to it, most people don’t want to be told that their world-view is wrong and that yours is right. So most people have adopted a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or “don’t judge, don’t piss off” policy, which I think is a good one.

Move to strike as non-responsive.

Once again, you seem to have missed the entire point of my piece. We “proselytize” to other people all the time about other kinds of ideas: ideas about politics, science, philosophy, medicine, etc. We tell people all the time that their world-view is wrong. No, people often don’t like it. In the marketplace of ideas, we do that anyway. In fact, you’re doing it right now. You’re trying to persuade me that my attempts to persuade people out of religion are misguided.

And I don’t have a problem with that. I mean, I disagree with you, obviously; I have problems with the idea that we shouldn’t care about reality if doing so hurts people’s feelings; and I have problems with the inconsistency of trying to persuade somebody not to persuade others. But the basic notion of “I think I’m right, and I think you’re wrong, and I’m going to try to talk you out of your idea and into mine” — I don’t have a problem with that. I think it’s fine. Why do you have a problem with it? Or, more accurately: Why do you have a problem with it when it comes to religion, and religion only? Assuming you think it’s a good idea to talk people out of their mistaken ideas about, say, global climate change, or the deregulation of the financial industry — why should religion be the exception?

Lastly, I’d like to suggest that religion doesn’t always get the free ride that you describe. At least, not like it used to. In earlier generations, you would have been absolutely correct. Public school teachers were Christians, elected officials were Christians, and everybody went to church. If you went against all that you would have been the oddball. But the world has been changing. Now teachers can get fired for talking about religion (but not for talking about politics). Employees can get fired for proselytizing at work, and while about half the politicians in America make a sickening display of showing off how religious they are, the other half make it very clear that religion does not drive their decision making. Cities can’t put up Nativity displays or the ten commandments on public property, but a 50’ statue in honor of Charles Darwin or some other scientist would be no problem.

The media send very mixed messages on faith. Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” became an international best seller, and it clearly mocked religious doctrine. Bill Maher made a movie (“Religulous”) mocking religion, and he boldly mocks religion on national television. Then there’s Christopher Hitchens, George Carlin, Ricky Gervais, Richard Dawkins … the list goes on and on of people who very loudly and proudly make fun of the idea that there might be something beyond nature.

And then there are the Facebook posts and the bumper stickers (“Annoy A Christian, Think for Yourself” or “Silly Christians, Myths are for Kids!”).

Frankly, I just don’t see that religion is getting a free ride.

This is the one argument you’ve made that actually responds to my thesis. Instead of trying to defend the special protections that religion gets, here you’re arguing here that religion doesn’t get special protection from criticism.

You’re mistaken. Read any article criticizing religion, on AlterNet or any other good-sized, not-atheist-specific online forum — and then read the comments. You’ll see what I’m talking about. Tons of people will respond to any criticism of religion with a giant heap of special pleading — not about the particular criticism being leveled, but at the very idea of criticizing religion. This idea that any criticism of religion is inherently offensive and intolerant… it’s depressingly common.

I understand that this is changing. I understand that the free ride religion has been getting is starting to come to an end. More and more people are willing to stand up and say that the Emperor has no clothes. I think that’s awesome, and I’m trying to help that process along. But it still gets far more of a free ride than it deserves. It still gets treated as a special case, far more than it should. My question is: Why should we let this be the case? Why should religion be the exception?

But my hope, my sincere and deep hope is that America can learn to discuss our differing worldviews in a way that is constructive and respectful. Bumper stickers don’t do anything but leave people feeling affirmed or attacked. Cutting comments by Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins don’t effectively persuade people; instead they drive us to cluster into safe tribal settings.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. (Other than, once again: Move to strike as non-responsive.)

First: When it comes to the question of effective persuasion, you are flatly mistaken. I don’t know about Bill Maher, but Richard Dawkins has been extraordinarily effective in persuading people. Ask any large-ish group of atheists in the Western world which writers and thinkers helped them on their path to atheism, and you’ll hear Dawkins’ name come up again and again. And I find it fascinating that political and cultural critics like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who wield mockery to cut down the pretensions and absurdities of the powerful, are adored by progressive culture… but when it comes to religion, all of a sudden, it’s not nice to make fun and hurt people’s feelings.

(I’m also not sure how a closely-reasoned essay of over 2,600 words counts as a “bumper sticker.”)

But that’s neither here nor there. Here’s my question: Are you arguing against the use of mockery — which is what I assume you mean by being “cutting” and not “respectful” — in any critique of other people’s ideas? Or is it just religion that shouldn’t be mocked? If it’s the former, then I sincerely hope you never watch Jon Stewart, or any political comedian. And if it’s the latter, then once again I will ask you: Why should religion be the exception?

You seem like an articulate, passionate person who cares about worldview issues and has a platform for reaching the public. I would encourage you (as I’m encouraging other people) to use your platform wisely and help us to get beyond a bumper-sticker discussion of “my worldview is better than your worldview” to something like, “let me tell you what I believe” or even better, “in spite of our differing views, how can we find solutions to the great social and economic problems that we’re all wrestling with?”

And I would encourage you to start caring a little bit more about whether the things you believe are true.

We are not going to find solutions to the great social and economic problems that we’re all wrestling with if we don’t pay attention, first and foremost, to what is true. Not to what we want to be true; not to what hurts people’s feelings when they hear it’s true. What’s actually true. We need to know what’s true about the world — so we know how to act in it.

We are not going to find solutions to the great social and economic problems that we’re all wrestling with if our conversations consist entirely of, “Oo! Your idea is so cool! Here’s mine — isn’t it cool, too?” — with no concern for which of these ideas is more likely to be true. We are not going to find solutions to global climate change, poverty, the HIV pandemic, the impending peak oil crisis, gross economic inequity, racism, the worldwide oppression of women, and more, if we decline to point out that other people’s ideas are flatly mistaken, and are doing serious harm.

And finally, I’d like to point out that you haven’t, in fact, responded in any way, shape or form to the question I posed in this AlterNet piece. You keep saying that people get their feelings hurt when their religion is criticized — without offering an answer for why religion should be an exception.

But you haven’t made one single argument for why religion should be the exception. All you’ve done is point out that people get their feelings hurt when people tell them they’re mistaken.

Yes. I get that. I just can’t make it a priority. To quote Daniel Dennett, “I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.”

As I said about eleventy million times in the piece: Yes, I understand that people get upset when their ideas are questioned and criticized. That’s true of religious ideas, and it’s true of other kinds of ideas. Should we stop criticizing every other kind of idea, just because people get their feelings hurt when we do?

And if not — then why should religion be the exception?

155 comments

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  1. 1
    Matt Meeks

    Brilliant, as usual! My only criticism would be regarding this:

    If you have bad ideas about any other topic, people may make you feel foolish about them. Why should religion be the exception?

    No one makes us feel anything. Our feelings come as a response to what others may say or do, but we are responsible for our own feelings. It’s easy to seen in cases where ads that say things like “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” are found offensive by some people. If you are offended by the mere fact that there are some people who disagree with you, it’s clear that it’s your issue, and not the responsibility of those who disagree with you. If you feel foolish about having an idea, it’s not someone else who makes you feel foolish, it’s your own inner doubt about that idea. And I’d say that if you feel foolish about having an idea, perhaps you should reconsider your reasoning about that idea instead of blaming the person who questioned your or challenged you about it.

  2. 2
    adamshelton

    Imagine if you had a friend who was determined to convince all Korean-Americans that their culture was stupid, and your friend was on a mission to persuade Korean-Americans to give up their old-fashioned, patriarchal, cultural traditions and values and embrace the more enlightened, progressive white-Amercian culture more fully. Wouldn’t that seem offensive and bigoted?

    Actually, I do poke fun at my Korean friends if they hold as true the uniquely Korean belief in Fan Death. When I first heard about it, I found it hilarious. Then I met someone from Korea who actually believed it. A well-studied and intelligent person. I was shocked! So we had a nice little discussion about it.

    It’s a cultural belief but I sure don’t feel bad about mocking it. But as Greta says, criticize the belief and not the person.

  3. 3
    beth

    Greta,

    I agree that religion does not deserve a ‘free ride’. But I’m not convinced, so far, that it is getting one. At least, no more of a free ride than other deeply imbedded cultural memes of our society.

    I asked you to clarify what you meant in the comments of your previous post. Here you say that religion gets a free ride because:

    Read any article criticizing religion, on AlterNet or any other good-sized, not-atheist-specific online forum — and then read the comments. You’ll see what I’m talking about. Tons of people will respond to any criticism of religion with a giant heap of special pleading — not about the particular criticism being leveled, but at the very idea of criticizing religion. This idea that any criticism of religion is inherently offensive and intolerant… it’s depressingly common.

    Could you give some examples of what you mean?

    Because the impression I get of comments on articles critizing religion is no different than comments on articles promoting religion (there’s plenty of criticism of religion and criticism of promotion of religion) or comments on articles about other social and political issues.

    For example, when I think back to the elevatorgate comments last summer, I recall plenty of people very upset at having the worldview with which they framed the issue called into question. Dawkins ‘dear muslima’ letter strikes me as an example of the behavior that I think you are saying constitutes a ‘free ride’. If what you are talking about is different from that, could you please clarify how it is that religion is getting a ‘free ride’ that white priviledge and male priviledge are not?

  4. 4
    tungl

    Very well done!

    About the last point your responder made: I think it is definitely true that we should set aside unrelated differences of opinion/world-view etc. when discussing important problems. So when two people discuss probable solutions to climate change, it would be unreasonable to start fighting about alt-med or the existence of Jesus; instead they should just concentrate on the topic at hand and work on that despite other differences.
    I think no one is arguing against that. Of course, that doesn’t mean that discussions about alt-med or the existence of Jesus are ALWAYS and a priori irrelevant or that all opinions on those matters are of equal worth. If one of the climate-change discussers suddenly brought up pouring sugar pills into the ocean or the second coming of Jesus as a solutions to global warming, then his/her beliefs would suddenly become extremely relevant to the discussion and must be criticized.
    So, yes, people of different (non-)religions can and should certainly work together on a lot of issues where it doesn’t matter what one or the other believes. But that doesn’t mean that discussions about the value of belief vs. non-belief are out of bounds or inherently offensive.

  5. 5
    David Evans

    Atheism is a null hypothesis. I like it. I like it a lot. I would almost suggest it as a slogan, but probably the people we really need to reach wouldn’t understand it.

  6. 6
    Hanan

    >Why should religion be the exception

    It shouldn’t….really, if done wisely. But I would say that depending on what side of the political isle you are on, Political Correctness is doing the same thing. We can’t express certain views less someone group gets offended by it. In turn, those things becomes “hands off” as well. So in reality, it’s not just religion.

  7. 7
    Jasper of Maine

    I always enjoy a good breakdown of an argument, even if it’s one that isn’t really on target.

  8. 8
    Jasper of Maine

    beth says #3,

    Could you give some examples of what you mean?

    This isn’t an example of comments per se, but it’s the same idea – religious groups run bus ads that say, sometimes, the most atrocious things – with not a peep of issue. Then, atheists try to run a bus add that simply said “Atheists”, and it was rejected for being “too controversial”.

    Here’s a source

  9. 9
    John Horstman

    And I find it fascinating that political and cultural critics like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who wield mockery to cut down the pretensions and absurdities of the powerful, are adored by progressive culture… but when it comes to religion, all of a sudden, it’s not nice to make fun and hurt people’s feelings.

    Of course, Stewart and Colbert ALSO mock religion. Colbert is a really interesting case: he claims to be a theist and he definitely goes to church regularly, but he’s done things like give up Catholicism for Lent (which is apostasy and possibly a mortal sin, depending on one’s set and interpretation of Christian scripture), mock the USCCB over their objections to birth control coverage in the ACA, and mock Ratzinger. If this guy DOES watch (and enjoy) either of them, it’s odd he’d think mocking religion isn’t okay (except that he may not interpret their mocking as targeting him/his beliefs).

  10. 10
    sqlrob

    Why is it such a disrespectful, hurtful, offensive thing to say, “I think your mistaken, and here’s why”?

    Because it mangles the English language?

    <gdrlh>

  11. 11
    eric

    if everyone respected one another’s religious beliefs better, I think we’d have a more peaceful society and our “culture war” would be more of a “culture discussion.”

    My reply to this is: then practice what you preach…by not preaching! If you really think society would be better with more respect, then stop evangelizing. Show us the way. Act the way you want us to act – by stopping all missionary work.

    If you think a billboard advertising a local atheist group is offensive, stop advertising local christian groups on billboards. Same with buses. Radio ads. And so on.

    I find your third point incredibly ironic, in that you admit that people find christian evangelizing disrespectful/offensive, but you don’t suggest they should stop evangelizing. This is the very definition of special pleading: you are exempting christian evangelism from the general rule you want others to follow.

  12. 12
    Fishi

    Well, Greta I’ll take a stab at it…

    We have a lot of religions out there and for a long time they managed to rule the roost, even though their belief systems were generally at odds with one another. By not shaking each others’ houses of cards they could get butts into pews and tithes into baskets. They developed rules of engagement about how they would recruit new butts into pews and diverse sales tactics to make the tithing more or less tolerable. But the main rule was that you don’t knock down your competitors’ house of cards because yours would be threatened by the same action. This ‘tolerance’ became taught as an element of good manners and most of us interested in polite debate grew up with it — i.e. “you don’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table.” [my constant joke from living in San Francisco is that dinner time conversation should safely stick to things that we all agree about, sex, politics and religion.]

    On a more immediate scale, we all knew 6th grade ‘sophmores’ who delighted in ruining Santa Claus for the younger kids; few admired those wise asses, and few of us want to be like them — it was an early lesson in what it was to be respectful of others.

    So I fear that it is inherent in atheism that we must be impolite wise asses in the views of those we are trying to argue with. The trick, and you do it well, is not actually being an impolite wise ass when we insist on fair discussions and testable notions of ‘truth.’

  13. 13
    ihabawad

    Well written — but I would make an epistemological quibble with the idea of being “true”, which you repeat time and time again. Perhaps I’m splitting pedantic hairs (…) but here goes.

    The thing that unites theists and atheists alike is that we do not know what is true. To the extent that the universe is inexplicable or capricious, atheists (or I, at any rate…) simply say, that’s just the way it is. The theists I know say “It is all-knowing ${deity}’s will and/or divine plan”, which of course raises the question of why ${deity} allows “bad” things to happen. A good theist response to that is that “bad”ness is our own construct; ${deity} simply has a plan and we don’t understand it. In other words, we *still* don’t know; it’s just that atheists are choosing a more economical way of saying that. :)

    I understand the atheist need to reclaim “truth” from the musty depths into which it has been stuffed by theist cant, but I would much rather we simply bury it further and adopt a different metric.

    That metric, I believe, i simply usefulness. A theory is useful insofar as it has provisional predictive value and helps us navigate through our lives. Atheists and theists alike choose the same methods for the engineering of bridges and the cooking of eggs Benedict, because they happen to work. We hold these ideas in constant question, and discard them when the evidence shows otherwise.

    As for the epistemology of evidence itself — well, I suspect this is the road to a Gödelian trap of trying to reason about reasoning. My response to this quandary is simply to work from first principles; establish agreement about common ground (the practical stuff about the eggs and the bridges); establish the usefulness of these methods; then proceed from there.

  14. 14
    dscribner

    Thanks for posting and replying to my e-mail, Greta.

    Perhaps I misunderstood the point of your essay. I was responding to the question, “Why do people get so upset when their religious views are challenged?” I wasn’t arguing that they were right to be upset or that religious views shouldn’t be challenged. I was just explaining why people get so pissed off.

    You asked (above) “Do you think it’s wrong to make people feel defensive and ridiculed by criticizing any other ideas they might have — ideas about politics, science, philosophy, etc.? I hope not.” Well, yeah, I do. I don’t at all think that we shouldn’t disagree and challenge on another, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t come across as ridicule and doesn’t attack.

    Personally, I think it’s very important for people to share their views and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of one another’s opinions. I’m not at all against that. But I feel strongly that it is best when we have those discussions with a higher level of discourse than what we often see in the comments sections on CNN’s Belief blog, etc.

    You, for example, seem to be pretty good at sharing your views without coming across as judgmental or dismissive of other views. And I try to be that way. The challenge, I think, is to get other folks to be as diplomatic and cooperative and you and I are! :)

  15. 15
    Crommunist

    I would encourage you (as I’m encouraging other people) to use your platform wisely and help us to get beyond a bumper-sticker discussion of “my worldview is better than your worldview” to something like, “let me tell you what I believe”

    There’s nothing… NOTHING… that irritates me more than someone telling me “you shouldn’t write about this, you should write about THAT”. I get the occasional race-baiting troll, anti-gay bigots, weirdos of all stripes. The only ones that actually make me angry are the people who tell me that I should be ‘nicer’, and/or focus my attention on something THEY care about rather than something I care about.

    I would have put my fist through the screen at that point.

  16. 16
    sqlrob

    @ihabawad

    Usefulness doesn’t work as a measure. It’s very useful for leaders to have control over a population with religion (see: “Religion is the optiate of the masses”). Doesn’t give a truth value to religion at all, and some don’t want to get rid of it because it is useful.

  17. 17
    Anthony K

    My reply to this is: then practice what you preach…by not preaching! If you really think society would be better with more respect, then stop evangelizing. Show us the way. Act the way you want us to act – by stopping all missionary work.

    Really, I’d be okay with this.

    “Fine, I won’t talk to non-atheists about atheism if you won’t talk about your beliefs to those who don’t already share them—and that includes children. When you find your twelve-year-old spontaneously talking about how this loaf of bread could really be the flesh of a 2,000-years dead guy with the right incantations and wondering if there was a virgin she could admit lying to in return for being told how many times she should repeat a poem while fondling beads, then you can open her eyes to the wonderful world of Catholicism, but not before.”

  18. 18
    ihabawad

    @sqlrob Good point.

    I should clarify that “usefulness” *to me* means, the ability to predict the world and help us form a provisional understanding of it, anchored in our observations. I think this is equivalent to Greta’s (and Dawkins’, for that matter) “truth”; I’m just arguing to can the T-word for good.

    There exist ideas outside this definition of “usefulness” that we nevertheless use to make decisions — for example, the esthetics of a building, or the love of pure math, or the relative merit of different breeds of tulip. I think we can acknowledge the subjectivity of these criteria without dismissing them entirely.

  19. 19
    Ganner

    To number 6 Hanan:

    In my experience, most complaining about “political correctness” is done by people who are upset that they can’t get away with casual racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

  20. 20
    Alyson Miers

    dscribner says above:

    You, for example, seem to be pretty good at sharing your views without coming across as judgmental or dismissive of other views. And I try to be that way. The challenge, I think, is to get other folks to be as diplomatic and cooperative and you and I are! :)

    Eh heh heh heh heh…I see what you’re trying to do there, dscribner. It’s not going to work.

  21. 21
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    ihabawad:

    I should clarify that “usefulness” *to me* means…

    This suffers from the same definitional quandary as “truth.” When I say “truth,” I mean, “The degree to which something accurately models reality.” A model of a spherical earth is closer to the truth than a model of a flat earth, but not quite as true as modeling the earth as an oblate spheroid.

