Me vs. Chris Stedman

How do I get myself talked into these things? I have two events with the slithery Chris Stedman coming up: first, he’s speaking at the Midwest Science of Origins Conference in Morris next week. He’s scheduled for April Fools’ Day, so I’m hoping the student organizers are just going to hand him an exploding cigar and then put out his flaming hair with a swirlie…but I suspect they’re actually going to take him seriously and give him time to annoy me.

Second, the day after the Global Atheist Convention, as part of their fringe events, I’m speaking at this event: PZ Myers, Leslie Cannold, Chris Stedman – The Road Less Traveled, in which I’m supposed to talk about whether believers and atheists can work together for the common good. My answer is simple: sure they can, but faith isn’t in the common good, and we have to work against it.

You know, one of my concluding lines in my Reason Rally talk was that I want to be bad without god. And by bad, I mean defy the bogus religious morality that the majority want to impose on us, and fight against the status quo.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Chris Stedman is a good atheist. He goes out of his way to suck up get along with goddists. He’d never call Sy Ten B a “slimy motherfucker”. You should consider taking Stedman as a personal model. :-þ

  2. julian says

    My answer is simple: sure they can, but faith isn’t in the common good, and we have to work against it.

    This.

  3. Ogvorbis: shameless AND impudent! says

    ‘Tis:

    C’mon, man, you know that sucking up to power, kissing the arse of privilege, and grovelling at the feet of the dominant paradigm has always worked for minorities and the oppressed. Just ask any older white man.

  4. says

    I’d offer (im?)moral support at MSOC, but I have to be back in the cities Sunday morning for the radio interview with Maggie Koerth-Baker, who is a lovely person.

    Or does that sound like rubbing it in?

  5. Dick the Damned says

    …but faith isn’t in the common good, and we have to work against it.

    I agree, but there’s a good argument that faith in gods does actually promote the common good, (as discussed in New Scientist this week).

    But there is also evidence that the least religious countries have the best outcomes for their citizens. Maybe, as society evolves in a pro-rational direction, faith loses its benefits? What was once true may not be true in the future.

    Anyway, I shall continue to mock religion whenever i get the opportunity.

  6. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I agree, but there’s a good argument that faith in gods does actually promote the common good, (as discussed in New Scientist this week).

    I knew there was a reason I’d let my subscription to New Scientist lapse.

  7. Dick the Damned says

    Tis, for instance, regarding psychological experiments, NS said, “those primed to think of god were much more generous. (Psychological Science, vol 18, p803)”. To be fair, they also mention that reminders of secular authority have a similar affect.

    I do think that what was missing from their analysis was the possibility that society can change in ways that might mean that a particular stimulus becomes less effective. My children certainly didn’t have a “god-shaped space waiting to be filled”.

  8. Sastra says

    Dick the Damned #5 wrote:

    I agree, but there’s a good argument that faith in gods does actually promote the common good, (as discussed in New Scientist this week).

    Sure, I can think of positive factors involved in either being in a faith community or having a faith which encourages good works. The problem is that the faith-based approach is a complete wild card and can both set the in-group/out-group division anywhere and justify any behavior. When theists do what seems good in the eyes of an atheist — hey, we got lucky. The whole fucking point is believing in things an atheist would not. Faith’s purpose is to divide the believer off from “the World” and seek higher things that make no sense to the unenlightened. That’s a recipe for division … and disaster.

    Sure, faith promotes the “common good” of the in-group. As long as you are both in the In-group and an obedient member of the in-group, you will be taken care of. Watch out what happens when you dissent, or fall out of favor, or never belonged in the first place, though.

  9. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Um, Pagans try to stay quiet and out of the way mostly (sucking up I’m not sure about, but some must do it), and we still live in fear of being beat up, having dead pets nailed to our doors, property damaged, etc. What makes Stedman think it will be any different with atheists?

  10. Brownian says

    What makes Stedman think it will be any different with atheists?

    Have you heard how Nice™ he is?

  11. cag says

    those primed to think of god were much more generous.

    So what was their definition of generous? If generosity included tithing, I would not call that generosity.

  12. Woo_Monster says

    I agree, but there’s a good argument that faith in gods does actually promote the common good, (as discussed in New Scientist this week).