    This is pretty much what a theist defines as “truth,” as well. The major difference isn’t epistemological, but metaphysical. A theist believes they have the “truth” not because their epistemology differs from that of science, but because their metaphysics allows — even demands — the supernatural. The concept of the supernatural is at odds with the epistemology of science, but the definition of truth remains constant in both epistemologies.

    I think Greta’s use of “truth” is accurate. She uses science as her rubric to judge truth. The fact that science employs the predictive usefulness of an idea as part of that rubric certainly lends support to your definition of “usefulness,” but I think this leads to the definitional issues sqlrob brought up.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it.

  22. 22
    RickR

    @19 Ganner-

    Yes. Seconded.

  23. 23
    beth

    @ JT (Generic)

    Thanks. I think the declined bus ads (and other types of ads) are a good example of discrimination against atheists, but I’m not sure it qualifies as an example of a “free ride” as she specifically mentioned comments to anti-religious articles wherein people wanted to exempt religious ideas from criticism. The bus ads don’t criticize religion at all.

    Certainly, religion gets plenty of priviledges in our society and atheists recieve plenty of discrimination. But I was under the impression Greta meant something more specific than that with regard to criticism of ideas.

    Hopefully, Greta will clarify what she meant and whether not getting to run atheist advertisements on buses is an example of what she meant by the ‘free ride’ religion gets. Even if it is, I hope she will give some examples of the types of comments she feels illustrate the ‘free ride’ that religion gets and other issues don’t.

  24. 24
    Jim

    “Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?”

    I’ve thought about this a lot, and it seems to me there is a difference in the reaction to religious criticism.

    When you disagree with someone on a secular issue, the other person might think you are wrong, or ignorant, or dishonest. They might argue or yell, but that is about as far as it goes (unless the person is mentally unstable.)

    But when you disagree with someone on religion the religious person labels you as evil. That is a fundamentally different level of classification. When someone is labeled as evil this gives the religious person license to use any tactic in response. The religious community sees it as virtuous to assault evil. There is no limit to the reaction of a religious person, right up to physical violence. Over reaction is seen as more virtuous. And the religious person can always disown the consequences by saying ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.

    So disagreeing with religion is dangerous, because the religious person can massively overreact and still be seen as virtuous by hir fellow believers.

  25. 25
    otrame

    Daniel Dennet:

    “I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.”

    Just thought it deserved repeating.

    Does anyone else notice that when you can actually get intelligent, well-educated people to discuss religion (which is actually hard to do) you end up at some point saying “truth is important to me–it matters”? In one discussion I added “not out of some altruistic devotion to capital-T Truth, but because knowing and understanding as much of reality as we can is the only practical way to deal with a Universe is constantly trying to kill us.” And the reason you always come to “the truth is important to me” is because if the theist has an ounce of intellectual integrity, they always come down to “but why can’t you just let people believe what they want to believe, just let them alone?”. Of course, whole books have been written about why, including your’s, Greta (which I enjoyed very much BTW).

    Though it is (deservedly) often derided in atheist discussions, the Bible does have some wisdom in it, and I think the most profound is “The truth will set you free”.

  26. 26
    Randomfactor

    The real reason why religion gets a free ride is that it would have shriveled long ago without one.

    And the reason the free ride has been invented and reinforced is that the power base often in the past enjoyed a similar free ride so long as religion was in place. Often the two were the same.

    But our government has shifted from divine authority to “money talks.” So I suspect we’re in for a continued inculcation of “class war is evil” to prevent that authority from being questioned. Religion ain’t doing the job for them anymore–not that it’s not trying to defend the status quo, it’s just not succeeding anymore.

  27. 27
    'Tis Himself

    dscribner #14

    I don’t at all think that we shouldn’t disagree and challenge on another, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t come across as ridicule and doesn’t attack.

    When a bus ad just saying “Atheists” is too controversial to be displayed, then “a way that…doesn’t attack” means that atheists should just shut up. The flip side of religion getting a free ride is that often the very existence of atheists is considered an attack on religion.

    I have personally been attacked for asking “what’s your evidence for gods?” I wasn’t saying “you’re delusional” or even “you’re wrong.” I asked for evidence for belief. This was too confrontational for some goddists.

    All too often goddists set the bar very low when deciding what’s an attack on religion.

  28. 28
    LeftSidePositive

    @beth, #3:

    I think male privilege and white privilege DO get a free ride…that’s why they’re called “privilege”!

    A subtle difference, though, is that religion is acknowledged to exist, but inherent in the maintaining of white and male privilege is the idea that there is no such thing as privilege, and that of course the world is equal and of course the able-bodied cisgendered straight white male from a good family got to where he is all on his own, and your insistence on seeing privilege is just you seeing things with your irrational lady-brain… See also: every racist privileged ass who declares “I don’t see race…”

    So, if they were specifically to say “it’s wrong to criticize white privilege” it would totally destroy all the gaslighting that’s so essential for the process to occur. This is also true because racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and homophobia (and more!) are all largely based on IMplicit understandings of how the world is (or should be). Religion, on the other hand, depends on EXplicit credence in certain deities, stories, and rituals.

  29. 29
    dscribner

    I’m really enjoying all of the comments here!

    As I read through the original article, my e-mail, and Greta’s responses, I found a few small things that I should clarify.

    I didn’t mean to say that Dawkins et al weren’t persuasive. What I said (and meant) was that their cutting comments weren’t persuasive. When we (on either side) use cutting comments to get our point across, I think we’re less persuasive. But listening, asking questions, and sharing ideas can be very persuasive.

    And when I encouraged Greta to “use your platform wisely and help us to get beyond a bumper-sticker discussion” I really didn’t mean that she (you) were guilty of the bumper sticker debate. Just the contrary, I see Greta as someone who is willing to discuss issues without judging people who disagree.

    I think that’s the main thing that want to bring to this conversation. Religious people are TERRIBLE about judging others. It’s really embarrassing! And I think non-religious people can be judgemental sometimes too. I don’t think any view point should be above criticism or debate. But we lower ourselves and make the discussion less productive when we go into it with the attitude that the other party is stupid or evil or sinful or whatever.

  30. 30
    rapiddominance

    How often have any of you ever heard a theists say that religion should be off-limits to criticism?

    Have you EVER heard ONE theists say that?

    Typically, when they come here to complain, they gripe about how you attack religion.

    Greta realizes that this is a non-issue in our culture war just as you do. Read again what she said in her last post, “Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?”

    In those six years, I’ve asked this question more times and not once have I gotten a satisfying answer. In fact, only once do I recall getting any answer at all. Besides that one exception, what I’ve gotten in response has been crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing by.

    In 6 years she got ONE answer? Apparently, most theistic critics have realized that the question is bogus, too. It seems, however, they don’t recognize the confusion that can result from NOT responding at all. They should have called her out on this, but they didn’t. Either that, or she disregarded their objections.

    Greta just treated you to a ‘dog and pony show’. It was irrelevant, time wasting, and all for nothing–except for your amusement.

    Kudos to any atheists who either voiced their concerns with the premise or stayed away from this thing.

  31. 31
    Hanan

    To Ganner.

    In some instances yes. But not in many other cases. And the people that end up getting offended or don’t want to hear a criticism about __________ (fill in any particular group) are the ones that are defining what casual racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc is. So frankly, in my own experience, there is a lot “Hands off” to many issues, not just to religion.

  32. 32
    ihabawad

    @nigelTheBold to the power of nigelTheBold

    You’re giving me a run for my money there. :) What is your distinction between epistemology and metaphysics, and how do you think they relate? It appears to me that your epistemology — the study of knowledge and what is known or knowable — is how you choose your path to your metaphysical understanding of the world.

  33. 33
    Rootboy

    This is sort of the crux of it, though – you’re mainly concerned with religion as a set of truth claims, and the (extremely poor) epistemology used to reach them, and the dangerous consequences of acting based as if these claims are true. But a lot of people – maybe most people – view religion primarily as an identity – having a particular religion is just like having a particular gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. So when you criticize the truth claims, people hear you deriding the identity, and take offense.

    A while back you wrote a piece asking why Catholics don’t leave the church. And while I’m sure you knows this, the obvious answer to me that it’s identity – my grandmother could no more cease being Catholic than she could cease being a woman. “My country, right or wrong” works for churches too.

    You’ve got to just ignore it and power through. Keep saying, “I know that these beliefs are tied up with your fundamental identity, but I don’t care. They’re absurd, destructive, and wrong, and here’s why.” People will take offense – they’ll call you rude, and bigoted, and say you’re making atheists look bad. Let them.

  34. 34
    LeftSidePositive

    dscribner, would you care to provide ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for your claim that being cutting isn’t persuasive? Different people are persuaded by different things. Having the rug pulled out from under the politeness that cocoons religion goes very far in inducing cognitive dissonance, which is essential for people to revise deeply-held beliefs. If people are never confronted, they experience no cost for still going along with their religion, and cost to challenge their beliefs (because they get a superficial level of comfort out of them), so they just stay all cozy and mushy in theist-land. If everyone in the culture treats religious ideas with kid gloves, what incentive does the theist have to critically examine what ze believes? While SOME people entrench when challenged, not all do, and others will start to think, and furthermore some of the people who try to entrench will realize that it’s unsustainable and intellectually dishonest.

    I think you’re also wrong about judging–it’s wrong to judge value-neutral things, but there are other things that we HAVE to judge if we’re going to make any progress whatsoever. If Ray Comfort tries to claim a banana shows God’s design we HAVE to call that stupid, because otherwise our timidity allows that nonsense to be accepted as a legitimate contribution to discussion, and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time to carefully and thoroughly consider the nuances of every single shockingly stupid thing that someone might come up with. We need to realize that SOME things get unfairly labeled “stupid,” but it does not follow from there that everything labeled “stupid” was done so unfairly. Moreover, it is this timidity to call stupidity by its rightful name that allows the Sarah Palins of this world a place on the national stage. And, furthermore, some things are in fact evil. When the Catholic Church says they think a mother of four should die rather than get a life-saving abortion, THAT IS EVIL. I don’t care how elaborate their justifications are, I don’t care how sincere they are in that belief, but we have to have minimal standards of acceptable behavior and if someone has violated them so flagrantly, it is not noble, but rather cowardly and enabling, to try to find some way to see their point of view as understandable.

  35. 35
    Crommunist

    How often have any of you ever heard a theists say that religion should be off-limits to criticism?

    Often. Sometimes explicitly so: “you shouldn’t bash other people’s beliefs”; “there are some things that you just shouldn’t question”; “you should just let people believe what they want, as long as they don’t hurt anyone”.

    Typically, when they come here to complain, they gripe about how you attack religion.

    No. Not even close to true. Any statement of disbelief, or even simply pointing out a contradiction, is seen as hostile. There is no “acceptable” way to criticize religion (your use of the word ‘attack’ is telling) – it remains a hands-off subject in many circles. Not in every circle, but there seems to be no end to the public’s appetite for hearing people complain about how believers are being “bullied” or “pushed around” by “militant secularists” and other such claptrap.

  36. 36
    LeftSidePositive

    How often have any of you ever heard a theists say that religion should be off-limits to criticism?

    Have you EVER heard ONE theists say that?

    Yes, I actually hear this repeatedly. Sometimes it’s dressed up in “you’re too mean” but often times they’ll straight up say that their beliefs must be accepted simply because they are their beliefs. I hear “tolerance” get bended beyond all possible recognition to get this done, not to mention an attitude that beliefs are an intrinsic part of who they are. Case in point: on Ardent Atheist Nick Arnette (the Christian guest) went on and on defending the appalling homophobia of Kirk Cameron because he was “just saying what he believes.” There are also TONS of callers on the Atheist Experience who insist that it’s unfair and unnecessary to consider the truth of religious beliefs, and that they should just be accepted and admired.

    So, thanks for that argument from ignorance, but the rest of us are going to go back to discussing what we have actually experienced.

  37. 37
    mnb0

    It’s quite simple. In daily life I treat religious (in fact all) people as polite and kind as they treat me. If they don’t question my atheism I don’t question their belief. Internet is a bit different, as anyone can escape and disappear with just one click.
    Of course this implies that religion is not an exception. Neither is culture; and I’m living in a more multicultural society than the USA is.

    Btw, GC, if you are interested in a religious guy who criticizes atheism (and I’m not talking the stereotypal blahblah) you might take a look at this:

    http://gjerutten.blogspot.com/

    Several articles are in English.

  38. 38
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Beth – 23

    You are missing the point. The religious ads did ride the bus.

    The atheist ads – the criticism of religion, even when at its most polite and demure, merely recognizing that atheists exist – were banned because it’s wrong to have a critique of religion in a public forum.

    You’re saying the religious ads got on the bus so there’s no free ride. Huh? What we’re talking about is the shutting down of criticism, even when polite and context-appropriate (thus it matters that religious issues have been on the buses before).

    That’s exactly what happened when the atheist groups’ ads were kept off buses. Exactly.

    Do you really understand what is under debate here?

  39. 39
    Hanan

    >Why can’t we have a “discussion” about which ideas are right and which ones are wrong? Why is it such a disrespectful, hurtful, offensive thing to say, “I think your mistaken, and here’s why”?

    You could, and there are. Just google some of the debates on youtube with Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, etc., all over the country. There IS discussion.

    And yes, it is hurtful and offensive, but that has nothing to do whether you can have a discussion. People aren’t robots you know. Religion is tied to their very being. It will get emotional. Many people might get offended by Hitchens….yet there they are, sitting in the audience and reading his books. You’re not going to change the fact that someone might get offended. People get offended over many things. Hence political correctness. (I know many will disagree with me on that one, but so be it).

  40. 40
    rapiddominance

    Crommunist

    It would have been wise for me not to have said EVER.

    After all, even Greta said that ONE person tried to respond in six years of raising the question.

    Admittedly, I’ve heard most of the examples you gave. “You shouldn’t BASH other people’s beliefs.” Don’t you think “bash” implies more than mere criticism? As for your other examples, they are generally spoken by folks in the neighborhood you see who aren’t interested in our cultural conflict and who simply don’t want to get in arguments. What we’re talking about here, however, is an entirely different level of conversation.

    ONE response/SIX years = Dog and Pony Show

    You know it and Greta knows it.

    I will sympathize with you on one thing you said, however: There are a lot of theists who will get angry over ANY approach you take to criticizing their beliefs or their practices. In that regard, we’re seeing reality together. I can’t say that you would notice much improvement in most theist’s responses if you did try to ‘be nice’–and that troubles me.

    Thank you for a thoughtful response.

  41. 41
    rapiddominance

    LeftSidePositive

    I THINK my response to Crommunist in #40 could, more or less, function adequately as a response to you @36.

    But again, Greta received ONE response in SIX years to the proposed question.

    In fact, quiet a few atheist on Greta’s last posting expressed problems with the stated question.

    This is a Dog and Pony Show pal, face it.

    But don’t be sad; if you enjoy the cooking then don’t let me stop you. I guess that’s all that matters to the chef, anyway, right?

  42. 42
    rapiddominance

    We’ve got a great show for everybody today, folks!
    Get in line to ride the pony.

    Yee-ha!

  43. 43
    dscribner

    LeftSidePositive #34, I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at. I’ll grant that perhaps some people will be persuaded to change their views if you mock and ridicule them, but my experience (which I’ll count as the evidence of a witness) is that when people feel that they’re being ridiculed about something they hold to deeply, the ridicule doesn’t shake their belief. It angers them, drives them toward tribalism, and leaves them feeling unjustly persecuted. But maybe I’m wrong. If you like, I can try mocking and ridiculing you for your atheism and we can see how long it takes for you to become a theist. :)

    As for judgments, okay, I’ll concede that there is a place for judging stupidity, but I think that’s a dangerous hill to defend because it’s so easy for us to we think we know what is stupid without recognizing our own arrogance.

    A lot of this discussion has to do with terms and shades of meaning. I think we all agree that society needs to allow open debate of ideas, and that debate is going on all around us. Greta makes a good point that a lot of theist are whiners who get all upset and outraged when their views are challenged.

    And, I think we all agree that neither side has a perfect record for being respectful and gracious toward the other. There is no reason that these two world views cannot co-exist. Theism and atheism don’t have to be at war with one another. We’ll always have an interest in trying to persuade folks to agree with us, but we can get along peacefully if we work at it.

    For my part, I’ll tell all my theist friends to stop being so touchy and to be be more gracious when they engage with y’all.

  44. 44
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    dscribener:

    It’s not that people change their beliefs when those beliefs are mocked and ridiculed, it’s that you have an audience… Even though some people will react defensively and be unwilling to consider a critique because of the form in which it comes, others will admire the straight-to-the-heart-of-the-matter directness, the wit, and even the aggressive energy of a Hitchens (this is much more true of Hitchens’ work than Dawkins’).

    For those in the audience who have already been persuaded by much more delicate rhetoric that significant questions exist, the forceful critique can smash through barriers previously protecting an unjustified belief – like, say, that the sky is blue when evidence shows that it’s just as often black or grey, and quite frequently multicolored. “Holy crap, I always thought of the sky as blue and “what color is the sky” as an easy question!” someone might admit when an assertive attack on the monocolor hypothesis is presented.

    However, if the person is stuck in ideology, sure, they would just say, “but that’s not what I mean by ‘what color is the sky’. You’re misunderstanding words like ‘color’ and ‘sky’ and ‘is’.” Yes, that person would likely just get defensive and feel picked on.

    But those persons around them that get that there are questions are ready for witty, forceful, and sometimes even mocking answers. If the multicolorist simply said, “Well sometimes the sky isn’t blue,” the audience might admit that yes, there are those times, but why change my answer? Isn’t the sky “really” blue even if there are momentary exceptions?

    But if the multicolorist says, “Sometimes? The sky ‘sometimes’ isn’t blue? Last I checked day and night, on average, are exactly equal in length over the course of a year. The day color gets more priority because why? You think the world doesn’t exist when you’re asleep?” then an audience might get, “Oh, this is a serious objection, not some technicality.”

    Forceful argument tends to present new opportunities for those who admit questions to examine answers. It does not help those who don’t acknowledge or can’t acknowledge that questions exist.

    Your problem is assuming that a) there is no audience and b) atheists’ arguments are only ever heard by those who don’t/can’t admit that questions over the existence of a particular god exist.

  45. 45
    LeftSidePositive

    rapiddominance, your reply shows a RIDICULOUS lack of understanding of the premise. Greta is not saying that only one person has MADE the statement in question–quite the opposite: she said “I’ve heard lots of people tell me, at length and with great passion, that trying to persuade people out of their religion is bad and wrong and mean…”

    What she said is that only one person offered even an attempted JUSTIFICATION for such a statement. And, she recounted–this justification was transparently weak: just because religious disagreements have in the past been bitter is no reason not to care about the truth of things.

  46. 46
    Lou Doench

    @rapiddominance

    Wow… Greta has a strict policy of commentators not using personal attacks against fellow blog readers. You are pushing it. Hard.

    But again, Greta received ONE response in SIX years to the proposed question.

    This is what she said.