    Bullshit. Faith is not linked up with reality. Morals derived from faith in some dogma are not based on reflection on how some actions may or may not increase the overall well-being of humans. As such, and as Sastra already said, when their faith-derived actions are “good” (as viewed from our secularist understanding of “good), then we are lucky. Certainly, sometimes one’s faith in god could compel them to do some compassionate thing (whether for generally altruistic or fear-based reasons). Equally certain is that others’ faith impels them to do great evil.

    Does female general mutilation promote the common good?

    Does homophobia promote the common good?

    How about slavery, genocide, infanticide, ..

    Faith in god(s) is delusional. Sometimes one’s delusions may cause them to do some beneficial actions in society. Often times they won’t. The blanket statement “delusions do actually promote the common good” is asinine. Here, let me FIFY,

    there’s a good argument that faith in gods developing ethics via looking at the real world and reflecting on what really does promote the common good does actually promote the common good

    When delusional faithists contribute to the common good, it is more often than not in spite of their delusions, not because of them.

    And when one’s faith does lead them to do something good,

  13. jfigdor says

    PZ, if Chris is so slimy, you should be able to call him on his alleged BS and nail his proverbial balls to the proverbial wall in public. I’m interested to see how this pans out, because I think you two will agree more than you disagree. I’m hoping that you two have a productive dialogue. Thanks for speaking at the Reason Rally, PZ. It was a hell of a good time!

    Best,

    JPF

  14. Dick the Damned says

    Sastra, WooMonster, i hope that you don’t think that i’m defending that thesis. I’m not. I’m merely reporting on what i read in NS last week. I also made a suggestion as to why the thesis might be wrong in a general sense. Of course it is wrong in terms of various specifics.

    As with many things, there are arguments pro & con. As i said in my first post in this thread, i shall continue mocking religious belief.

  15. Woo_Monster says

    Dick, I’ve seen enough of your comments to know that you weren’t really. But, the claim was thrown out, and its a claim that should be shouted down. You did call it a “good argument”. I’m glad to know you agree that it is in fact a bad argument.

  16. Woo_Monster says

    PZ, if Chris is so slimy, you should be able to call him on his alleged BS and nail his proverbial balls to the proverbial wall in public.

    He already has. Have you not read any of PZ’s post on interfaith, accomodationism, or Stedman himself? Other FtB bloggers have publicly trounced Chris as well. My personal favorite was Ophelia’s mock post about encouraging leftists and Tea-partiers to work together*.

    I’m interested to see how this pans out, because I think you two will agree more than you disagree.

    Depends what the topic of conversation is. If it is about being a fire-brand vs. being milquetoast, I anticipate much disagreement.

    I’m hoping that you two have a productive dialogue.

    I am hoping for that proverbial public nailing of his balls to the wall. That would be productive. Chris needs to stop deriding confrontational activists. He can be all nice and interfaithy all he likes. But he really needs to shut the fuck up about how loud fire-brands are hurting the movement. If he wants to continue to push that view, he needs to put up some evidence.

    Also, he needs to stop being a slimy, quote-mining, dishonest interlocutor when he is engaging the claims made by the firebrand atheists**

    *http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/projects/

    **http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2011/12/the-dancer-from-the-dance/

  17. nemothederv says

    Try not to be too hard on Chris. Poodles might do some good when pitbulls don’t work.

  18. Brownian says

    I’m interested to see how this pans out, because I think you two will agree more than you disagree.

    Oh, for fuck’s fucking sa—fucking—ke, of course that’ll be the case, if you keep the conversation stupid enough. “Think the sky today is blue Chris?” “I sure do, PZ.” “Common ground: hugs!”

    Are you people incapable of having a conversation without throwing this fucking meaningless trope out? Yes, yes, we get it: your ultimate goal in every interaction is to celebrate common ground. God fucking bless you in your holy quest to dumb everything down to nothing of substance.

    Stedman once wrote of his experience with an interfaith youth group:

    In my work for the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) I’ve labored alongside Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. My biggest takeaway has been the notion that people of different religious and philosophical identities have a lot more in common than we instinctually imagine.

    Really? Kids who choose to join an interfaith youth group might have some serious commonalities? There must be a fucking god, because an epiphany of this magnitude can’t have come from secular means.