    I’ve been writing about atheism for about six years now. In those six years, I’ve asked this question more times and not once have I gotten a satisfying answer. In fact, only once do I recall getting any answer at all. Besides that one exception, what I’ve gotten in response has been crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing by. I’ve been ignored, I’ve had the subject changed, I’ve had people get personally nasty, I’ve had people abandon the conversation altogether. But only once have I ever gotten any kind of actual answer

    You are completely misrepresenting her point. And from your general attitude I’m assuming that you have some kind of personal beef with Greta, hence the “dog and pony show” slur. If that’s the case… in deference to our host I’ll hold my tongue.

  47. 47
    DSimon

    Ihabawad, in response to your statement about “truth”, looks like it’s time once gain for my favorite link: http://yudkowsky.net/rational/the-simple-truth

  48. 48
    LeftSidePositive

    dscribner, what you’re getting confused about is that they don’t change their belief AT THAT MOMENT, and their initial response may well be to entrench, but for some of them it may plant seeds of doubt.

    For instance, here is someone who says George Carlin’s “Religion is Bullshit” sealed his atheism:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/10/11/why-i-am-an-atheist-frederick-sparks/

    Here’s someone convinced by Robert Heinlein’s “cynicism” and “contempt for religious leaders”

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/28/why-i-am-an-atheist-barbara-meissner/

    Another person convinced by Carlin

    http://winter60.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-i-am-atheist.html?showComment=1330550288545#c3656576502812537073

    When you talk about both sides being respectful and gracious, you’re begging the question. I DO NOT AGREE that we should be respectful and gracious to religion–it has murdered an unconscionable number of people, children are beaten and denied a decent education because of it, women lack reproductive health choices because of it, rapes are covered up because of it, money is extorted because of it, people lose family and friends over it, people justify bullying with it, and on and on and on. Religion is harmful. It is our duty to the safety of ourselves and to the well-being of our fellow humans not to allow it to go unchecked. It MUST be criticized, it MUST be held up to scrutiny, it MUST have its privileges in tax policy and employment discrimination abolished, and it MUST be made to defend the claims it makes. The very fact that it seeks support without evidence and has no accountability to reality is in and of itself dangerous. And don’t say “well, as long as they’re not hurting anyone…” How can you even TELL whether or not you’re hurting anyone if you don’t know what is actually TRUE?! Even one sweet Catholic woman feeling guilty about needing IVF is too much–and that’s the thing about religion…even when your faith group isn’t being overtly violent or hateful, you never know when the bullshit is going to collide with your life.

  49. 49
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    ihabawad:

    @nigelTheBold to the power of nigelTheBold

    You’re giving me a run for my money there.

    Why, thank you! I didn’t have time to flesh out my meaning (I have little to no time to do interesting things these days). It seems you got to the core of my meaning in spite of my terse defense.

    What is your distinction between epistemology and metaphysics, and how do you think they relate?

    Epistemology is just what you say: the study of what is known and what is knowable, and how to know it. Epistemology is derived from metaphysics, the study of what is.

    It appears to me that your epistemology — the study of knowledge and what is known or knowable — is how you choose your path to your metaphysical understanding of the world.

    From my understanding, and my observations, it’s actually the opposite. Metaphysics leads to epistemology, not the other way ’round. For instance, if you assume all that exists is observable and consistent, you arrive at the epistemology of science*. If you assume there is more to reality than we can observe, you arrive at… well, any damned thing.

    You might say at this point, “A-HA! So, you admit metaphysics is derived from epistemology!” But this misses the point. Anyone who assumes an epistemology derived from observation already has assumed a metaphysics based on observation. You’ve assumed, for instance, that we’re not some sophisticated computer simulation, even though logic dictates we might very well be just that**.

    So, the epistemology of science is derived from a materialistic metaphysics, and not the other way ’round. (Admittedly, the two support each other, and one is not properly derived from the other.)

    Similarly, theists derive their epistemology from their metaphysics. The a priori assumption of the supernatural trumps any logical derivation of metaphysics from epistemology. This leads to an epistemology derived from their metaphysics. Granted, their epistemology supports their metaphysics in a way analogous to the epistemology of science supporting a materialist metaphysics. The fact that the assumption of a revelatory epistemology provides for any arbitrary metaphysics is irrelevant. In fact, that rather proves the point. The epistemology of the Christian and the Muslim is almost identical, yet the metaphysics is significantly different. This indicates epistemology is a derivation of metaphysics, and not the other way ’round.

    I guess all I’m saying is, truth is predicated by metaphysics, not epistemology. That doesn’t mean epistemology isn’t necessarily dependent on truth. All it means is, truth and epistemology vary as a function of metaphysics.

    Usefulness, however, is always predicated by reality.

    I hope this answers your questions. It’s hard to say — I’ve had a large number of beers.

    * Science is actually three things. First is the epistemology of science, which is based on the metaphysics of material reality. You can arrive at this epistemology either by realizing there is no way to know anything that is not observable, or by assuming all that exists is observable. Second, it is the practical application of this epistemology. This is where Hume and Popper and Kuhn and a whole slew of others hold sway. Third is the body of knowledge gathered by the application of the practical tools derived from the epistemology.

    ** The logic is as follows: the universe will survive many billions of years beyond our current position in the age of the universe. If only one civilization survives for very long, they will want to explore the past of the universe. It is entirely likely they will do so by simulating the very universe they inhabit. Ergo, there is a large chance we are simply part of a universal simulator, rather than inhabitants of an actual universe.

  50. 50
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    No one makes us feel anything. Our feelings come as a response to what others may say or do, but we are responsible for our own feelings.

    I think that needs to be rephrased. It’s far too easy to see this idea twisted into an excuse for inaction on, say, bullycides (as I repeatedly saw it used as an excuse for inaction on the bullying I experienced).

  51. 51
    rapiddominance

    #46 Lou Doench

    Wow… Greta has a strict policy of commentators not using personal attacks against fellow blog readers. You are pushing it. Hard.

    What attack(s) are you referring to? Personally, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t attacked anybody here today. But I have been wrong on many, many occassions in my life before. Perhaps I’m attacking people subconsciously without even realizing it. Either way, I would like to repair any damage I’m causing.

    If you don’t mind, lets ask Greta if SHE thinks I’m attacking her readers–or her, for that matter.

  52. 52
    Vivienne

    Dscribner: I don’t at all think that we shouldn’t disagree and challenge on another, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t come across as ridicule and doesn’t attack.

    I know of no way to say, “I think God is a figment of your imagination” without sounding as if I am ridiculing you. No matter how politely I say it, or in what words, you will be offended. You will say I should respect your religion, when I see no reason at all to respect it.

    Rapiddominance: Typically, when they come here to complain, they gripe about how you attack religion.

    Again I say that it does not matter how we attack their religion, whether with angry, insulting, mocking words, or with polite disagreements, they will always accuse us of being mean, closed-minded, filled with anger, unfair, hateful toward God, and any number of other epithets they can think of. You cannot win with theists. They think they have some special dispensation from God to go forth and convert the masses, and we are the bad guys if we say anything about it.

    Rapidominance: Admittedly, I’ve heard most of the examples you gave. “You shouldn’t BASH other people’s beliefs.” Don’t you think “bash” implies more than mere criticism?

    No, it simply means criticism in any form—polite, mean, or anything else. I have been on enough atheist forums to know this for a fact. Apparently, you have not. I will repeat this again for any slow learners in back of the class: It doesn’t matter, to many Christians, HOW you word your disagreements or voice your disbelief in their deity. They will always manage to be personally insulted, and some will even claim that GOD is insulted, too. This is exactly like saying that Santa Claus is angry that you told a lie to your mom.

    Dscribner: For my part, I’ll tell all my theist friends to stop being so touchy and to be be more gracious when they engage with y’all.

    How about getting them to explain to us why so many Christians think their religion should not be questioned, debated, doubted, or argued against? Nevermind, we all know the answer: “Because it makes Baby Jesus cry.” Your imaginary sky-savior is coming any minute now, and we dare not upset him or he’ll go all Incredible Hulk on us. (This would actually make an awesome .gif image.)

    All this “let’s be respectful and gracious, like little girls at a tea party,” actually makes me want to insult Christianity even more. It’s like I’m feeling some weird need to compensate for your Holly Homemaker goodness. I see no reason to respect religion, or to think more highly of people who adhere to a particular dogma or worship a certain deity. I will NOT be all smiles and sweetness to some weirdo claiming he talks to God each night and gets an answer. I will NOT respect the moron who thinks the Earth is only 6000 years old. I will NOT give credence to claims of angels, magical healings, miracles, divine intervention, and other such superstitious frippery. These sorts of people do not deserve much in the way of respect, as far as I’m concerned.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch some George Carlin videos.

  53. 53
    Greta Christina

    How often have any of you ever heard a theists say that religion should be off-limits to criticism?

    Have you EVER heard ONE theists say that?

    rapiddominance @ #30: Yes, I have heard many theists say this. Many, many times. In the original post, I even linked to an example of a columnist saying it in Tikkun. Here is that link again. I’m currently traveling, with limited time and internet access, so I don’t have time to dig up lots of other examples; but if you want to see other examples of this, go to almost any AlterNet piece I’ve written in which I criticize religion, and look at the comments. In just about every one, you’ll find people saying that it is inherently intolerant to criticize people’s religious beliefs. And other atheists have been told this as well. They’ve said so, in this thread.

    My point with the whole “I’ve only ever gotten one serious answer to this question” thing — a point that other people here seem to have grasped — is not that believers don’t actually complain about atheists criticizing religion. My point is that, when pressed on this question of why it’s okay to criticize other kinds of ideas but not religious ones, believers don’t have an answer. They dodge, they evade, they leave the conversation, they get hostile and pissy — but they don’t have an answer. They still want religion to be exempt from criticism. They just don’t have a good answer for why that exemption would be reasonable.

  54. 54
    Greta Christina

    lets ask Greta if SHE thinks I’m attacking her readers–or her, for that matter.

    rapiddominance @ #51: I think your tone is extremely unpleasant, and you are pushing the boundaries of civil discussion which I expect in this blog. Please dial it back. Thank you.

  55. 55
    dscribner

    I’m really surprised that so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance.

    A few good points have been made. Perhaps the audience hearing some atheist- or theist-bashing will be persuaded that the basher has a good point. Or maybe the person being laughed at will later re-think their views. But do you really want to have that kind of relationship with the theists? Do you want them to ridicule you and be intolerant of your views in return? I don’t accept the premise that there’s just no reasoning with “those people”. Theists come in many, many varieties and many of them are quite capable of discussing why they believe.

    And, Greta, the reason no one has an answer to your question of “why it’s okay to criticize other kinds of ideas but not religious ones” is because there is no reason. Of course it’s okay to criticize religious ideas just like it’s okay to criticize any other ideas. People do it all the time, and people get mad at it all the time. Once in awhile a real dialogue comes out of it.

  56. 56
    godlesspanther

    There is an old cartoon by B. Kliban in which a court jester is being led away by a couple of masked executioners and the jester is saying — actually, organized religion has always been a prime target for satire.

    Sure it does seem that religion is not getting the free ride that it once was. That is because of the new atheist movement. We are now freer to question religion than we once were. That does not make the free ride over. It still is far from over.

    As an example we can look at the reaction to Dan Savages speech to journalism students. He was actually accused of “bullying” Christians. I thought that his criticisms of the Bible were not only just simple facts that are obvious to anyone who is not a brain-damaged infant, but quite reserved, tame. Certainly not something that would warrant the outrage expressed by the zealots. Here we see exactly what Greta is referring to — if he criticized a non-religious book no matter how harshly — there would have been no such reaction.

    I found it outrageous how some people claimed that he could have talked about anti-gay bullying without bringing Christianity into it.

    Yeah, let’s put on the play of Hamlet without Hamlet.

  57. 57
    rapiddominance

    #46 (again)

    I get your point in the second half of your response and you’re right. Sort of, anyway.

    Let’s go back to the paragraph in question so I can show you the problem I’m still seeing. It might be tempting for you to start forming an argument once you read my first point. Please don’t do that at first. Try just to follow along. You can read my comment again for analysis before responding to me.

    Starting now:

    In fact, only once do I recall getting any answer at all.

    Its that “any answer at all” part that confuses. The thing is, the guy who sent the email did provide at least some answer. (HOLD YOUR FIRE! PLEASE!)

    Think about the sentence that comes next:

    Besides that one exception, what I’ve gotten in response has been crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing by.

    This sentence suggests soundlessness; quiteness; absence of any ‘sound-off’–so to speak. It implies absence of human communication (or language).

    Perhaps the next part should have been sufficient to fully clarify the matter:

    I’ve been ignored, I’ve had the subject changed, I’ve had people get personally nasty, I’ve had people abandon the conversation altogether.

    But to which of these would we categorize the email in this post? As a ‘changing of subject’? Granted, he doesn’t answer the exact question, but he doesn’t “change the subject”, either.

    But perhaps this email simply falls into an unmentioned category? Most people would refer to the email as a ‘non-answer.’ The last sentence, however, belies that notion:

    But only once have I ever gotten any kind of actual answer.

    Did you notice that she said “any kind of actual answer”? The email response was a ‘kind of an answer’. It was also an ‘actual answer’.

    I understand your point and and I appreciate the intelligent response. But can you at least see how Greta’s wording, in this case, creates confusion?

    ***

    I called it a ‘dog and pony show’ because Greta took this guy–who simply failed to answer the question in its exactness–and then proceeded to chop his ass up in increments as if a real dialogue was occuring (for the conversation effect; I’m not insisting that she disguised this as a conversation). In all of this there might have been some amusement–but it was certainly overshadowed by confusion.

    As for any deliberance that might have brought about the confusion, I cannot say.

  58. 58
    rapiddominance

    Holy crap that took a long time. This is exactly why I hate going into tedium around here. Its not that there is anything wrong with detailed analysis; its just that I suck at it.

  59. 59
    rapiddominance

    Greta

    Thank you for the feedback.

    Without any examples of how I engaged in personal attacks, I’m left assuming that ‘dog and pony show’ is the problem.

    I can see how somebody might get rubbed the wrong way when their work is characterized as such. Moreover, I certainly didn’t intend it as a compliment.

    Anyway, I launched a 2nd part of a response BEFORE hearing your reply to me. In it, I used the expression again.

    I’ll abandon the use of that phrase from now on.

    Please know that I think of you as neither the dog nor the pony.

  60. 60
    LeftSidePositive

    dscribner, you are not making a “suggestion” that “respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance*”–you are making a pompous, evidence-free, condescending unqualified assertion designed to shame people out of communicating their genuine, factually justified and socially relevant feelings, and this is not appropriate.

    And, for the record, if a theist tried to mock me, I would listen to their concerns…but, reasoning inductively from every discussion from every theist I have ever read, I’m gonna have to say it’s highly unlikely I’d find their mockery even remotely distressing, since it would probably be based on extraordinarily weak premises, faulty logic, and misrepresentations, so I tend to find theists trying to “mock” atheists just plain funny and kinda pathetic. HOWEVER (and this bit is important!), I wouldn’t get all huffy and say, “But you can’t mock me!!! It makes me sad! Why can’t we just get along???” Rather, I would say, “You are embarrassingly wrong and this is why. Learn what the hell logic is before you try to play comedy in the grownups league.”

    No one said “there’s no reasoning with ‘those people’.” Quite the opposite. We are saying it IS in fact valuable to engage in direct confrontation, and that this should not be denied when the occasion or the feelings of the speaker warrant it. No one here has claimed that calm, reasoned discussion is NOT an effective tool, just that it is one of many, and that sometimes there are problems with giving deference and social capital to overtly harmful views by treating them as worthy of consideration.

    *Furthermore, what’s the deal with “tolerance”?? We’re not talking about making something illegal here, so this “tolerance” you’re referring to seems to be about being all cozy and accepting. Why should we be tolerant of something that makes no sense and has no merit? Tolerance is for things that don’t hurt people and are just different from you, but not any better or worse. When something destroys lives, defrauds and disenfranchises, I’m sure as hell not going to be “tolerant.” I believe that’s actually called “enabling.”

  61. 61
    Sids

    @Beth #3: (I’m a bit late to the party)
    That’s not really the point here. It’s certainly true that both theist and atheist comment sections can be similar (they’re often off topic and use completely unrelated arguments).

    Try going to a political video and look at those comments. There will be plenty of people arguing the issues and other people attacking each other. One thing you won’t see though is, “Come on guys, lets not talk about this. Criticizing peoples political views isn’t nice.” This response only comes up in religious discussions. The question is why this only happens for religion.

  62. 62
    godlesspanther

    @61 — RD,

    we all have our own experiences. Some time ago the evangelist Ray Comfort had a blog called Atheist Central in which he invited non-believers to comment and question on the things that he had posted. I can count on 0 fingers of 0 hands that exact number of times the he actually gave a direct honest conclusive answer to a question. A challenging question would receive no response at all. If he did respond to any question it would be non-sequitur or embarrassingly stupid attempt at a quip which usually amounted to thinly-veiled hostility.

    I was banned from his blog. The reason for that was never stated. but it would not be unreasonable to assume that the topics that i was bringing up just prior to being banned would likely have something to do with it. One of the topics that I was presenting to Comfort and his flying monkeys was that fact that there is, and has been, an appalling level of violence toward LGBT people and those who support reproductive freedom. We are talking about very specific documented incidents. Prevalent and long-term. I asked repeatedly why is it, that if Ray does not approve of or support violence — then why is he perpetuating the hostility toward people with his rhetoric. No answer — I just got the boot.

    When Greta talked about crickets and tumbleweeds, changing the subject, and just avoiding the issue — I know exactly what she means. You are just nit-picking about phrasing rather than getting to the point.

    The point is not about splitting hairs as to whether or not religion does receive special privileges –it does. Examples too numerous to carry on about for a few years. Case closed. The question is WHY?

  63. 63
    mnb0

    @dscribner: suppose I meet a polite creationist who tells me that according to evolution theory a cat can become a dog. This is untrue. I tell him/her and refer to say TalkOrigins, a reliable source. Then this creationist neglects my remark and equally politely persists. In other words: he/she is lying. How am I going to tell him/her politely that he/she lies? “In a way that doesn’t come across as ridicule and doesn’t attack”?
    This is not a fake story. This has happened to me more than once.
    Just curious. I don’t know any other way then straightforwardly telling: “you’re lying and you know it, because just before I told you otherwise”. Which is an attack and usually is taken that way.

  64. 64
    Nick Gotts

    I’m really surprised that so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance. – dscribner

    Not one person here has either said or implied that intolerance is desirable, or even acceptable. Not. One. To be intolerant of religion would be to try and suppress it, or to prevent religious ideas being expressed. Not one person has suggested either. Not. One. It is only too typical of the attitude Greta is criticising that you elide the difference between ridicule and intolerance.

  65. 65
    Nick Gotts

    rapiddominance,

    I wonder why it is that you are clearly the only person commenting who managed to misunderstand what Greta was saying so egregiously. Any ideas?

  66. 66
    DaveL

    I’m really surprised that so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance.

    That’s a ridiculous characterization. What’s actually happening is that people are asking you how they can tell someone their dearly held beliefs are wrong without being insulting, while at the same time not sliding into solipsism.