    Honestly, this fluffy golly-gee-whiz-who’d’ve-thunk-we-all-enjoy-time-with-friends-and-family? crap is practically a mantra with that group.

  19. Dick the Damned says

    Woo, there is reason to say that there are ‘good’ arguments in favour of god belief. Not for me or my children, nor for any of the regulars here, (with one or two exceptions), but there are people out there who do probably derive an overall net benefit from such beliefs.

    I’m thinking, for instance, of people who’d lived a criminal life until they got religion, at which point they reformed & became decent citizens. I’m pretty darned sure that i’ve read (Fukuyama?) that belonging to religious organizations, (e.g. churches), increases social capital, which is regarded as a good. This was probably specifically in relation to the USA.

    However, i believe that as any society becomes more secular, the social capital benefit of religious belief declines – but that’s only a guess.

  20. Woo_Monster says

    Yes, yes, we get it: your ultimate goal in every interaction is to celebrate common ground. God fucking bless you in your holy quest to dumb everything down to nothing of substance.

    I can find much common ground with almost anyone of almost any faith. I’d much rather engage them about the irrationality of their faith than pat them on the back for their opposition to totalitarian religious world-views though.

  21. Brownian says

    I can find much common ground with almost anyone of almost any faith.

    It is the case that almost any two humans will agree more than they disagree. Saying so is literally saying nothing of value.

  22. Woo_Monster says

    Woo, there is reason to say that there are ‘good’ arguments in favour of god belief

    What is that good argument again? It is not true that delusions tend to promote the common good. And besides, whether it makes people more moral is a non-sequiter. Saying that believing in Santa makes you a better person is not an argument in favor of Santa belief.

    Not for me or my children, nor for any of the regulars here, (with one or two exceptions), but there are people out there who do probably derive an overall net benefit from such beliefs.

    I am not concerned with what a few people out there derive from religion. What is the overall trend? Do delusional beliefs in god-myths promote wellbeing in society and the common good? I am as yet unaware of any valid argument in favor of this claim.

    I’m thinking, for instance, of people who’d lived a criminal life until they got religion, at which point they reformed & became decent citizens.

    I’ve seen this claim made before, but never really supported. Again, it is possible that some individual starts believing in god(s) in prison, and then magically became more responsible citizens. But this anecdote (hypothetical anecdote, in fact), is not an argument in favor of god-belief. What are the comparative rates of reform amongst those who found jebus in jail and those who did not? I need to know info like that before I can assess whether “finding god(s)” in prison does reduce recidivism.

    And, as already said. None of these are good reasons for god-belief. Even if substantiated, the fact that religion makes one a better person or some such shit, is not a reason to believe it.

  23. Woo_Monster says

    It is the case that almost any two humans will agree more than they disagree.

    Agreed.

  24. says

    Brownian:

    Oh, for fuck’s fucking sa—fucking—ke, of course that’ll be the case, if you keep the conversation stupid enough.

    I’m reminded of this bit from Night Watch:

    “Venturi,” he said, raising his glass a carefully calculated fraction of an inch. “Selachii,” said Lord Venturi, doing the same thing.
    “This is a party,” said Albert.
    “Indeed. I see you are standing upright.”
    “Indeed. So are you, I see.”
    “Indeed. Indeed. On that subject, I notice many others are doing the same thing.”
    “Which is not to say that the horizontal position doesn’t have its merits when it comes to, for example, sleeping,” said Albert.
    “Quite so. Obviously, that would not be done here.”
    “Oh, indeed. Indeed.”*

    *The Selachiis and the Venturis made a point, on occasions like this, to talk only about things on which there was no possibility of disagreement. Given the history of the two families, this had become a very small number of things.

  25. Woo_Monster says

    jfigdor thinks a “productive dialogue” is one where people congratulate each other on their commonly-held beliefs. He calls it “interfaith”, I call it “boring”.

  26. Brownian says

    I’d offer my opinion on that blurb, Caine, but that carries a risk of disagreement. Instead, let’s both agree that you made that comment, and it appears to contain a quote from Night Watch.

    jfigdor thinks a “productive dialogue” is one where people congratulate each other on their commonly-held beliefs. He calls it “interfaith”, I call it “boring”.