  67. 67
    beth

    Greta @53

    Thank you for providing an example of what you mean about religion getting a ‘free ride’. I must respectfully disagree with you regarding Scofield’s article. I don’t see that as saying that religion cannot be criticized and deserves a free ride. I read it as a critique of some specific criticisms of religion, i.e. that the criticisms given as examples in the first paragraph are inaccurate overgeneralizations and therefore undeserved criticism of religion.

    Disagreement with criticism of religion is not the same as giving religion a pass and advocating that those ideas not be discussed. If fact, it seems to be to be an active discussion of those ideas, just not agreement with them.

    Sids @61:

    You may have a point. I don’t spend a lot of time reading comments and often skip over many of them. But I don’t see people saying “Come on guys, lets not talk about this. Criticizing peoples religious views isn’t nice.” At least, no more often than I see people doing so in discussions of anything and everything from cats versus dogs to vaccines and advocating that people either be nice or stop the discussion.

    What I do see is plenty of discussion about how people’s religious views are part of their identity so people can be touchy about them and try to be respectful to the person. I also see lots of pushback and denials and attempts at refutation of religious criticism, such as the B. Schofield article Greta linked. I don’t see those as requests not to criticize religion.

    What I do see is that the cost of criticizing religion is high in terms of the pushback – i.e. lots of personal attacks and denials of others POV. Perhaps this is what is meant by the ‘free ride’? Simply that the pushback is very high when one criticizes religion. If so, I don’t consider that a ‘free ride’ in the sense that religion cannot be questioned anymore than I see other mainstream beliefs not being able to be questioned.

    Religion has a priviledged position in our society and the discussion is difficult for those like Greta who choose to engage in it. The pushback is always high when critizing priviledge, whether it’s white priviledge or male priviledge or political priviledge, so I don’t see religion as getting a ‘free ride’ that other ideas do not. I see religion as getting the same ‘free ride’ that all mainstream ideas are awarded.

  68. 68
    Stephen Frug

    Can I just say, as someone who’s basically on Greta’s side here, that I’m impressed by dscribner coming and talking with us? After all, one of Greta’s points is that many believers aren’t willing to do that. But dscribner is, and is doing so politely, and seems to be listening (if not always agreeing, or arguably hearing). So props for that.

    As for the whole ridicule issue, I presume most people would agree that there’s a difference between ridiculing beliefs and ridiculing people. I think what Greta and various commentators are saying is that the former is fine. But perhaps what dscribner is saying (sorry to put words in your mouth) is that it sometimes tips over to the latter. And while I agree with Greta that ridiculing beliefs is often, mistakenly, taken for ridiculing people — and that we shouldn’t rule it out just because of that misunderstanding — I think it is true that atheists, particularly on the net, sometimes genuinely do tip over into the latter.

    Again, we differ on where to draw the line: believers often describe ridicule of beliefs as ridicule of themselves (and, presumably, genuinely (if mistakenly) feel it to be such), but there is also such a thing as genuinely ridiculing a person (basically, saying not that what you believe is silly but rather you are stupid for believing it), and (people being people) we tip over into it. And we should watch out for it, and not do it.

  69. 69
    Nick Gotts

    But dscribner is, and is doing so politely – Stephen Frug

    He’s not using any naughty words, certainly, but I don’t see anything polite in saying that commenters are advocating intolerance, when they very clearly are not.

  70. 70
    Nick Gotts

    Stephen Frug,

    I think it is quite often entirely justifiable to ridicule people: primarily, people who are making vile racist, misogynist, or homophobic statements, for example, whether or not they are basing them on their religious beliefs.

  71. 71
    Stephen Frug

    KG,

    I don’t think that being mistaken about whether someone’s advocating intolerance is necessarily impolite. I think it’s just, well, wrong.

    As for ridicule… all of the generalizations are overly simple, so any broad-based claim is going to have exceptions, depending on specific circumstances. But in general I disagree with you: I think even for those advocating vile ideas, one should ridicule the ideas not the people, both on moral grounds (even people with vile ideas are people) and on practical ones (ridiculing ideas makes people feel like they can move over to your side and be welcomed; ridiculing people makes people feel simply hostile). Again, there are probably exceptions, but in general.

    (I’m not sure from your comment if there’s supposed to be an analogy between racism/etc and theism, but if there is, I think it’s mistaken. Theism may have negative consequences (although even that I find a lot more complex than the idea that, eg, racism does), but it’s not fundamentally immoral in the way that racism is. It’s just, y’know, lacking good grounds of evidence or argument.)

  72. 72
    Pierce R. Butler

    dscribner @ # 14: I don’t at all think that we shouldn’t disagree and challenge on another, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t come across as ridicule and doesn’t attack.

    “How it comes across” can be interpreted pretty much at will: those wishing to evade the point can always – and frequently do – play the ridicule/attack card.

    After you’ve collected the full set of those, why not go ahead and demonstrate what genuine ridicule and attack look like?

  73. 73
    fester60613

    This statement should be the basis of evangelical atheism’s outreach: “…I would encourage you to start caring a little bit more about whether the things you believe are true.”

  74. 74
    Nick Gotts

    Stephen Frug,

    I think even for those advocating vile ideas, one should ridicule the ideas not the people, both on moral grounds (even people with vile ideas are people)

    Who said they weren’t? The idea that there is something inherently wrong in ridiculing people is absurd; presumably you feel that all satire is morally wrong, but I don’t think you’ll find that’s a very widespread view, at least outside totalitarian belief systems.

    and on practical ones (ridiculing ideas makes people feel like they can move over to your side and be welcomed; ridiculing people makes people feel simply hostile).

    Do you have any evidence for that claim? And does it not occur to you that the person ridiculed is not necessarily, or even usually, the person the ridiculer hopes to influence? When I ridicule a racist, misogynist or homophobe, I am aiming to raise the perceived cost of racist/misogynist/homophobic hate speech – because such hate speech does direct and immediate harm to its targets.

  75. 75
    Rieux

    dscribner:

    I’m really surprised that so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance.

    That’s an absurd synopsis of the response to you on this thread. I haven’t seen anyone here argue in favor of intolerance or against “respectful dialogue”; that’s nonsense. Instead, starting with Greta in the original post, your interlocutors have repeatedly pointed out that

    (1) what you and yours diagnose as dis“respectful dialogue” and “intolerance” is almost always a perfectly ordinary challenge to your-plural ideas that you pretend is an attack on your persons, a misrepresentation that has the notable effect of protecting you from ever having to take our critiques of your ideas seriously;

    (2) that there are no other ideas whose partisans think they can get away with that stunt—i.e., pretending that attacks on said ideas are in fact attacks on the partisans, and that the attackers are therefore “intolerant” and should be upbraided, marginalized, and dismissed; and

    (3) that “ridicule” of particular ideas not infrequently does, as a matter of empirical fact, lead people encountering the ridicule to question and devalue those ideas.

    Perhaps the audience hearing some atheist- or theist-bashing….

    Boom! There’s dishonest sleight-of-hand example #1 (within comment #55).

    This discussion, as has been made clear to you numerous times, is not about “theist-bashing.” It never has been. We are talking about challenging, criticizing, attacking, ridiculing ideas, not people—at worst, theism-bashing, not theist-.

    And it’s that bait-and-switch tendency of yours—yours and millions of other religious believers’—that is the continuing problem here: your-plural inability to keep the differences between attacks on beliefs and attacks on believers straight in this discussion. (And, it would certainly appear, straight in your own minds.) Attacks on religion are not “theist-bashing”; your evident pretense that the two are interchangeable sure appears to be driving just about everything Greta critiques in the original post, and just about everything you personally have said here.

    Then, several of us have noticed that that dishonest sleight-of-hand is fairly blatant evidence of the religious privilege you-plural enjoy in this society and its discourse. You revolt at attacks on religious ideas, and misrepresent them as “theist-bashing” (and, below, “laughing at” a “person”) because you are in an enormously privileged position in our society: you, as a member of the hegemonic and overwhelmingly powerful religious majority, have become accustomed to a discourse in which critics of religion are not allowed to challenge the things you believe, in which you can be confident that no one can disturb your comfortable identification with mainstream religious notions. You and your fellow members of the hegemon have, for thousands of years, had the power to marginalize and pathologize (if not coerce, banish, torture, and/or execute) anyone who would dare disturb that comfortable certainty. And the result is that you-plural are shocked when some barbarian actually goes there, actually says something like “God is make-believe” or pounds a nail through a communion wafer to protest theocratic aggression. It makes you uncomfortable, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a hegemon made uncomfortable by a despised minority daring to assert itself.

    Again, as Greta (among countless others of us) interminably points out, no other kind of idea-advocate has the gall to behave this way. Advocates of Keynesian economics, say, when faced with harsh criticism of John Maynard Keynes’ ideas, don’t complain about “Keynesianite-bashing” and argue that it’s “intolerant” and amounts to “laughing at people.” That would be absurdly cowardly, and it would be widely recognized as such. Instead, the Keynesianites respond substantively to the attacks, recognizing that in the free marketplace of ideas, attacks on ideas are entirely fair game. Pretending that religious beliefs are people, that beliefs have rights, or that you are allowed to act as human shields for your religious beliefs is simply dishonest, and it clearly stems from some very intense and very unjust privilege.

    Notably, of course, there are a non-negligible number of us in the atheist minority who have no intention of letting you-plural get away with that anymore. No matter how much religious believers pretend that attacks on religious ideas are “intolerant” “theist-bashing,” we’re going to ignore such disingenuousness and continue treating those ideas the way we think, on what we believe are extremely strong grounds, the ideas deserve to be (indeed must be—see LeftSidePositive @48 above) treated.

    Perhaps the audience hearing some atheis[m]- or theis[m]-bashing will be persuaded that the basher has a good point.

    Yes, that’s a well-established fact of the real world: people engaged in fervent advocacy, including a variety that includes “ridicule” of opponents’ ideas, are often effective at convincing others. Given that part of your case is premised on the exact opposite, isn’t that a relevant rebuttal to what you’ve argued?

    Or maybe the person being laughed at will later re-think their views.

    Boom! again: there’s dishonest sleight-of-hand example #55.2. Again, the discussion is about challenges to ideas, not “persons.” And again, your inability (unwillingness?) to keep those concepts separate is a major indication of the problem at issue here.

    Critiquing religious ideas is not, in fact, “laughing at” “people.” And pretending otherwise is an all-too-blatant tactic designed to avoid dealing with the critique.

    Regarding the substance of the above sentence—sure, “laugh[ing] at” someone’s ideas sometimes convinces him or her to reevaluate them. It doesn’t always work, but it can. (The success rate is generally rather higher with ambivalent folks watching the exchange from the sidelines.)

    But do you really want to have that kind of relationship with the theists?

    Again, in light of the massive privilege that your demographic holds, and the overwhelming power it has to control and dictate so many of our lives, you are in no position to concern-troll atheists about what “kind of relationship” we ought to have with theists. In addition to your difficulty distinguishing between attacks on religion and attacks on the religious, you haven’t exactly demonstrated much cognizance of the power your demographic holds over ours; to the contrary, lines like “I’ll tell all my theist friends to stop being so touchy and to be be more gracious when they engage with y’all” (@43) come off as cloying, smarmy sneers in light of the abuse we’ve suffered at the hands of overwhelming numbers of religious believers over the past few millennia. You’re a bit too late to prevent the abuse suffered at the hands of “y’all” by Jessica Ahlquist, Damon Fowler, Nicole Smalkowski, and a whole lot of folks who came before them.

    Given that, I’d say we’ll keep our own counsel, thanks, about what “kind of relationship” we’d like to have with people who demand our silence and marginalization—and you could use a little more literacy about such issues before you start lecturing us on what “kind” we should want. We’ll make our own decisions about how best to relate to a huge and powerful group of privileged people who broadly neither like, understand, nor fundamentally respect us.

    Shocking as it always is to holders of unexamined privilege—whether white, straight, male, class, ableist, cisgendered, religious, or any other—, your sensitive feelings are not in fact the most important matter at issue here.

    Do you want them to ridicule you and be intolerant of your views in return?

    As Greta has already told you, we’re not afraid of our views being ridiculed. We, like the vast majority of participants in the free marketplace of ideas, are confident that our beliefs (and non-beliefs) can stand the heat. Atheists don’t have, nor are we trying to acquire, the enormous privilege that religious believers like yourself enjoy. We’re perfectly happy to submit our ideas for critical examination; the question remains why religious believers are so reticent to do the same.

    Theists come in many, many varieties and many of them are quite capable of discussing why they believe.

    Swell. Then I trust you’ll join Greta and the rest of us in denouncing the continuing attempt to pretend that atheists’ criticisms of religion are objectionable attacks on believers.

    And, Greta, the reason no one has an answer to your question of “why it’s okay to criticize other kinds of ideas but not religious ones” is because there is no reason. Of course it’s okay to criticize religious ideas just like it’s okay to criticize any other ideas.

    Great! That’s a happy concession. Now we just need to get you out there in public, exhorting huge numbers of your fellow believers to stop their constant blasting of outspoken atheists for doing nothing but what you’ve just conceded is “of course okay.”

    The vast majority of atheist expression that is maligned as “intolerant” and awful (including, it would certainly appear from this thread, by you) is in fact nothing more than “criticiz[ing] religious ideas.” If you agree that there’s nothing wrong with that exercise, then you necessarily disagree with a huge proportion of anti-atheist rhetoric. Will you therefore commit to openly criticizing such rhetoric when you see it?

  76. 76
    Nick Gotts

    Oh, yes, Stephen Frug, if I’d meant to include theism along with racism, misogyny and homophobia, I would have done so. And I do think it is extremely impolite to impute intolerance to people without evidence.

  77. 77
    Rieux

    Frug @68:

    But perhaps what dscribner is saying (sorry to put words in your mouth) is that it sometimes tips over to the latter.

    (S)he certainly hasn’t said that explicitly, no; (s)he’s been consistently playing the entirely ordinary religious-privilege game of shuttling between attacks on religious ideas and attacks on religious people, under the fairly clear pretense (until the very end of comment #55) that they’re the same thing.

    But okay, you think that the former sometimes “tips over to the latter.” Can you provide any examples? Got any basis to argue that this is something that prominent atheists do with any frequency, such that it actually makes sense to justify this kind of attack on outspoken atheism with it?

  78. 78
    Hanan

    >Again, in light of the massive privilege that your demographic holds, and the overwhelming power it has to control and dictate so many of our lives, you are in no position to concern-troll atheists about what “kind of relationship” we ought to have with theists.

    I was pretty much with you, till I read this statement of being some sort of victim

  79. 79
    rapiddominance

    EMAILER,

    I didn’t do a very good job arguing here, and I’m sorry.

    As you can now see, you’ve got to answer questions precisely as they are asked around here. I know you assumed it was okay to answer the question in terms of HOW they criticize religion. Well, you thought wrong.

    I hope you also learned why WE don’t email bloggers here. You turned in one large email based on a faulty assumption and the blogger showed no mercy tearing you up again and again, piece by piece, for what was really a single mistake. By doing this, she was able to create a conversational effect–she was able to build a ‘sense of frustration’ as if carrying on an argument with a forever evasive opponent. But again, it was really just one mistake embedded throughout a large response. (You made other tiny mistakes, but she carved you up with one).

    Let me ask you: Even if you were to have turned in a winning response do you think she would have posted it with the caption, “Maybe I was wrong?” or “Oh, Shit! Check this Out!”

    Lastly, its not enough to insist that our atheistic counterparts communicate hurtfully without specifying what is hurtful about the things they are saying. Some people habbitually use harsh words and phrases when they are sincerely trying to offer constructive criticism. On the other hand, some know how to elicit painful emotional reactions with the softest terms and expressions.

    Remember that many people here have been hurt by religious people AND in the name of religion. WE have to do a better job of understanding their hurt if WE want them to recognize our own.

    It was a good effort!

    Don’t feel bad. I screwed up, also.

  80. 80
    Hanan

    By the way, as someone who is religious, I am enjoying this blog :-)

  81. 81
    rapiddominance

    EMAILER!

    Let me clarify. You did give permission to have it aired. I’m not saying she deceived you or did ANYTHING unethical.

  82. 82
    rapiddominance

    Hanan,

    I try to enjoy myself while I’m here, also.

    I’ve ran into a lot of kind, thoughtful readers in my months at the FtB’s. Between them and the hospitalitiy of the bloggers, I can’t stay out of this place.

    ;)

  83. 83
    rapiddominance

    I meant the real smile:

    :)

    Seriously.

  84. 84
    A. Noyd

    dscribner (#55)

    I’m really surprised that so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance.

    “Productive” is a meaningless descriptor unless you specify what is being produced. You can’t assume that those of us who prefer to use ridicule or who advocate a certain kind of intolerance wish to produce the same thing you do.

    I prefer ridicule because I would like to change the culture surrounding religion (and other beliefs that contradict reality) so that people feel foolish for holding religious beliefs. I want people to know that asserting things without evidence or asserting things that contradict evidence will get them laughed at. I want to destroy the respect culture gives to those who hold a belief based on faith. I would like society to be intolerant of beliefs that cannot support themselves on their own merits. I would especially like society to be consistently intolerant of beliefs that do measurable harm to others.* Or, to adapt KG’s phrasing (#74), I want to increase the perceived social cost of holding untrue beliefs.

    Do you honestly think ridicule and intolerance are less productive tools compared to “respectful” dialog in achieving those goals?

    …….
    *There are only a few cases, such as matters of public health, where the government itself should be intolerant of such beliefs (eg. disallowing philosophical/religious exemptions for vaccination).

  85. 85
    Stephen Frug

    KG,

    Of course I don’t think satire is wrong. A lot of satire is aimed at ideas — a distinction I was at some pains to make — which of course is fine.

    As far as ridiculing people go — it’s cruel. (Again, this is premised on already having distinguished ridiculing ideas and ridiculing people, and speaking only of the latter.) And cruelty is, all things being equal, immoral. Now, I don’t think it’s so inherently immoral that it can’t ever be justified on utilitarian grounds (which is, it seems to me, what you’re doing: you’re saying it’s worth it to raise the perceived cost of racism/etc). But yeah, I think it’s wrong to be cruel, although in some cases it may be worthwhile for a greater good. (And of course people in totalitarian belief systems are happy to ridicule whoever the approved enemies are. Totalitarians like cruelty.)

    Of course, ridiculing some people in order to raise the perceived cost of holding (vile) ideas is to treat them as means to an end, rather than valuable in and of themselves — which is to say, not fully like people. Again, perhaps it’s worth it for the ultimate good. I’m not convinced. I’d like to imagine a world in which everyone felt valued and welcome — even those who don’t wish for such a world themselves. But as far as the unpopularity of that view, you’re probably right about that part. I don’t think that speaks to whether it’s right to hold it or not. Perhaps on that we might just have to agree to disagree.

    As far as the issue of the politeness of attributing intolerance being rude, I think it hinges on whether or not you credit it as a good-faith mistake. I gather you do not think it was in this case; I disagree, since so far as I can tell it is. This, too, may be something we have to agree to disagree about.

  86. 86
    ihabawad

    @nigelTheBold to the power of nigelTheBold:

    Thanks, that made sense.

    I think that my original argument might be put into simpler terms, though: I just observe that capital-T Truth as a term has been co-opted to mean different things to different people. To me, the properties of the speed of light are “true” unless and until some neutrinos at CERN show otherwise. To many of my Muslim relatives, the fact that observant Muslims should fast from sunup to sundown, as stated 1400+ years ago in the Koran, is “true” in the Scandinavian summer (and, I imagine, even at the poles where this time period could span many months…).

    As a result, I fear that the religious among us may confuse claims of my (and, I imagine, yours and Greta’s) “truth” for theirs.

    Furthermore, I think that defending this truth-territory is futile; better to retreat from it and let the theists sink themselves in its quagmire. :) Because they have already accepted this argument; they already use “our” form of “truth” when it counts, in matters of cooking eggs and building bridges. Just ask them to pencil in the boundary between where their truth and our truth lies, and to justify their choices.

    In one of Richard Dawkins’ films, he is interviewing the Rev Ted Haggard. Ted says, Richard, don’t be arrogant; your children will laugh at you! Richard responded by being all huffy, but I think he should have taken the opportunity to say, well of course! I’m happy if my children laugh at me, and I’ll be laughing right along with them, because they will have come up with more accurate models of the world in which we live, allowing them to make better decisions and live more comfortable lives. Your children, Ted, as you would have it, will still be stuck repeating the same tired old nonsense.

    Does this make any sense?

  87. 87
    ihabawad

    @nigelTheBold to the power of nigelTheBold:

    … and regarding your refinements of the “world we live in” and accurate modeling thereof ;) — the simple question here is, Ted, do you use a cell phone? Do you drive on bridges? Do you take medicines? Do you drive a car? How do you think these are designed? And again, what is the boundary and why?

  88. 88
    Rieux

    Hanan @78:

    I was pretty much with you, till I read this statement of being some sort of victim….

    Then I’m sorry that you care so little about the damage that privileged majorities like yours, in their incredible power and privilege, inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.

    Abuse (of various kinds) of minorities by hegemonic majorities is an undeniable fact in the real world. Your disinterest in dealing with that fact does not obligate anyone else to avoid pointing it out.

    98. And of course, I get angry—stutteringly, inarticulately, pulse-racingly angry—when believers chide atheists for being so angry. “Why do you have to be so angry all the time?” “All that anger is so off-putting.” “If atheism is so great, then why are so many of you so angry?”

    I look at all the horrors I wrote about in this book. I look at mutilated children. I look at demolished art. I look at people suffering and dying because of faith healing. I look at organized Christianity—not just the religious right, but supposedly “moderate” churches as well—interfering with AIDS prevention, getting their theology in the public schools, trying to stop me and Ingrid from getting married, protecting priests who rape children. I look at fatwas, and burqas, and 9/11, and Salman Rushdie having to go into hiding for years. I look at the caste system in India, and the religious justifications that get used to defend it. I look at girl children in Jerusalem being spat on by a mob for baring their arms.

    And I look at atheists occasionally being mean-spirited and snarky in blogs and books and magazines.

    And I think: Can we please have some perspective?

    Do you seriously look at all of this crap I’m talking about, thousands of years of abuse and injustice, deceit and willful ignorance, brutality and exploitation—and then look at a few years of atheists being snarky on the Internet—and see them as somehow equivalent?

    Or worse: Do you somehow see the snarky atheists as the bigger problem?

    – from a book I read recently by some writer whose name escapes me for the moment

  89. 89
    Hanan

    >inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.

    Yes. The horror that is inflicted upon the American atheists by us white privileged class is truly horrendous.

    I like her use of words “occasionally” atheists are disrespected on blogs.
    You truly are a poor soul. The suffering you endure by us religious people. We control so much of you.

  90. 90
    Hanan

    Oh, sorry. I misread her. She was describing atheists being mean spirited.

  91. 91
    Hanan

    To Rieux,

    This is what you said:

    “Again, in light of the massive privilege that your demographic holds, and the overwhelming power it has to control and dictate so many of our lives, you are in no position to concern-troll atheists about what “kind of relationship” we ought to have with theists.”

    I’m sorry….what privilege does our demographic hold? Are you really herding every religious person, and group on this earth under one demographic unit? And that somehow, we have some unified power of poor people like you? That we control your life? As a religious Jew, I have nothing to do with the goals, beliefs or values of an Imam out in Sudan. We are not a “Demographic” for any practical purposes. As an American of faith, I have no special privilege with long tentacles sprouting out to control your life.

    Second, in response to:

    “you care so little about the damage that privileged majorities like yours, in their incredible power and privilege, inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.”

    I am well aware of ALL majorities that can cause damage to innocent people, INCLUDING people of faith. A powerful majority inflicting evil on innocents has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with human nature

  92. 92
    Nick Gotts

    Of course I don’t think satire is wrong. A lot of satire is aimed at ideas – Stephen Frug

    Snactimonious piffle. Good satire is ridiculing the powerful. Evidently you think the powerful should not be made to feel uncomfortable. I disagree.

    Of course, ridiculing some people in order to raise the perceived cost of holding (vile) ideas is to treat them as means to an end, rather than valuable in and of themselves — which is to say, not fully like people.

    Sanctimonious piffle again. We all treat people as means to an end every day – the end of buying a ticket for the train, the end of getting or staying in a job, the end of enjoying a game of chess or squash. Whether to ridicule racists, misogynists and homophobes is a matter of deciding whose side you are on – the racists, misogynists and homophobes, or their victims. To pretend you can avoid the choice is self-deception at best.

    As far as the issue of the politeness of attributing intolerance being rude, I think it hinges on whether or not you credit it as a good-faith mistake. I gather you do not think it was in this case; I disagree, since so far as I can tell it is.

    I don’t have any confidence in your powers of discernment. Point me to the evidence that could possibly justify the claim that:

    so many folks here are so troubled by my suggestion that respectful dialogue is more productive than ridicule and intolerance. [my emphasis]

  93. 93
    Nick Gotts

    To me, the properties of the speed of light are “true” unless and until some neutrinos at CERN show otherwise. – ihabawad

    This is deeply confused. The properties of the speed of light are neither true nor false – truth and falsehood are properties of statements, or claims, or propositions, and their truth or falsehood is entirely independent of whether anyone happens to know whether they are true or false. You are right to dismiss “Truth” with a capital “T” – truth is a property and not a thing – but the attempt to substitute “useful” for “true” is incoherent. If you say that a claim or belief is “useful” You are making a truth claim about that claim or belief: that it is useful.

  94. 94
    Nick Gotts

    Hanan,

    Haven’t you noticed? As a religious Jew you are now part of America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage” ;-)

    (Even though many of those using the phrase would have been happily excluding you from their country clubs until they found more politically convenient targets for their hate.)

  95. 95
    ihabawad

    @KG: You are correct, I was imprecise about the speed of light issue. But as for usefulness, yes I’m making a truth claim about the fact that certain beliefs (e.g. scientific understanding) are useful, and that truth claim is undisputed, by theists and atheists alike. So I wish to find out how these useful beliefs were formed, contrast with other ways of forming beliefs, and determine the boundary between the various belief-forming domains.

  96. 96
    Stephen Frug

    KG,

    Clearly we’re talking past each other, so I’m going to leave it there.

  97. 97
    scenario

    I’ll take a chance at answering the question. Questioning peoples religious beliefs repeatedly frequently leads to violence, especially when mentally unstable people use religion as a crutch to help them cope.

    The social stigma probably came about because religious conflicts in small villages and towns could easily explode into violence, so it became socially unacceptable to criticize religion.

    Other topics may lead to violence, especially when combined with alcohol but religious differences are especially likely to provoke violent conflict because religion is based primarily on tradition and emotion.

  98. 98
    mnb0

    @Hanan: maybe you can answer my question of my reaction 63?

  99. 99
    Rieux

    Hanan:

    I’m sorry….what privilege does our demographic hold?

    Religious privilege. How is that hard to understand?

    Are you really herding every religious person, and group on this earth under one demographic unit?

    For the purposes of noting that all of you enjoy indisputable advantages within society by virtue of being religious that non-religous people do not? Yes, of course. You all enjoy those in precisely the same way that “every white person,” “every male person,” “every heterosexual person,” “every wealthy person,” and members of numerous other privileged majorities—regardless of the (irrelevant to this question) internal diversities within those majority demographics—enjoy comparable privileges.

    Is the basic concept of privilege really this foreign to you?

    And that somehow, we have some unified power of poor people like you?

    What is this “unified” nonsense? White people, males, heterosexuals, and the rest are not “unified” in any worthwhile sense, and yet it would be absurd to pretend that we do not have overwhelming power and privilege that corresponding minorities blatantly lack.

    So the irrelevant “unified” aside—yes, of course you do. By virtue of your religious status, in this society you have significant power over, and can expect superior and unequal treatment as compared to, irreligious people. Greta’s post, and the discussion that has followed (among countless other data points available), have repeatedly proved that. Do you seriously dispute it?

    That we control your life?

    Who else do you think does? You and I are both Americans; tell me, how many irreligious members of Congress are there? Irreligious Supreme Court justices? Governors? State legislators? Mayors? City council members? How many irreligious people have been elected President?

    Are you really unable to see the massive disparity in societal treatment that that unbroken wall of religiosity—despite the size of the irreligious demographic in the United States (there are more of us than of any single denomination besides Catholics)—flatly demonstrates?

    As a religious Jew, I have nothing to do with the goals, beliefs or values of an Imam out in Sudan.

    Who said anything about “goals” or “values”? (Though “beliefs”? Have you forgotten that each of you believes in a god?)

    Regardless, the relevant point is: you are religious. So is he. That enables both of you, either in Western society or (all the more) in his own society, to exercise power and to receive more favorable treatment from social institutions and the bulk of the population than an atheist could possibly exercise or receive. The fact that you happen to disagree with the Sudanese imam about various things besides theism (what shocking news—religious people often disagree with one another) has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that you both enjoy enormous religious privilege.

    We are not a “Demographic” for any practical purposes. As an American of faith, I have no special privilege with long tentacles sprouting out to control your life.

    Of course you do. Like possessors of all kinds of other privilege, though, you have the comfortable convenience of never needing to notice the ways in which the society around us favors you at our expense.

    Countless men and white people and heterosexuals are smugly confident that they don’t benefit from privilege, either; blindness to the structures of power we sit atop is an overwhelmingly common part of the human condition. Your dogged denial is a little silly, though.

    Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

    Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

    Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

    – From this synopsis of the 2006 University of Minnesota study of American distrust of atheists

    Back to Hanan and me:

    you care so little about the damage that privileged majorities like yours, in their incredible power and privilege, inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.

    I am well aware of ALL majorities that can cause damage to innocent people, INCLUDING people of faith.

    Given your direct denial of the existence of religious (or any other form of?) privilege, that’s clearly not true. But anyway:

    A powerful majority inflicting evil on innocents has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with human nature

    That is an overwhelmingly dubious declaration. Greta has written an entire book (and numerous smaller pieces, such as this one) presenting a vast empirical case against your position. So have Ophelia Benson, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Hector Avalos, among many others. Care to explain how you have absolved religion of every ounce of “inflicting evil on innocents” in the history of the world?

    To begin with, what is your investigative method? How have you determined that, of all the ideas and institutions that bear responsibility for “inflicting evil on innocents,” “human nature” deserves 100.0% percent of the blame, while religion deserves none whatsoever?

  100. 100
    dscribner

    I sincerely apologize. I know I offended at least one person here, and I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to do that, and I really am sorry. I came here as a guest, and I’m sorry for being rude.

    I know that you may not believe this, but I came into this discussion really believing that atheists should feel free to challenge theists and question and debate their ideas. I still believe that.

    Personally (and I know that many of you disagree with me on this) I think that people shouldn’t ridicule one another at all. Whether it’s based on their skin color, nationality, accent, career choices, hobbies, food preferences, fear of UFOs, political views or religious beliefs. It’s not that I think theists should get a special pass; I think everyone should get a special pass.

    And, Rieux, you’re right. I was wrong to equate ridicule with intolerance. And I really am sorry for how I came across.

    @mnbo #63, I don’t know. What do you say to anyone that doesn’t understand or acknowledge the points you’re making in any argument? If they don’t understand or reject what you’re saying, either they’re lying or the don’t get it. You might suggest a book or article they can read to help them get a better handle of what you’re trying to say or you might decide that it isn’t worth the effort to pursue the point. I’m sorry that you ran into some theists who were like that.

  101. 101
    godlesspanther

    The goals are different. As an atheist, I do not desire to have any special protection for my ideas. I don’t need to ask people not to mock my ideas, not to question them, I do not want to have a free ride.

    The advances in science are the result of skepticism being welcomed — bring it on — hit me with your best shot.

    Religion has not advanced at all, not one little bit. Changed, yes, it has changed tremendously, but that does not mean that it has advanced in terms of getting any better. The most primitive religions on the earliest homo sapiens were about talking to the sky and pretending that you get answers when you know damn good and well that you do not.

    The most recent sci-fi inspired religious movements are about talking to the sky and pretending that you get answers when you know damn good and well that you do not.

    Religion exists because and only because it has been given special protection in the societies in which it operates.

    Don’t make fun of my religion — it’s not nice. Don’t expect me to give any real answers — I have special exemption. Don’t criticize my beliefs, let me hide behind my magic comic book and pretend that I’m always right, don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain, don’t call me a liar and a con-artist even though that’s what I obviously am.

    This is why religion is still with us. Without special protection it would be nothing but ancient history.

  102. 102
    LeftSidePositive

    While I appreciate the apology, I think there is something we need to clear up here:

    Personally (and I know that many of you disagree with me on this) I think that people shouldn’t ridicule one another at all. Whether it’s based on their skin color,

    Someone’s skin color can’t possibly harm anyone.

    nationality,

    Doesn’t harm anyone (unless they’re a diplomat or something actually advocating for their country’s policies, but I don’t think that’s what you meant)…

    accent,

    Doesn’t harm anyone.

    career choices,

    Generally doesn’t harm anyone, but if you’re a crooked used car salesman or a policeman who pepper-sprays peaceful kids, I’m sure as hell going to say something.

    hobbies,

    Unless you’re a Regional Finalist Puppy-Roaster, this doesn’t generally harm anyone.

    food preferences,

    Mostly doesn’t harm anyone, but I’m not going to get huffy if someone makes a rational comment about my fondness for veal (of course I’m not going to listen either, but hey…)

    fear of UFOs,

    This actually wastes a good deal of police hours and dollars, and it can lead to some really unfortunate effects on public policy and science education.

    political views

    Can crash economies, deny people life-saving medical care, cheat people out of life savings, ruin necessary social services, attack civil liberties, and start wars that KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.

    or religious beliefs.

    Can cut people off education, ostracize individuals and families, cause myriad sexual guilt and dysfunction, encourage people to beat their children, promote misogyny, deny people life-saving medical care, cheat people out of life savings, ruin necessary social services, attack civil liberties, and start wars that KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.

    Do you understand that a few of these things are not like the others?

  103. 103
    Vivienne

    Dscribner: And, Greta, the reason no one has an answer to your question of “why it’s okay to criticize other kinds of ideas but not religious ones” is because there is no reason. Of course it’s okay to criticize religious ideas just like it’s okay to criticize any other ideas.

    Is it really? Just ask some of your fellow Christians how much they like their beliefs being criticized. I think it is silly to believe that there is an invisible entity following you everywhere, reading your thoughts, judging your actions, and protecting you from harm, and that this entity will take you away to live in the sky when you are dead. I am perfectly capable of saying this in a very polite tone of voice, but of course Christians do not want to hear it. Most of them will be offended, and even claim that the sky-man is offended, too. (How they know this, they never explain.) Some will even insist that I have no right to express this opinion. THEY, however, have the right to express their opinions to me at length, whether I care to hear them or not. Why the double standard?

    godlesspanther: Don’t make fun of my religion — it’s not nice. Don’t expect me to give any real answers — I have special exemption. Don’t criticize my beliefs, let me hide behind my magic comic book and pretend that I’m always right, don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain, don’t call me a liar and a con-artist even though that’s what I obviously am.

    This is why religion is still with us. Without special protection it would be nothing but ancient history.

    Exactly! If more people would stop pretending that religion deserves special treatment, it would eventually fade away, relegated to the Mythology section of libraries. But, no, it must be treated with extra-super-special care lest someone’s delicate feelings be injured. I refuse to comply.

  104. 104
    Rieux

    dscribner:

    I know that you may not believe this, but I came into this discussion really believing that atheists should feel free to challenge theists and question and debate their ideas. I still believe that.

    [....]

    And, Rieux, you’re right. I was wrong to equate ridicule with intolerance. And I really am sorry for how I came across.

    Well, okay; that’s a surprising and rather positive response. I’m encouraged that we’ve been able to raise a little consciousness here.

    Greta is uncommonly good at that, of course.

  105. 105
    Hanan

    >Religious privilege. How is that hard to understand?

    What is religious privilege. Specifically.

    >For the purposes of noting that all of you enjoy indisputable advantages within society by virtue of being religious that non-religous people do not? Yes, of course.

    Absolutely ridiculous. What privilege do I receive, that you cannot get? The answer? None. Because people don’t like you because you are an atheist? Tough. That doesn’t mean I get preferential treatment in any way under the law or ability to further my life. See, I think I figured this out and this fits into every pattern out there in reality. This isn’t a religious/atheist issue. At it’s rudimentary core, this is a conservative/leftist disagreement. The left has repeatedly made every issue into that of race/gender/class. Those are the goggles you look through the world. There is always some sort of oppression out there, whether it exists or not. So the left concocts another boogeyman. The white heterosexual male and his special privileges out there that only he gets and he actively uses it to oppress others. That we have some special privilege that you are not capable of acquiring. And not only that. But that there is an ACTIVE push against you (specifically, you as an atheist). If there is anything the Left has done a superb job at doing, is creating a society of victims.

    >”You and I are both Americans; tell me, how many irreligious members of Congress are there? Irreligious Supreme Court justices? Governors? State legislators? Mayors? City council members? How many irreligious people have been elected President?”

    Therefore what exactly? See, I look at these people as Americans doing a specific job they were voted into. You look at these people as Americans + Religious and that their religion is a KEY to their control over you. And if you are going to answer me that you don’t believe that, than there is no point in bringing that up anymore than you bringing up the lack Soccer fans in public office. But once again, this is just victimhood mentality. Because these people in high office happen to believe in a God, therefore, by default, it victimizes you.

    >The fact that you happen to disagree with the Sudanese imam about various things besides theism (what shocking news—religious people often disagree with one another) has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that you both enjoy enormous religious privilege.

    It has EVERYTHING to do with it. Yu might as well say all sports teams across the globe share the same privilege (a privilege which you haven’t defined) because coincidentally, they all use balls. It is a meaningless statement. If we don’t share the same values, goals or beliefs than we enjoy no made up religious privilege (a privilege which you haven’t defined). It’s a meaningless statement. You are making up a connection to further your own prejudices and nothing more.

    >(Though “beliefs”? Have you forgotten that each of you believes in a god?)

    Terrific. That is like comparing Tom Selick with Hitler because they both have mustaches.

    >That is an overwhelmingly dubious declaration.