    The problem is that, when one’s only goal is to celebrate common ground, there’s not much chance of finding out what they actually think.

  27. says

    I’d offer my opinion on that blurb, Caine, but that carries a risk of disagreement. Instead, let’s both agree that you made that comment, and it appears to contain a quote from Night Watch.

    Quite so, Brownian. What a productive discussion!

  28. jfigdor says

    @Woo

    How about you not speak for me? I’m excited to see the live debate because both sides are forced to engage. Usually, PZ says some stuff, and then Chris just ignores it because he doesn’t want to engage the discussion. Now PZ has a venue where they HAVE to talk about the difficult questions.

    @Brownian

    If you think I solely pursue the common ground, you are sadly mistaken. I lost a lot of religious friends when I pushed my anti-theistic thesis through Harvard Divinity School. Where Chris and I disagree is that I think that atheists should spend a lot of time in interfaith asking difficult questions to believers (“Why don’t you guys just edit out the parts of the bible that say that gay people are evil abominations? Why don’t you edit out the parts of your Bible that advocate for slavery and the mistreatment of women? etc.”).

    I know y’all think I’m only on team Interfaith, but that’s a crock. Read my twitter or Facebook feeds if you think I’m too friendly to the religious. I assure you, I am no accomodationist.

  29. Dick the Damned says

    Woo, i’m not going to address the rest of your post because of restraints on my time.

    “…the fact that religion makes one a better person or some such shit, is not a reason to believe it.” No one has argued that. Well, except for some religious apologists, probably. No one here has argued that.

  30. Brownian says

    If you think I solely pursue the common ground, you are sadly mistaken.

    I’m very rarely mistaken. Let me explain why:

    I made no such claim, nor one that even resembles that.

    What I did note, and you can read my comment again to be sure, is that in this instance, you most certainly did stop in to express one of the least useful sentiments ever. I then noted that Chris Stedman made very much the same vacuous point (it was my first introduction to him, so it kind of stuck out).

    Based on those observations (I feel like its more than two, but I don’t have the links handy), I made a semi-humourous comment about this sort of insipidity being a mantra for the Harvard group. It’s probably not, in actuality, a mantra, so in that respect I am probably mistaken. Mark it down in your calendars, kids.

    I lost a lot of religious friends when I pushed my anti-theistic thesis through Harvard Divinity School.

    Good for you for sticking to your guns, and it’s shitty that your religious friends saw that as reason to distance themselves from you.

  31. Woo_Monster says

    Yeah, sorry for not being more clear, Dick. I know you do not advocate that. But, we were spending some time discussing whether god-belief contributes to the common good, so I just wanted to throw out there that it is irrelevant to the question of if we have good reason to believe.

  32. Brownian says

    Hooray for everything!

    Or not, as the case may be.

    What’s important here is that most of us probably have an opinion about everything that’s positive, negative, neutral, or a mix, and that’s something we all share.

  33. Brownian says

    “Why don’t you guys just edit out the parts of the bible that say that gay people are evil abominations? Why don’t you edit out the parts of your Bible that advocate for slavery and the mistreatment of women? etc.”

    Are these the questions you’d have people ask? For real, what would be the fucking point? So we can pretend there’s something of value in the shit left over? “Hey, fuck, there’s three ‘the’s in a row. This means something!”

    Hell, why don’t we just edit Moby Dick so it’s a story about two Gila monsters travelling to another planet to participate and eventually win the 24,506,243th Intergalactic Space Olympics in bold defiance of the “no Gila monsters allowed” rule? I mean, who can’t get behind that? Herman Melville sure was ahead of his time.

  34. jfigdor says

    If you want to make a religion based on Moby Dick, yeah, I’d say edit out the offensive parts. Do you prefer that Christians continue to glorify the verses that talk about slavery, homosexuality, and the abuse of women?

    Look man, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you. See those three little letters, “etc?” That means that there are many many more examples where those first one’s came from. I would also want to ask, “Why do you give your money to religious organisations that oppress women and gay people?” as another example.

  35. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Are these the questions you’d have people ask? For real, what would be the fucking point?

    It’s this weird but near-universal USanian idea that religion itself is a given and must ever be thus. Suggesting it be jettisoned is off-limits, so the only thing we can do is ask them to edit their stories to ones more palatable to humanist mores. While that’s clearly preferable to raging fundamentalism it’s a mistake to see it as anything but a temporary stopgap.