    There is absolutely nothing dubious about it. This is what you said:

    “Then I’m sorry that you care so little about the damage that privileged majorities like yours, in their incredible power and privilege, inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.”

    Of course religion in parts and times have inflicted pain on others. I’m not absolving them. But i am saying that you can’t limit this to religious people (let alone clump one religious group to another half way around the world). ANY majority in power has the potential to inflict harm on others. There is enough cruelty in the 20th century to show that religion does not hold some monopoly and inflicting pain on others. If you think I meant that religion plays no part in horror, than you are mistaken. I simply meant what Greta said herself:

    “I know that the impulses driving evil are deeply rooted in human nature, and religion is far from the only thing to inspire it.”

    >To begin with, what is your investigative method?

    Oh please. Lets have some common sense and a little understanding of human history. You don’t need a doctorate here.

    There is no bridge between our conflicting view points. And it doesn’t necessarily have to do with religion.

  106. 106
    Hanan

    mnb0

    I wouldn’t say he is lying.

    I would say he is mistaken and ignorant.

    Lying would mean he knows the truth, but still persists in spreading falsehoods.

    Is your question more of how to approach the individual in his mistaken belief?

  107. 107
    Hanan

    >(what shocking news—religious people often disagree with one another)

    And if we agreed on everything you would find something else to complain about.

  108. 108
    Nick Gotts

    Hanan shows the blindness to privilege that is so widespread among the privileged. As well as a complete failure to understand what it is.

    The left has repeatedly made every issue into that of race/gender/class. Those are the goggles you look through the world. There is always some sort of oppression out there, whether it exists or not. So the left concocts another boogeyman. The white heterosexual male and his special privileges out there that only he gets and he actively uses it to oppress others.

    Privilege does not imply active use of that privilege to oppress others. I am a white heterosexual cisgender male. As a member of all those categories I have privilege, because I am perceived as the norm, and am a member of a group that has a long history of being treated more favourably than the groups to which it is contrasted. If you are denying the reality of oppression by class, by gender, by race, by sexual orientation then either you are being completely dishonest, or your privilege is blinding you to reality. These oppressions are not figments of the leftist imagination: they are stark and often brutal realities, reflected variously (it is not the case that every form of privilege confers every sort of advantage) in treatment by the police and the legal system, in job and educational opportunities, in social acceptance, in some cases by outright violence. In the USA, and to a lesser extent in much of Europe, the religious – at least, Christians and to a lesser extent Jews – are indeed privileged in a similar way. In the USA there is a deep and sometimes vicious prejudice against non-believers, reflected in opinion polls, in institutions such as the “National Day of Prayer”, in the vile threats made against people such as Jessica Ahlquist, and in something as simple as the ubiquity of the question “What church do you attend?”.

  109. 109
    Raging Bee

    Religious people are TERRIBLE about judging others. It’s really embarrassing!

    And what’s their reaction when you advise them to be less judgmental?

    And I think non-religious people can be judgemental sometimes too.

    Hey, at least we’re not threatening you with eternal horrifying torture in an imaginary place called Hell, just because you disagree with us.

    On the subject of whether ridicule works, I’d just like to say it can be effective in reminding religious people just how deep our feelings toward religious insanity really are. Too many theists cling to some smug belief or other, and never question it because they’ve shielded themselves from the consequences of their beliefs, and simply pretend it’s harmless and no one has any real reason to get upset over it. (Just one example: Bible-based gay-bashing.) Sometimes a good dose of derision or calling-out is just what’s needed to shock a theist into seeing what his belief really means, and why someone else would have good reason to kick it to the curb.

    (And besides, if mockery and derision are so ineffective, why do so many religious evangelists and con-artists use it every day?)

  110. 110
    Spike

    The problem here is it’s a case of a precedence having been set for thousands of years; until relatively recently you didn’t argue about it, or question it, because it was such an important part of human existence that I guess people feared society might collapse without it. Religion has been such a HUGELY powerful thing in human culture that it’s going to take a long time for people to realise that it is and should be fair game to debate and, yes, even a tiny bit of teasing, like THE ENTIRE REST OF EVERYTHING. So while I’m not saying that it should be exempt from criticism, I just think it’s going to take a long time for people to get their heads out of their asses.

  111. 111
    Anri

    Hanan:

    As a religious Jew, I have nothing to do with the goals, beliefs or values of an Imam out in Sudan. We are not a “Demographic” for any practical purposes. As an American of faith, I have no special privilege with long tentacles sprouting out to control your life.

    Does your holy book say you are one of a special people, favored above others around you? Does his?

    Does your holy book say that god is to be respected, and that those can don’t can expect punishment? Does his?

    Does your holy book say that women are lesser beings, and should not be allowed the same status as men? Does his?

    Does your holy book say that LGBT people are bad, and that they should be shunned/punished/avoided? Does his?

    Does your holy book say that the things of the world are secondary to some ‘higher’ spiritual purpose? Does his?

    Is your holy book filled with the exploits of heroes of your faith as they struck down their enemies with sword and flame? Is his?

    Lastly, does you holy book say that, regardless of the world around, you must hold onto the belief in an invisible sky daddy as being the most important thing your life can achieve? Does his?

    You two have a hell of a lot more in common than you’d like to admit. You believe the same basic myths. You’re only arguing over the names and details.
    To put it another way, Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans are still both sci-fi fans.

  112. 112
    Hanan

    >If you are denying the reality of oppression by class, by gender, by race, by sexual orientation then either you are being completely dishonest, or your privilege is blinding you to reality.

    Yes, I am denying it. And yes, to you I am blind. Both of us have simply decided to the view reality in totally different and conflicting ways. Glass Half empty. Glass half full. Who is right? L’Chaim.

  113. 113
    Rieux

    Well, KG @108 has dismantled Hanan’s willful blindness @105 rather effectively, but to go in slightly more point-by-point:

    Absolutely ridiculous. What privilege do I receive, that you cannot get? The answer? None.

    Again, the depth of your denial is a little shocking. “None,” huh?

    As I demonstrated in my previous comment, as a religious believer, you can run for political office in the United States without hiding (or lying about) your perspective on religion and know it won’t hurt your ability to get elected. I cannot. That’s privilege.

    As Greta referenced in the original post (and countless other atheists have been pointing out for many years), you can engage in social discourse about ideas knowing that your beliefs about religion are protected by powerful societal mores from attack. I cannot. That’s privilege.

    If you get divorced from your spouse and there is a dispute over custody of your children, you can be confident that the court will not deny you custody because of your approach toward religion. I cannot. That’s privilege. It’s also massive, disgusting injustice, and it places your baldfaced declarations that you don’t “get preferential treatment in any way under the law” in a very bad light. You are very confident about some things that are demonstrably not true: in the real world, you do get preferential treatment in an extremely consequential way under the law.

    You can live generally confident[*] that your perspective on religion, if it becomes publicly known, will not lead to your being disowned by your parents, evicted by your landlord, fired by your employer, or denied housing or a job by prospective landlords and employers. I cannot. That’s privilege, and in most cases it’s a blatantly illegal manifestation of privilege, to boot.

    You can be confident that, regardless of where you live in the United States, state law will not declare you ineligible to vote or to testify in court. I cannot. That’s privilege.

    You can use American currency and say a Pledge of Allegiance that do not lie about what you “trust” and what you are “under,” placing you as a member rather than an outsider to the community declared by those things. I cannot. That’s privilege.

    You can live your life in the confident knowledge that your neighbors do not take your ideas about religion as an indication that (1) you fail to share a common ‘core’ of values with them, making you less than trustworthy, and (2) you’re a self-interested individual who is not concerned with the common good. As social science has shown, I cannot. That’s privilege.

    [* It's worth noting that, as a Jew, there are unquestionably contexts in which you are at risk of anti-Semitic prejudice, and thus housing discrimination, employment discrimination, election challenges, ill will from neighbors, etc. (though not, to my knowledge, discrimination in court custody determinations—or taunts that stating your beliefs constitutes "attacking believers"). But that's just an example of how your personal position has some parallels with atheists': in much of the United States Christian privilege is just as real as, though slightly less broad than (because it's a subset of) religious privilege. Loath as you are to deal with it, privilege is a reality of your existence in the United States as well.]

    Because people don’t like you because you are an atheist? Tough.

    Okay, so to “in deep denial” we can add “callous and apathetic.” Again, I’m sorry that you care so little about the damage that majorities like yours, in their incredible power and privilege, inflict on innocent people, atheist and otherwise.

    That doesn’t mean I get preferential treatment in any way under the law or ability to further my life.

    As I’ve just demonstrated, “that” is exactly what it “means.” And as you’ve just demonstrated, it is incredibly easy for the beneficiaries of privilege to be entirely unaware of the advantages that their privilege grants them—and indeed smugly confident about the lack of such advantages. Privilege and blindness very, very often go together.

    At it’s rudimentary core, this is a conservative/leftist disagreement.

    In your personal case, yes, I think that’s part of it. You certainly seem to code any complaint about injustices inflicted by hegemonic majorities as “left” and therefore inherently baseless, and empirical evidence and reasoning have no impact on your evaluation. It all seems a little weird and pointlessly dogmatic to me, but what can I do?

    The left has repeatedly made every issue into that of race/gender/class. Those are the goggles you look through the world.

    Or realities that you are determined to blind yourself to, no matter what actual facts demonstrate. As good ol’ Steve C. has pointed out, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

    So the left concocts another boogeyman.

    Or another real problem that you have to figure out a way to convince yourself doesn’t exist.

    I’m sorry, but while scary stories about “the left” and its dastardly designs do explain a lot about where you are coming from and your reasons for ignoring the things you’re ignoring, they aren’t actually a rebuttal to any of the evidence or reasoning that Greta or I or KG or anyone else here has provided for you.

    The white heterosexual male and his special privileges out there that only he gets….

    If you are seriously arguing that whites, heterosexuals, and males do not enjoy massive privilege in this society, then I’m not sure there’s much point in discussing the realities of privilege with you. The denial is just too deep.

    Of course religion in parts and times have inflicted pain on others.

    Okay, so you have immediately retracted your declaration that “A powerful majority inflicting evil on innocents has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with human nature[.]” That’s good, I guess; now, contrary to that previous statement of yours, you agree that religion is responsible for some kinds of suffering and injustice. It’s a step, I suppose.

    But i am saying that you can’t limit this to religious people.

    Who’s trying to “limit it” that way? I’m saying that religion and the majority religious demographic are responsible for significant amounts of (but not all) suffering and injustice in the world. The notion that such things are “limit[ed] to religious people” has never come from me—and I haven’t seen it from anyone else on this thread (or any other prominent atheist), either. You’re attacking a strawman.

    ANY majority in power has the potential to inflict harm on others.

    Agreed! Though, as Greta has demonstrated, religion’s power and tendency to do that is, by virtue of the nature of religion, more potent than most if not all other ideas’.

  114. 114
    Hanan

    >You’re only arguing over the names and details.
    To put it another way, Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans are still both sci-fi fans.

    But Star Wars and Star Trek have two distinct narratives and different purposes to their stories. That is my point.

  115. 115
    Hanan

    Rieux,

    I will respond. But you wrote a lot, and I haven’t had my coffee yet.

  116. 116
    Anri

    But Star Wars and Star Trek have two distinct narratives and different purposes to their stories. That is my point.

    So… I’m sorry, are you disputing all – or indeed any – of the actual examples of similarities I showed, instead of just the cute quip at the end?

    In terms of narritive, all theists are on the same side – the side that says that the supernatural exists, and is important. The extent to which they think this varies, of course, as does the exact flavor of supernatural they support.

    In terms of purpose, intent isn’t magic. In the real world, places with more religion are worse off, on average. Places with less religion are better off, on average.
    Religion might be a cause, or it might be a symptom, or it might be both, but the state of the world shows that less = better. If a religious person honestly thinks their religion is something good, they cannot agree with this reality. Any religious person, from any religion.

  117. 117
    Nick Gotts

    Yes, I am denying it. And yes, to you I am blind. Both of us have simply decided to the view reality in totally different and conflicting ways. Glass Half empty. Glass half full. Who is right? L’Chaim. – Hanan

    Who is right? I am. Your claims are ridiculous, ludicrous tosh, and it is very difficult to believe that you are being honest in making them. I have not “decided” to view reality in a specific way – I have looked at the facts: about the different treatment of blacks and whites by the police and the courts, about the differences in job opportunities and salary between equally well-qualified men and women, about the hate crimes against and denial of equality to LGBT people. You and those like you deny those facts, because it is in your selfish interest to do so.

  118. 118
    beth

    Religion might be a cause, or it might be a symptom, or it might be both, but the state of the world shows that less = better. If a religious person honestly thinks their religion is something good, they cannot agree with this reality. Any religious person, from any religion.

    Actually, because the direction of causality is not established, your conclusion does not follow. If religion is a symptom, not a cause of problems then a religious person could easily agree with that reality and feel still that religion is a good thing.

    To illustrate this idea, consider the correlation of illness and medication. The sicker the person, the more medication they are likely to be prescribed. It follows that less medication = better health. It’s easily seen that one can agree with that reality and still consider medication a benefit to humanity.

  119. 119
    Hanan

    >Does your holy book say you are one of a special people, favored above others around you? Does his?

    Yes, it does. But the purpose of having that there are totally different than what a Sudanese would have.

    Does your holy book say that god is to be respected, and that those can don’t can expect punishment? Does his?

    Um…Not sure what you mean by respect. My holy book tells me as Jew I am to follow the rules, not everyone else, nor about their lack of respect for God.

    >Does your holy book say that women are lesser beings, and should not be allowed the same status as men? Does his?

    If you can find a passage that says women are of lesser beings in my holy book, it would help. But then again, I as an Israelite am not privileged to the same status as a Levy…who is not privileged as the same status as a Cohen.

    >Does your holy book say that LGBT people are bad, and that they should be shunned/punished/avoided? Does his?

    Please find me a passage that says they are bad people. Are you talking about the active act of sex? Yes, my holy book says gay sex is not allowed and that if caught, theoretically, they can be punished.

    >Does your holy book say that the things of the world are secondary to some ‘higher’ spiritual purpose? Does his?

    Nope.

    >Is your holy book filled with the exploits of heroes of your faith as they struck down their enemies with sword and flame? Is his?

    Yes. Like in any other battle, you strike down your enemy down.

    >Lastly, does you holy book say that, regardless of the world around, you must hold onto the belief in an invisible sky daddy as being the most important thing your life can achieve? Does his?

    No, I’m sorry, what does “regardless of the world around you” mean? That I am supposed to ignore the needs of others?

    WHich brings us to the crux:

    “In terms of narritive, all theists are on the same side – the side that says that the supernatural exists, and is important.”

    Yes, we all believe in supernatural exists. So that’s it? You basically narrowed to distinct religions (in this case Judaism and Islam) into the supernatural issue, and nothing more? There are no differences in worldview? No different values and how we apply them?

  120. 120
    Anri

    beth:

    Touche’, good catch.

    Of course, I know of (I was going to say none, but as I think about it, that’s not quite true) very few theists that do not believe that their religion in particular, and usually religion in general, causes good things to happen. Denying that religion is causative of positive things pretty much denies the (most typical) premise of religion, as far as I can tell.

  121. 121
    Hanan

    >You and those like you deny those facts, because it is in your selfish interest to do so.

    My selfish interests being what? What do I get from it? Have I denied that abuse happens? Nope. Sorry. Where I disagree with you in your use of “oppression.” Are there beatings? Do some prefer to hire a straight over gay? Yes, all those can and do exist. I don’t deny any of that. But to look at the world through the lens of Group A is being oppressed by Group B (even unknowingly) is foolish and yes, a leftist mentality. That isn’t a criticism of you, but just descriptive. The left consistently looks for some sort of almost institutionlized oppression. Whether it is the male oppressing the female, rich oppressing rich, white oppressing black, straight oppressing poor, and now in your case, religious oppressing atheists. Everything turns into an oppression. If that is so, I can see why you are so angry. You say, you look at the facts. Of course you have looked at the facts. You looked at the facts with your pre-conceived notions of equality of result and other Leftist doctrine no more or less than I look at them with my conservative ones.

    And you are talking about general acceptance? Let’s not pretend that the secular left doesn’t stigmatize religious people, particularly Mormons or even scientologists. Forget about facts, my atheist friends have repeatedly told me they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon due to their dumb beliefs.

  122. 122
    Rieux

    Hanan:

    Yes, we all believe in supernatural exists. So that’s it? You basically narrowed to distinct religions (in this case Judaism and Islam) into the supernatural issue, and nothing more?

    It’s a fundamental and overwhelmingly consequential similarity. …As Greta (like many others) has explained—and you keep simply ignoring despite my repeated citations.

    There are no differences in worldview?

    No one here has said there aren’t. Those “differences,” however, are entirely irrelevant to the issues that are actually being discussed here. You are fixated on those “differences” because they are red herrings that allow you to avoid paying attention to the characteristics of religion and religion-in-society that are actually at issue here. You are distracting yourself very successfully, but the rest of us are talking about relevant points that it appears you can’t bring yourself to face.

    No different values and how we apply them?

    To the extent that they fail to make a dent in the identical values (regarding the supernatural and the acceptability/praiseworthiness of believing in it) that you share with every other religious believer on the planet, those “different values” have nothing to do with the discussion actually underway on this thread.

    You keep trying to dance away from the points being scored on you, but it’s not working. Regardless of your rhetorical approach, you have some very important and consequential things in common with a Sudanese imam (and every other religious believer), and your insistence on fixating on anything but that issue does nothing to rebut, or even materially respond to, your opponents’ points.

  123. 123
    Anri

    Yes, it does. But the purpose of having that there are totally different than what a Sudanese would have.

    So, you believe in your innate superiority for a differnet reason than someone else believes in their innate superiority.
    Um, good for you?

    Um…Not sure what you mean by respect. My holy book tells me as Jew I am to follow the rules, not everyone else, nor about their lack of respect for God.

    So, unbelivers aren’t to be punished for their unbelief?

    If you can find a passage that says women are of lesser beings in my holy book, it would help. But then again, I as an Israelite am not privileged to the same status as a Levy…who is not privileged as the same status as a Cohen.

    There are no passages saying that women should remain silent in church? That they should not teach? That they are subservient to their husbands? I can try to find these, if you’d like – can you steer me to a searchable text you’d consider authorotative?

    Please find me a passage that says they are bad people. Are you talking about the active act of sex? Yes, my holy book says gay sex is not allowed and that if caught, theoretically, they can be punished.

    Ah, I see.
    You can be gay, you just can’t, um, you know, be gay. Also, does the verse say “theoretically, they can be punished”, or does it say to kill them?

    (On the question of higher purpose) Nope.

    Your book doesn’t say that the highest purpose is abandoning the material world to serve the lord spritually? I’m asking honestly here, I’m uncertain.

    Yes. Like in any other battle, you strike down your enemy down.

    And, please note, why these people are enemies. Not necessarily because they attacked you. Because they believed in different god(s). That’s part-and-parcel with the whole ‘respecting the lord or getting pushined’ bit I mentioned above.

    No, I’m sorry, what does “regardless of the world around you” mean? That I am supposed to ignore the needs of others?

    Now, this may be a difference between Christianity and Judaism, but, yes, you leave your life and everyone else’s in god’s hands. Don’t follow your family, follow god. Love god most of all – if your family or friends refuse to follow, leave them. God is all you need.

    WHich brings us to the crux:

    “In terms of narritive, all theists are on the same side – the side that says that the supernatural exists, and is important.”

    Yes, we all believe in supernatural exists. So that’s it? You basically narrowed to distinct religions (in this case Judaism and Islam) into the supernatural issue, and nothing more? There are no differences in worldview? No different values and how we apply them?

    There are differences, sure.
    But the fundamental thing, the basic premise, the universal constant is that of being willing to deny reality for a myth about a middle-eastern sky god.
    Either faith in god is important or it isn’t. Which do you believe? And what does your holy book have to say on the topic?

  124. 124
    Hanan

    Rieux,

    I think I am understanding your point more and more. And I see where I have been wrong.

    I agree with you is in the matters of justice and legality when it comes to atheism. There is no reason where an atheism should not have the right to testify or vote (though, i understood that no more laws like that exist). I would go hand and hand with you try to change any of those laws if they still exist.

    Where I disagree with you is in your general discussion of social acceptance. Not to say that atheists are the darling of the ball depending where, but that it in some way leads you to be an oppressed minority. Which in a nutshell, is my point. I think you make way too many assertions about things like what neighbors might think. So for example, yes, if you live next to a more traditional person, than he might have those feelings toward you. But what about the opposite? Would a secular liberal be so warm and tolerant of a religious person and accept him? Let me tell you, from personal experience, it is a crappy feeling being judged as an abuser of my kids. When my wife went in for a C section, the nurse literally ridiculed my beliefs, even though, at that point, my belief infringed on NO part of my wife’s care.

    You want to talk about social acceptance and community? Try being religious among secular liberals. It isn’t as easy as you think it is. Nor do I think you have any clue regarding what it’s like having liberal parents and then becoming religious and how you are treated by the family and the way you are judged in raising your children.

    The difference being as much as you think atheists are treated as “less than” in certain sectors of our society, i can claim that it is a growing phenomenon in other sectors of society and I can only claim that based on my own experiences and those experiences by those close to me. I want you to be a traditional person of faith on a modern liberal university and experience the feelings of being made to feel like you are some sort of reject of the past. An abuser. And everything you do as being mocked. But at the same time…..the feeling of “oppression” has never crossed my mind.

  125. 125
    Hanan

    >So, you believe in your innate superiority for a differnet reason than someone else believes in their innate superiority.

    When did I say anything about superiority?

    >So, unbelivers aren’t to be punished for their unbelief?

    Nope. At least, not non-Jews. But then again, Judaism is religion of deed not creed. So hypothetically, under Jews law (as far as I can tell), no Jewish court (again, hypothetically) could do anything to anyone for their lack of belief, as long as they did what they were supposed to do.

    >There are no passages saying that women should remain silent in church?

    Im not Christian

    >That they should not teach?

    My wife is a teacher at a jewish school

    >That they are subservient to their husbands?

    I guess you might say that there is an understanding that the husband is the head of the household. But then again, I see this in secular homes too. I guess you are talking about degree. But yes, Judaism does have issue of gender roles. But I don’t see how this makes women into lesser beings. If anything, if you read the narrative of the story, (and not judging them from a 21st century model of how you would like women to be) you can really see for their times, the main women are always put on a pedestal as being proactive and making the right decision.

    >You can be gay, you just can’t, um, you know, be gay.

    Sadly, yes.

    >Also, does the verse say “theoretically, they can be punished”, or does it say to kill them?

    Ah, well that is my entire point. You can’t take my holy book and compare it to their holy book. My holy book doesn’t live in a vacuum. If you read the Talmud, you would see that the rabbinic authority for all intense purpose abolished all death penalties.

    >Your book doesn’t say that the highest purpose is abandoning the material world to serve the lord spritually? I’m asking honestly here, I’m uncertain.

    No.

    >And, please note, why these people are enemies. Not necessarily because they attacked you. Because they believed in different god(s). That’s part-and-parcel with the whole ‘respecting the lord or getting pushined’ bit I mentioned above.

    Nope. That is not true. That is a mistake perpetuated by atheists. My holy book says nothing about them being killed BECAUSE they believe in other Gods. If you take the story in ITS context than it says there in very black and white terms WHY the killed off their enemies the way they did. In Deutoronmy it says why. It’s because of the moral sins of the Amorite/Canaanite. One act specifically mentioned in their penchant of sacrificing their children to gods.

    >Now, this may be a difference between Christianity and Judaism, but, yes, you leave your life and everyone else’s in god’s hands. Don’t follow your family, follow god. Love god most of all – if your family or friends refuse to follow, leave them. God is all you need.

    Well, again, what does that mean? Of course I have faith in God. But that doesn’t mean I abandon my responsibilities toward my family. My faith in God is first, yes, but that doesn’t mean I leave my family. My entire family is secular. I didn’t leave them. And I don’t even know how that works with Christians since I have Christians friends as well that have not abandoned their families. They just leave religious talk outside the front door when they meet.

    >Either faith in god is important or it isn’t. Which do you believe? And what does your holy book have to say on the topic?

    Sure it is important, but it’s doesn’t end there. I should find you passage from one of the later books of the old testament where God comes and complains that he no longer wants any of their rituals or sacrifices because it is meaningless to him, since the Israelites treat each other horribly.

  126. 126
    Nick Gotts

    It’s because of the moral sins of the Amorite/Canaanite. One act specifically mentioned in their penchant of sacrificing their children to gods. – hanan

    Oh, right, and of course we always believe the killers about the wickedness of those they killed, don’t we? Even if it were true, how would that justify killing everything that breathes, as we are repeatedly told the Israelites did at God’s command? Did they slaughter the children first in front of their parents, or the other way round, do you think? Which would have been more righteous and holy?

  127. 127
    Nick Gotts

    I guess you might say that there is an understanding that the husband is the head of the household. But then again, I see this in secular homes too. I guess you are talking about degree.

    I guess you don’t know what you are talking about. Some of us actually have marriages between equals.

  128. 128
    Nick Gotts

    It really is risible, how hanan first denies the existence of male privilege, then tells us with a straight face how the man is the head of the household. You wouldn’t think anyone could manage that degree of inconsistency in such a short space of time.

  129. 129
    Hanan

    >that you share with every other religious believer on the planet, those “different values” have nothing to do with the discussion actually underway on this thread

    That religion can be used for evil?

  130. 130
    Nick Gotts

    My selfish interests being what? – Hanan

    Your selfish interest as a person with multiple levels of privilege of course. Your selfish interest in feeling that your privileges are justifiable.

    You say, you look at the facts. Of course you have looked at the facts. You looked at the facts with your pre-conceived notions of equality of result and other Leftist doctrine no more or less than I look at them with my conservative ones.

    Yes, I admit, equality of treatment for all is a leftist doctrine; I’m glad you admit it too.

  131. 131
    Hanan

    >It really is risible, how hanan first denies the existence of male privilege, then tells us with a straight face how the man is the head of the household. You wouldn’t think anyone could manage that degree of inconsistency in such a short space of time.

    That’s unfair. You were specifically talking about a private household, not some sort of public policy. Nor do I think you know what “head of a house” means. It doesn’t mean you slap your wife around and rape her at every turn as you think it does.

    >Oh, right, and of course we always believe the killers about the wickedness of those they killed, don’t we?

    Well wait a minute. If the story is not true, than at the very least, you have to view it as a story. But even as a story you have to use ITS own context, not yours. And clearly, in this fictional story, a character called “God” KNOWS of their immorality. The story is no different than Noah’s Ark. Why are you troubled with Joshua’s context but not of Noah’s Ark? For all practical considerations, they are the same.

    >Which would have been more righteous and holy?

    Considering, from the context of the story, God is the definer of holy and righteous, your question makes no sense. The book of Judges makes it pretty clear what happened with those Canaanites that weren’t driven out or killed…..and it’s not pretty.

    >I guess you don’t know what you are talking about. Some of us actually have marriages between equals.

    So do I. I think you should actually GO to a religious Jews home and actually see their marriage. I don’t know what it is you expect to see.

  132. 132
    Hanan

    >Yes, I admit, equality of treatment for all is a leftist doctrine; I’m glad you admit it too.

    No. Equality of Result is a leftist doctrine. Equality of opportunity is a conservative one.

    >Your selfish interest in feeling that your privileges are justifiable.

    I don’t think I said that….but Ok.

  133. 133
    Hanan

    >Your selfish interest as a person with multiple levels of privilege of course.

    And you are, of course, an oppressed minority, right?

  134. 134
    Hanan

    >I guess you don’t know what you are talking about. Some of us actually have marriages between equals.

    KG, I have a silly question for you and I absolutely trust that you are going to be honest. What kind of dinning room table do you have?

  135. 135
    Anri

    Hanan:

    First of all, thanks for the corrections. I am certainly no scholar on the subject, and you’ve been very patient.

    Moving on:

    When did I say anything about superiority?

    When I said this:

    Does your holy book say you are one of a special people, favored above others around you? Does his?

    (emphasis added for clarity)

    And you replied this:

    “Yes, it does. But the purpose of having that there are totally different than what a Sudanese would have.”

    So, yeah.

    I guess you might say that there is an understanding that the husband is the head of the household. But then again, I see this in secular homes too. I guess you are talking about degree. But yes, Judaism does have issue of gender roles. But I don’t see how this makes women into lesser beings.

    Ok, I have highlighted a disconnect in thinking, here, it seem to me.
    (Yes, male authority is often taken for granted in secuar situations – family and otherwise. I’m not saying religion originated this, just that it perpetuates it.)

    If anything, if you read the narrative of the story, (and not judging them from a 21st century model of how you would like women to be) you can really see for their times, the main women are always put on a pedestal as being proactive and making the right decision.

    Is your argument that having second-class status for women was right at the time the narritive was written?

    (In RE:death for gay sex) Ah, well that is my entire point. You can’t take my holy book and compare it to their holy book. My holy book doesn’t live in a vacuum. If you read the Talmud, you would see that the rabbinic authority for all intense purpose abolished all death penalties.

    Did you mean “all intents and purposes”, or am I misunderstanding you?

    And I don’t even know how that works with Christians since I have Christians friends as well that have not abandoned their families. They just leave religious talk outside the front door when they meet.

    They are cherry-picking their sacred text, of course, and not doing the things they find distasteful.
    And, generally speaking, they go to very great lengths to justify doing so, including claiming that learned scholars have ruled that this-or-the-other verse is no longer actually the word of god, or means something other than what it says, or that it can’t be judged through a modern perspective.
    In short, god ends up, coincidentally, not actually liking anything the believer dislikes.

    In other words, most people appear to view religion as a game of Calvinball – the rules are pretty much whatever they want them to be, whenever they want them to be. This is, of course, only a weakness if you want an observer to be convinced that the deity who cranked out the initial set of rules actually knew what (s)he was doing.

  136. 136
    Hanan

    >Does your holy book say you are one of a special people, favored above others around you? Does his?

    Right. But that has never been translated as an ends to superiority but more sort of a job description (that EVERYONE is welcome to join) IF we do what we are supposed to do. And yet the same God later says that he alone saved other nations from calamity as well and forgives them.(ones that were enemies of the Israelites for that matter). Meaning, that God that chose the Israelites for a particular purpose is also saying he cares for others as well, even though they believe in other gods.

    >Ok, I have highlighted a disconnect in thinking, here, it seem to me.

    Ok, but just because a husband is head of the household, has that made women a lesser being? I will ask my wife.

    >Is your argument that having second-class status for women was right at the time the narritive was written?

    I’m arguing what was. Period. I believe it would be foolish to judge them so harshly by our own subjective notions of progressiveness today. Things take time. Sometimes we get things right. Sometimes we get things wrong. So in their world, in that context, the women of the stories are given high remark for their parts. Even the story of Tamar, who dressed up as a rode side whore to get what was rightfully hers is judged favorably by the text and Judah, the one that had sex with her is judged harshly for basically almost “forcing” her to do what she did.

    >Did you mean “all intents and purposes”, or am I misunderstanding you?

    Im working and typing at the same time :). I meant that the rabbinic authority 2000 years ago abolished death penalty from ever being practically carried out.

    >They are cherry-picking their sacred text, of course, and not doing the things they find distasteful.

    I have been accused of the same thing. I think what you call cherry-picking is what we call “living” our religion. I can only talk about our text, but it doesn’t live within a vacuum. We have never lived by a literal reading of everything. It’s what Liberals in this country call a “Living Constitution.” And it’s not like that because we want to cherry pick what we want to keep, but that, THAT is how it was always meant to be approached. It lives within a living and breathing oral tradition and authority. To an outside observer, that doesn’t live it, I can understand that it all sounds ridiculous. And hey, sometimes, certain things are absurd to me as well.

  137. 137
    Nick Gotts

    Hanan,

    That’s unfair. You were specifically talking about a private household, not some sort of public policy. Nor do I think you know what “head of a house” means. It doesn’t mean you slap your wife around and rape her at every turn as you think it does.

    No, it is not in the least unfair: you claimed that there is no male privilege. That is, as a simple matter of semantics, inconsistent with an assumption that the man is “head of the household”. I do not think what you claim I do, and the fact that you resort to falsely attributing it to me is extremely telling.

    And clearly, in this fictional story, a character called “God” KNOWS of their immorality.

    It is immaterial whether it is a story or not: it is clear that those who wrote it worshipped a being of consummate evil, who ordered genocide and was angry on an occsion when it was not carried out as completely as ordered. In another such story, that of Exodus, God at least does his own dirty work, murdering the firstborn of Egypt – after first taking the precaution of hardening Pharoah’s heart so he can show off how powerful he is.

    God is the definer of holy and righteous, your question makes no sense. The book of Judges makes it pretty clear what happened with those Canaanites that weren’t driven out or killed…..and it’s not pretty.

    It is defining a genocidal tyrant as holy and righteous that makes no sense. And it is disgusting that you attempt to palliate the murder of children by saying the results of not murdering them would have been “not pretty”.

    So do I. [have a marriage of equals]

    No you don’t: you have told us you don’t. If the man is “head of the household” it cannot, in simple logic, be a marriage of equals. Your attempt to have it both ways is, again, very telling.

    Equality of Result is a leftist doctrine. Equality of opportunity is a conservative one.

    No, equality of result is not a leftist doctrine: that is a typical conservative falsehood. Commitment to equality of result would mean believing that those who fail their medical exams must be allowed to practice medicine alongside those who pass. I do not, of course, believe anything so foolish, and nor does anyone I know. But equality of opportunity is a fraud in the absence of systematic measures to ensure that those who start with a disadvantage are given adequate help to overcome it, or in the presence of the vast differences in wealth conservatives have worked tirelessly to bring about.

    And you are, of course, an oppressed minority, right?

    Wrong. I have already told you, I am privileged in multiple ways, and I note once again the way you falsely attribute to me views which I do not hold and claims that I do not make. As I live in Britain, I do not (now I am adult) even suffer significant disadvantage as an atheist, in the way that American atheists do. Unlike you, I am arguing against my selfish interests.

    KG, I have a silly question for you and I absolutely trust that you are going to be honest. What kind of dinning room table do you have?

    You’re right, it is a silly question. It’s a large, rectangular wooden table, which came with the house – it’s a puzzle how it was got in, as there appeared to be, until we knocked through an internal wall, no way to get it out. It’s in the kitchen, as we do not have a separate dining room.

  138. 138
    leonpeyre

    My third point is that that you’re right: “persuading people out of their religion is often seen as proselytizing or evangelizing.” And people don’t like being the objects of evangelism. …when it comes right down to it, most people don’t want to be told that their world-view is wrong and that yours is right. So most people have adopted a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or “don’t judge, don’t piss off” policy, which I think is a good one.

    Have they really? Is that what my coworker was doing when she went out of her way to identify herself as a Christian in our newsletter? Or when people wear crosses and other religious artifacts, or otherwise display them publicly? Or why politicians usually have to make a very public display of piety in order to win elections? None of that sounds DADT to me.

    As for proselytization, again we see a substantial double standard. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc. are widely viewed with annoyance for disrupting people’s weekend mornings. But no one says that what they’re doing is offensive in and of itself; no one claims they’re being intolerant, militant, or “fundamentalist” just for stating their opinions (in somewhere less private, say an online forum). But anyone who does so and suggests that religion is a mistaken idea is going to be accused of such things.

  139. 139
    Hanan

    >No, it is not in the least unfair: you claimed that there is no male privilege.

    OK. Fine. Than I guess I am privileged and my wife is oppressed under my room. There is no way to argue around this over reaching and broad idea of “privilege”

    >I do not think what you claim I do, and the fact that you resort to falsely attributing it to me is extremely telling.

    No no no. I didn’t mean YOU slap her. I meant the general “You.” As in, saying your a head of a household does not mean “one” slaps his wife or rapes her.

    >It is immaterial whether it is a story or not: it is clear that those who wrote it worshipped a being of consummate evil, who ordered genocide and was angry on an occsion when it was not carried out as completely as ordered. In another such story, that of Exodus, God at least does his own dirty work, murdering the firstborn of Egypt – after first taking the precaution of hardening Pharoah’s heart so he can show off how powerful he is.

    And yet, the writers of this story made it obvious that this God does not get angry with the “others” for not worshipping him and that this God, the creator of all life and given man life, punished these other nations for their moral injustice, not theologic. I guess what troubles you, is the collective punishment. But then again, I never hear atheists troubled with the Noah’s ark story….which is even worse.

    >And it is disgusting that you attempt to palliate the murder of children by saying the results of not murdering them would have been “not pretty”.

    No. That’s not what I said. I said, if you read the next book after Joshua, you see what happened with those children that grew up and those that were left. They became exactly what God warned would happen. A “Thicket in their sides.” So just to put it in modern terms that you would understand, they became, what you fear us religious people become.

    >Commitment to equality of result would mean believing that those who fail their medical exams must be allowed to practice medicine alongside those who pass.

    No. That doesn’t mean that at all. Equality of result means when every single disadvantage must be artificially leveled off whether earned or not and typically, must entail government stepping into to declare with its great authority what is fair, and what is not. This is where affirmative action comes in and redistribution of wealth comes in. It’s what marxist fought for any every leftist after. That everyone is materially equal and everyone the same as best as possible. The only way you can guarentee to artificially level that playing field and save every single disadvantage, you inevitably have to reduce freedoms and incentives. Geez. At least get it right. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_of_outcome

    >Wrong. I have already told you

    Right. I am loosing track who is who here.

  140. 140
    Hanan

    >Commitment to equality of result would mean believing that those who fail their medical exams must be allowed to practice medicine alongside those who pass.

    Actually, in some situations, it would mean something similar to that, except in the opposite direction. Instead of having someone unqualified serve with those qualified, here you have someone qualified but COULDN’T due to someone else not being qualified. Level off the playing field.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricci_v._DeStefano

  141. 141
    Anri

    Right. But that has never been translated as an ends to superiority but more sort of a job description (that EVERYONE is welcome to join) IF we do what we are supposed to do. And yet the same God later says that he alone saved other nations from calamity as well and forgives them.(ones that were enemies of the Israelites for that matter). Meaning, that God that chose the Israelites for a particular purpose is also saying he cares for others as well, even though they believe in other gods.