  36. Brownian says

    Do you prefer that Christians continue to glorify the verses that talk about slavery, homosexuality, and the abuse of women?

    I’d say that Christians who glorify slavery, homophobia, and the abuse of women are going to do so no matter what the fuck their bible says (hell, think of all the opinions Christians have on shit that the bible says nothing about), and Christians who aren’t cool with slavery, homophobia, and the abuse of women are not going to be cool with those things no matter what the fuck their bible says (case in point: all the fucking Christians who aren’t cool with slavery, homophobia, and the abuse of women).

    Worst case scenario: it’s whitewashing actual history. Best case scenario: everyone keeps on keepin’ on as they have been.

    Look man, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you.

    Cool. I just thought we might argue about something other than Stedman and the Harvard group. If you feel like I’m giving you too much guff, I can lay off.

  37. Brownian says

    Suggesting it be jettisoned is off-limits, so the only thing we can do is ask them to edit their stories to ones more palatable to humanist mores.

    Ah, I see. Well, in that case, why don’t we edit out all the parts that refer to bullshit, and just leave the, uh…er…how about we swap out the whole fucking thing for a text on calculus?

    Is that okay, or are we only limited to stories where Jesus goes to Cana to turn water into wine for his same-sex friends before flying into the future to discuss universal healthcare with Tommy Douglas?

    I honestly don’t get this crap.

  38. says

    Do you prefer that Christians continue to glorify the verses that talk about slavery, homosexuality, and the abuse of women?

    As soon as you work a seriously productive miracle, like getting all the 38,000 different types of Christians to all agree on what constitutes Christianity, then we can talk about replacing all the myriad types of bibles out there with the Jefferson bible.

  39. Brownian says

    You know what would make a great religious text? The manual for the original Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon. Humanists may feel free to skip over the portions that don’t reflect the values they held before reading the book.

  40. Brownian says

    There shouldn’t be any problem at all getting all flavours of Christians to go along with it. Nope.

    Is that really the intent? Or is the intent to give humanists a doctored version of the bible with no parts that might cause one to awkwardly shuffle their feet over? I mean, we know that people don’t actually draw their morality from the bible as if they lived in a cultural vacuum right?

    Maybe it’s because I’m simultaneously catching up on Yo, Is This Racist?, but I can’t see how this isn’t seriously the most privileging thing I’ve ever heard of. Why not just rewrite American history to remove all the genocide and slavery so one can feel Exceptionalist with a clean conscience?

  41. unclefrogy says

    > there’s a good argument that faith in gods does actually promote the common good, (as discussed in New Scientist this week).

    But there is also evidence that the least religious countries have the best outcomes for their citizens.<

    if there is truth in these statements then we have 2 examples from 2 different groups that share the same outcome. the question comes to my mind what is the source or reason for the positive outcome. Is it something they share? Religion is only too glad to take the credit but is religion directly responsible or something else going on here? Sounds to me like there are many assumptions being made here. Is generosity a natural tendency of people or are people more likely to not be generous?
    religion has developed the bad habit not thinking and not asking questions that has infected much of human thinking. We often assume things without realizing it.

    My guess about it would be that the good religion is in spite of the particular beliefs but can have the benefit reducing stress caused by feelings of isolation by creating a feeling of belonging to a supporting group. I suspect that that is the main hook that makes it so hard for believers to let go of the false beliefs that are associated with their particular religion.
    How do you let go of the security of the relationship of religion when you can see no other place you can experience that same sense and you have doubts about the veracity of the beliefs. It is a relationship and not unlike being in any abusive relationship. It is often difficult to break away even when it is obvious that it may lead to physical injury or even death.

    If we have a hole in us (a god shaped one) it is a hole of being a social animal and needing the support of the group.

    uncle frogy

  42. says

    Tis, for instance, regarding psychological experiments, NS said, “those primed to think of god were much more generous. (Psychological Science, vol 18, p803)”. To be fair, they also mention that reminders of secular authority have a similar affect.

    So it works just as well as acupuncture works…I mean granted toothpicks in random places worked just as well but yeah acupuncture totally works.