    So, your nation is special, except that it isn’t, and you were chosen in a way that is indistinguishable from being non-chosen.
    I must admit I find that utterly incoherent.

    Ok, but just because a husband is head of the household, has that made women a lesser being? I will ask my wife.

    Even better: have her be the ‘head of the household’ for a year. What, if anything, would that involve?
    Would anything change?

    I’m arguing what was. Period. I believe it would be foolish to judge them so harshly by our own subjective notions of progressiveness today. Things take time. Sometimes we get things right. Sometimes we get things wrong. So in their world, in that context, the women of the stories are given high remark for their parts. Even the story of Tamar, who dressed up as a rode side whore to get what was rightfully hers is judged favorably by the text and Judah, the one that had sex with her is judged harshly for basically almost “forcing” her to do what she did.

    But this ‘getting something wrong’ was, unless I am mistaken, a message from god.

    Im working and typing at the same time . I meant that the rabbinic authority 2000 years ago abolished death penalty from ever being practically carried out.

    Another thing god got wrong back then?

    I have been accused of the same thing.

    Well, yes, that’s why I worded it the way I did.

    I think what you call cherry-picking is what we call “living” our religion. I can only talk about our text, but it doesn’t live within a vacuum. We have never lived by a literal reading of everything. It’s what Liberals in this country call a “Living Constitution.”

    The difference is that we do not assume the Constitution is a message from on high, granted to us by a perfect god. It’s an imperfect document written by imperfect men working with limited knowledge and wisdom.

    And it’s not like that because we want to cherry pick what we want to keep, but that, THAT is how it was always meant to be approached.

    Ok, this is interesting – can you give me a reference for this authourity to edit the revealed word of god? I’m not disputing you, I’m just interested in where this is presumed to arise from.
    Because I have to say, it sounds like an assumption that god couldn’t (or didn’t, anyway) get his message right the first time. That seems like such a strange conclusion, I don’t want to leap to it without being much better informed.

    It lives within a living and breathing oral tradition and authority. To an outside observer, that doesn’t live it, I can understand that it all sounds ridiculous. And hey, sometimes, certain things are absurd to me as well.

    Nothing wrong with absurd things – subatomic physics is (in my layman’s very limited understanding) exceedingly bizarre. it’s absurd unevidenced things that worry me.

  142. 142
    Nick Gotts

    Hanan,

    I didn’t mean YOU slap her. I meant the general “You.” As in, saying your a head of a household does not mean “one” slaps his wife or rapes her.

    Do try to read for comprehension. You falsely attributed to me the view that calling the man the “head of the household” implies that he beats and rapes his wife. I protested against that falsehood.

    But then again, I never hear atheists troubled with the Noah’s ark story….which is even worse.

    Then you don’t listen, because they frequently do protest against this story of genocide. There are, however, many Christians (I don’t know whether this holds of religious Jews, although I suspect it does) who regard the Noachian flood as myth, while believing in the historical reality of the killing of the firstborn in Egypt, and the genocides under Moses and Joshua.

    A “Thicket in their sides.” So just to put it in modern terms that you would understand, they became, what you fear us religious people become.

    Again, you attribute to me views I do not hold; members of my family, and valued work and political colleagues, are religious believers. I would ask you to stop doing that, as it is extremely offensive, but it does have the advantage of revealing how weak you know your arguments to be.

    Equality of result means when every single disadvantage must be artificially leveled off whether earned or not and typically, must entail government stepping into to declare with its great authority what is fair, and what is not. This is where affirmative action comes in and redistribution of wealth comes in. It’s what marxist fought for any every leftist after. That everyone is materially equal and everyone the same as best as possible. The only way you can guarentee to artificially level that playing field and save every single disadvantage, you inevitably have to reduce freedoms and incentives. Geez. At least get it right.

    Agian, that is a ludicrous caricature; and I note that you have descended into babbling incoherence in your eagerness to falsely attribute to me and others views we do not hold. Your persistence in doing so once again reveals the weakness of your position. What you say would, of course, imply that those who fail their medical exams must be treated equally with those who pass them: “every disadvantage must be artificially leveled off whether earned or not” clearly covers passing exams. I am not a Marxist, but of course no Marxist state ever attempted to bring about complete material equality, as you would know if you were not so obviously ignorant, and determined to remain so. I do indeed favour a degree of affirmative action and considerable redistribution of wealth – there has, of course, been a vast redistribution of wealth in favour of the rich in the USA, western Europe and many other countries over the past three decades, which I most certainly want reversed. There is abundant empirical evidence that more equal societies are also less troubled by crime, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, infant mortality, psychiatric illness, obesity and teenage pregnancy; and produce higher educational performance, social mobility and life expectancy. I refer you to the Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett for a review of this evidence.

  143. 143
    JVC

    To try to answer Greta’s original question:

    The doctrine of Hell is probably plays a role in making evangelizing taboo (especially for atheists!). Trying to argue someone out of their religious beliefs may put them in danger of suffering eternal torment (or so they believe).

    It’s a bit tangential, but I remember hearing a story of a formerly devout Christian who occasionally felt terror when s/he entered an empty room.

    “Everyone is gone! The rapture happened and I’ve been left behind

    Trading fear of death for fear of hell never seemed that appealing to me.

  144. 144
    Hanan

    KG,

    Don’t get so mad:

    >You falsely attributed to me the view that calling the man the “head of the household” implies that he beats and rapes his wife. I protested against that falsehood.

    Rather than argue more about this, I will simply apologize. I think you are taking things I am taking too literally. You obviously think there is some great wrong I am committing towards my wife and I would like to know what it is exactly? What is she missing, that your wife isn’t? Is my wife feeling lesser of a being because she calls me the head of the household, even though you don’t even know what that means.

    >Then you don’t listen, because they frequently do protest against this story of genocide.

    Don’t tell me what I listen and don’t listen to. I don’t think you have any clue as to how many atheists I talk to. One frequent pattern I see is that in general, they don’t complain about the Noah story because they regard it as OBVIOUS myth, but do complain about Joshua, perhaps because they see semblance of history there, or at least the story isn’t so far fetched.

    >Again, you attribute to me views I do not hold; members of my family, and valued work and political colleagues, are religious believers. I would ask you to stop doing that, as it is extremely offensive.

    What exactly are you getting offended at? Am I wrong to understand Greta’s point is that the very nature of religion is what can cause the increased suffering toward people? That any other idea can at least die out on it’s own…except for religion? That it’s very existence in people is what causes the greater “potency” of harm? Am I wrong to say you believe in that statement? If you don’t than I am sorry. If you do, than I am simply using these statements in relation to how the Bible views the Amorite.

    >Agian, that is a ludicrous caricature; and I note that you have descended into babbling incoherence in your eagerness to falsely attribute to me and others views we do not hold.

    Please. There is no caricature. Leftist hold by Equality of Result. Now you are simply arguing to what degree you hold by it. Which is fine. But don’t tell me that Leftist don’t hold of Equality of Result. Equality of Result has NOTHING to do with the way YOU caricature it with your stupid medical example. I even provided you a link.

    >I am not a Marxist, but of course no Marxist state ever attempted to bring about complete material equality

    What does that even mean? What do you mean “complete?” My mother grew up in Soviet Russia. The idea of the classless society where everything was equally distributed to all was part of her life, which ultimately led to them having nothing. Marxism purposely looks at society through the prism of the materialism and class struggle….which is something the Left still hold. Um, Im sorry, that is what the whole Occupy Wallstreet at it’s core is. Viewing the reality around them as a class struggle, that they are in fact being oppressed by the rich and that they deserve the wealth to be redistributed to them equally. Obviously, being a Liberal does not make one a Marxist, but on the philosophical spectrum, you’re on the same line. It’s not called “Left” for nothing.

    >You’re right, it is a silly question. It’s a large, rectangular wooden table, which came with the house – it’s a puzzle how it was got in, as there appeared to be, until we knocked through an internal wall, no way to get it out. It’s in the kitchen, as we do not have a separate dining room.

    And where do you usually sit with the family?

  145. 145
    Hanan

    >So, your nation is special, except that it isn’t, and you were chosen in a way that is indistinguishable from being non-chosen.
    I must admit I find that utterly incoherent.

    A special nation to be light unto other nations. You serve as an example. Nothing more. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love other nations….even nations the Israelites don’t’ like.

    >Even better: have her be the ‘head of the household’ for a year. What, if anything, would that involve? Would anything change?

    Well, it would probably not involve much if anything :).
    Have you ever seen a female as head of a household?

    >But this ‘getting something wrong’ was, unless I am mistaken, a message from god.

    No, sorry. You misunderstood. I think women’s role in general has improved for the better. The “getting something wrong” was meant as my critic of some of the feminist philosophy that many hold by.

    >Another thing god got wrong back then?

    No. We have an ancient principle in Judaism that says “It’s [Torah] not in Heaven.” Meaning, humans have to struggle with the text and come up with certain things (even loopholes) to make the law applicable for the times. God has no say in how we need to interpret it.

    >The difference is that we do not assume the Constitution is a message from on high, granted to us by a perfect god.

    You’re making a false assumption that just because it was given by God as many believe, that the doctrine of a “Living Torah” doesn’t exist. Like I said “It’s not in Heaven.”

    >Ok, this is interesting – can you give me a reference for this authourity to edit the revealed word of god? I’m not disputing you, I’m just interested in where this is presumed to arise from.
    Because I have to say, it sounds like an assumption that god couldn’t (or didn’t, anyway) get his message right the first time. That seems like such a strange conclusion, I don’t want to leap to it without being much better informed.

    In very short, it’s called the Oral Law. You can google it. Many believe that with the written law, came an Oral Law, how to understand the text and it’s law. The authority of the authoritative body to make interpretations in court as well as certain principles for later authorities when they need to interpret it again. Whether this Oral law was actually given is irrelevant. What is relevant is that this is how the earliest rabbinic authorities used it to understand our Holy Book. Look up Oral Law. Look up Talmud. It’s quite complicated. Sorry :) Whether you believe in Judaism or not is not important. What is important is how we approach our Holy Book. It’s not easy to understand, especially from the perspective of an outsider.

  146. 146
  147. 147
    'Tis Himself

    If it’s any consolation, one of my better friends these days is an atheist

    Do you let him or her use your toilet?

  148. 148
    Nick Gotts

    Hanan,

    I am not getting mad; you are the one who descended into babbling incoherence, and who is constantly making false attributions of beliefs and claims to me.

    What is she missing, that your wife isn’t? Is my wife feeling lesser of a being because she calls me the head of the household, even though you don’t even know what that means.

    I do know what it means, despite your false attribution to me of a belief I do not hold; its meaning is inherent in the term “head of the household” – that yours is the final say in those decisions where you decide it should be. Your wife is missing equality of status, as again, is inherent in the meaning of the term.

    Don’t tell me what I listen and don’t listen to.

    This from the man who is constantly telling me what I believe. I repeat that many atheists do object to the Noachian genocide story.

    I don’t think you have any clue as to how many atheists I talk to. One frequent pattern I see is that in general, they don’t complain about the Noah story because they regard it as OBVIOUS myth, but do complain about Joshua, perhaps because they see semblance of history there, or at least the story isn’t so far fetched.

    If you are capable of reading for comprehension, and will try it on my preceding comment, you will see that I make much the same suggestion as to why it is less frequently objected to than the more realistic stories of Joshua’s genocides.

    What exactly are you getting offended at?

    Don’t be so disingenuous. I was offended at your implication that I have the kind of antipathy toward religious believers that would lead me to commit genocide, as your God supposedly ordered against the Amorites:

    I said, if you read the next book after Joshua, you see what happened with those children that grew up and those that were left. They became exactly what God warned would happen. A “Thicket in their sides.” So just to put it in modern terms that you would understand, they became, what you fear us religious people become.

    And don’t pretend the implication is not there, or that you did not intend it, because I don’t think anyone will believe you.

    Am I wrong to understand Greta’s point is that the very nature of religion is what can cause the increased suffering toward people? That any other idea can at least die out on it’s own…except for religion? That it’s very existence in people is what causes the greater “potency” of harm?

    Which statement? There are three there. Yes, I do believe, based on copious evidence, that religion is inherently likely to increase human suffering; in this, it resembles many other forms of irrationality. As for the second and third statements, ideas die out if no-one holds them any more, and can only cause harm (or good) if people do hold them; religion is no different from any other kind of idea in those respects.

    Please. There is no caricature. Leftist hold by Equality of Result. Now you are simply arguing to what degree you hold by it. Which is fine. But don’t tell me that Leftist don’t hold of Equality of Result.

    Of course it was a caricature, and a ludicrous one, as I said. The usual term is “Equality of outcome”, and certainly I want much greater equality of outcome, but I am not going to accept your stupid caricatures as a depiction of what I want. I will also repeat that “Equality of opportunity” is a fraud – and I would add, in many cases a deliberate, conscious fraud – where people start from grossly unequal positions.

    What does that even mean? What do you mean “complete?”

    I meant your ridiculous caricature, which you expresssed thus:

    Equality of result means when every single disadvantage must be artificially leveled off whether earned or not

    And where do you usually sit with the family?

    The table can seat eight, but we all sit near one end, the one nearest the cooker. I sit at one side. My wife sits opposite me. Our son, when present, sits at the end, between us. The dog generally lies under the table. The guinea pig does not attend family meals.

    Feel free to contact me if you wish to say anything

    I have not the slightest interest in any private communication with you. Your habit of falsely attributing beliefs and claims to others is not conducive to either rational or enjoyable discourse.

  149. 149
    Nick Gotts

    Your wife is missing equality of status – me

    Clarification: “is missing” in the sense of “doesn’t have”; I don’t, of course, pretend to know whether she feels the lack of it.

  150. 150
    Anri

    Well, it would probably not involve much if anything :) .
    Have you ever seen a female as head of a household?

    Well, it was apparently important enough for your god to put it in his holy book, and for the elders of your faith to preserve it all these years.

    And, yes I have seen households headed by women. For example, I imagine our host has a household headed by a woman – given that the adults in her household are both women.

    (And when I asked if your faith held with female teachers, I meant Rabbinical teachers, not secular teachers – I wasn’t clear.)

    No, sorry. You misunderstood. I think women’s role in general has improved for the better. The “getting something wrong” was meant as my critic of some of the feminist philosophy that many hold by.

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant that your holy book does not say that men and women have equal status – in fact, it says the opposite. So I was asking if that was something that you believe was right, and if not, wasn’t that something god got wrong?

    No. We have an ancient principle in Judaism that says “It’s [Torah] not in Heaven.” Meaning, humans have to struggle with the text and come up with certain things (even loopholes) to make the law applicable for the times. God has no say in how we need to interpret it.

    So, god could have been clearer, but chose not to? Given the stakes, that seems terribly cruel.
    Or was he just not very good at making himself understood?

    You’re making a false assumption that just because it was given by God as many believe, that the doctrine of a “Living Torah” doesn’t exist. Like I said “It’s not in Heaven.”

    See above.

    In very short, it’s called the Oral Law. You can google it. Many believe that with the written law, came an Oral Law, how to understand the text and it’s law. The authority of the authoritative body to make interpretations in court as well as certain principles for later authorities when they need to interpret it again. Whether this Oral law was actually given is irrelevant. What is relevant is that this is how the earliest rabbinic authorities used it to understand our Holy Book. Look up Oral Law. Look up Talmud. It’s quite complicated. Sorry :) Whether you believe in Judaism or not is not important. What is important is how we approach our Holy Book. It’s not easy to understand, especially from the perspective of an outsider.

    It certainly isn’t easy to understand – unless one is willing to give up the notion that there is any wisdom involved beyond that of a human author.
    It’s like the parallel you drew to the Constitution. We are perfectly happy to accept reinterpretations and outright alterations to the original document because it’s flawed. The people that wrote it were just human, guided by no higher power, and as such they made mistakes. The document is dated, not well thought out in places, and (especially initially) missing some important directives. Some of it is no longer relevant, and much of what remains is relevant in a different manner than was initially envisioned by the framers.

    But none of this makes sense if we assume we’re dealing with a perfect being as author.

  151. 151
    Nick Gotts

    Anri’s #150 prompts me to make a point that I think is of some significance in how many atheists, including me, view the relationship between religious believers (at least, those in Abrahamic religions) and their “holy” books: on the whole, they behave much better than their God is depicted as doing, and ordering them to do! In this respect, I’d view it as an advantage of (many forms of) Judaism over most forms of Christianity and Islam that it makes explicit the need for “reinterpretation” (i.e., ignoring the plain meaning of the text where it’s either practically or ethically unacceptable).

  152. 152
    Dan_Brodribb

    If I understand Haman’s original point, it was that religious people are not a monolith and that being religious doesn’t get you special privilege.

    I certainly agree with the monolith approach. Other than the fact we both have a religion, there aren’t a lot of common threads between his and mine.

    Even WITHIN my religion, there is quite a lot of diversity. As a white, North American male, I imagine I have more in common with Christian, Jewish, or Atheist North Americans than I would to a emember of my own religious tradition practicing in rural Vietnam.

    I DO agree religious privilege does exist, but only in the context of the culture (Christianity is privileged in a pro-Christian culture, etc.)

    I also agree with that relgion SHOULD be open to question. As a stand-up comic, I’m also a big believer that nothing should be off-limits to mockery or ridicule. That said, there is something to be said for appropriate social contexts for such mockery…but I don’t think anyone in the thread said anything about ignoring context.

  153. 153
    SallyStrange

    I DO agree religious privilege does exist, but only in the context of the culture

    Name three cultures where atheism is privileged.

  154. 154
    Dan_Brodribb

    SallyStrange said: “Name three cultures where atheism is privileged.”

    I don’t think I can. I also couldn’t name three cultures where Wiccan or Janaism is privileged.

    My point was it isn’t just whether or not you’re religious that makes you privileged it’s also WHICH religion you belong to. So being a Christian for example, might give you more or less privilege depending on whether you’re a Christian in the US bible belt, An Islam fundamentalist country, or certain eras of ancient Rome.

    I hope I’m responding to the point you’re trying to make. I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re driving at.

  155. 155
    thatchristianyouareattacking

    You’re post is dismissive in its first few sentences. If you genuinely wanted to have a discussion with people, you wouldn’t start by “striking as non-responsive” something they said because you don’t like it. I perfectly understand atheists being up on their high-horse about their awesome rational smartness. After all, religious people think they’re right too with very little concrete evidence! Here’s a hint: If you want response and discussion, try being respectful in a non-snarky, demeaning way, otherwise you’re just another disgruntled person ranting on the internet (like me). I bet if another atheist had said “Before I continue let me preface my comments by saying that I’m not attacking you, and I hope you don’t feel as if my response is any way hostile. That’s a problem with the written word – we sometimes hear a tone that the writer didn’t intend. And I’m hoping to convey warmth, respect, and thoughtfulness,” you would’ve been like “Oh, what a wonderful person. SEE! SEE! SEE! We are moral!” You certainly failed at reciprocating respect, non-hostility, and non-attack and you managed to make yourself look bad in the process.

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