  43. says

    if there is truth in these statements then we have 2 examples from 2 different groups that share the same outcome. the question comes to my mind what is the source or reason for the positive outcome. Is it something they share? Religion is only too glad to take the credit but is religion directly responsible or something else going on here?

    My gut guess is that it works under the same principles that someone can do calculus better if you remind them of common formulas a head of time. You remind people of something and it’s in the front of their mind for a time. Probably also the same reason many of us are afraid of going to our basements at night after watching a horror movie despite logically knowing it’s fictional. Remind someone of danger as a concept–> people are hyper attentive and thinking about danger. Remind someone of morality –>

  44. says

    Brownian:

    Is that really the intent? Or is the intent to give humanists a doctored version of the bible with no parts that might cause one to awkwardly shuffle their feet over? I mean, we know that people don’t actually draw their morality from the bible as if they lived in a cultural vacuum right?

    Well, my intent is simply to demonstrate what an idiotic idea it happens to be and why it isn’t the least bit workable. There are already “happy” bible translations out there, they’ve been around for a long fucking time. Liberal Christians have little use for any type of bible and hardcore Christians, regardless of flavour, hang onto their bible of choice with ferocity.

    Various types of Christians claim to derive their morality from the bible, however, that’s just because they can find some verse somewhere in the mess that supports their particular viewpoint about X. It really doesn’t matter if you could replace their bible, their God would still hate the same shit they do. They’d find some other way to justify it.

    The super-mellow hippie Jesus was all about peace and love types don’t care about the bible much, but they aren’t about to give up their fuzzy wuzzy Jesus, either. On the other side of that coin, the warrior-killer-soldier Jesus types, they loves the KJV bible and no one is going to pry from their hands.

    There are already half a tonne of different versions of the bible. Back in my Jesus freak days, I had close to a dozen different versions and wanted more. (Yeah, I studied them all.) Scofield’s was my favourite.

    Maybe it’s because I’m simultaneously catching up on Yo, Is This Racist?, but I can’t see how this isn’t seriously the most privileging thing I’ve ever heard of. Why not just rewrite American history to remove all the genocide and slavery so one can feel Exceptionalist with a clean conscience?

    The Jefferson Bible, well, that was about removing all the supernatural crap and editing it down a life of Jesus. It was the only way Thomas Jefferson could feel at ease with a bible. As far as I know, he never attempted to impose it on anyone. (I have discussed the Jefferson bible with many Christians, and to a one, they all think he’s burning in hell for doing that. Not for the slavery mind, or his deist belief or fucking one of his slaves for years. But messing with the bible, yeah, God got him for that.)

    People who think that the bible can somehow be translated or changed into a gentler, kinder Christianity are several bricks shy of thinking things through.

  45. Woo_Monster says

    Remind someone of danger as a concept–> people are hyper attentive and thinking about danger. Remind someone of morality –>

    This reminds me of something Richard Carrier was talking about (I forget in which lecture). If you prime someone with fear they are less critical of claims made in close proximity (temporally) to their experience of fear. He mentioned it could have the same evo-psych explanation as our hyperactive agency-detection, namely, that people who take assertions as true more readily when they are afraid will avoid death at a higher rate (think someone saying there is a tiger in the bush). We have all heard that evo-pysch explanation before, and like all evo-psych, it gives a plausible story about the origins of some particular human trait, but as far I can tell, is just that. A plausible just so story.

    Anyways, regardless of the reason our brain operates in this way, it is interesting to realize that people become less skeptical of claims when they are afraid.

  46. Brownian says

    It was the only way Thomas Jefferson could feel at ease with a bible.

    So, unless I’m missing something, what I said.

    As far as I know, he never attempted to impose it on anyone.

    Right, but that’s not my beef. It still seems a lot like telling oneself that racism, sexism, and homophobia don’t exist in North America just because, well, if we’re reworking fantasies to make ourselves feel better, why not go all out?

    But I do appreciate your bringing up the Jefferson Bible as an example of this already having been done, and ineffectually, and we’re 100% in agreement (aww, we agree more than we disagree) on:

    Various types of Christians claim to derive their morality from the bible, however, that’s just because they can find some verse somewhere in the mess that supports their particular viewpoint about X. It really doesn’t matter if you could replace their bible, their God would still hate the same shit they do. They’d find some other way to justify it.

    The super-mellow hippie Jesus was all about peace and love types don’t care about the bible much, but they aren’t about to give up their fuzzy wuzzy Jesus, either. On the other side of that coin, the warrior-killer-soldier Jesus types, they loves the KJV bible and no one is going to pry from their hands.

  47. unclefrogy says

    >regardless of the reason our brain operates in this way, it is interesting to realize that people become less skeptical of claims when they are afraid.<

    only when the claims aline with their fears.
    I doubt it works to alleviate the fear much.
    I mean if you are afraid generally and some one says that there is some danger over their it will be believed easier than if someone tells you that you have nothing to fear. You may end up deciding that the later is true but it will take much more effort.

    uncle frogy

  48. says

    Brownian:

    So, unless I’m missing something, what I said.

    Yes. I do think, though, that for as much as Jefferson custom made a bible he felt had merit (and was comfortable with), so does every single theist. They may not indulge in scholarly study and actually make a custom bible for real, but they certainly make a custom bible in their head. At best, Christianity is an extremely loose template for religious belief. A unifying force, not so much.

  49. Brownian says

    Yes. I do think, though, that for as much as Jefferson custom made a bible he felt had merit (and was comfortable with), so does every single theist.

    Heh. I remember being a moderate but faithful Catholic…

    Funny how many things the Pope got wrong while I got right.

  50. jfigdor says

    I’d rather have people like Brownian continuing the upward slide from liberal/moderate religious into Atheist/Humanist like his story seems to indicate. I support liberal religious believers because I see them as a destination along the way to agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism. And in the mean time, they can help us legalize gay marriage, fight against the conservative war on women’s reproductive freedom, etc. etc. etc.

  51. Woo_Monster says

    I support liberal religious believers because I see them as a destination along the way to agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism. And in the mean time, they can help us legalize gay marriage, fight against the conservative war on women’s reproductive freedom, etc. etc. etc.

    There’s your problem right there. Supporting religious belief just because the believers are all liberal and nice on many social issues is still supporting religious belief. I’d rather not support even moderate theists. Their delusions, even though they are less harmful, are delusions nonetheless and should be mocked/confronted. Not supported.

    The liberal religious believers who generally believe in equality and other secular values are not going to start being conservative and totalitarian simply because us mean atheists are calling their delusions delusions. In other words, liberal religious believers do not need our support in order for them to continue to advocate reproductive freedom, equal rights…etc. I do support some values they also support, but I detest their religious beliefs, and do not support them simply for being benign supporters of myths. I oppose their false beliefs.

  52. consciousness razor says

    Where Chris and I disagree is that I think that atheists should spend a lot of time in interfaith

    Waste a lot of time, you mean.

    asking difficult questions to believers (“Why don’t you guys just edit out the parts of the bible that say that gay people are evil abominations? Why don’t you edit out the parts of your Bible that advocate for slavery and the mistreatment of women? etc.”).

    Those are supposed to be difficult? And why the fuck do you care what a crusty old book says anyway? The Bible’s a piece of ancient history and belongs there. Would “editing out” those bits make it acceptable to you? If not, then what’s the point of editing it (more than it already has been)? Why ask such convoluted rhetorical questions about Biblical passages, rather than what people actually believe about ethics or deities?

  53. jfigdor says

    @ Woo_Monster

    Don’t be silly. It is better to divide and conquer. Side with the less deluded until you make the worse delusion obsolete, then start asking your hard hitting questions. And remember, different strokes for different folks, right? If you want to rip into the religious left for their hypocrisy, be my guest. It just isn’t my beat. I prefer to focus on the real source of damage, the right wing of religion.

  54. consciousness razor says

    I support liberal religious believers because I see them as a destination along the way to agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism.

    You won’t move them in the atheist direction until you start addressing their beliefs about deities and about faith itself. One could get them to be a more “liberal” bullshitter without changing any of that.

    And you’re either joking about “agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism,” or you’re a clown. And I hate clowns. Agnosticism isn’t a middle position between theism and atheism, and atheism and humanism are not the same thing. What the hell did they teach you at Harvard divinity school?

  55. jfigdor says

    If you read people’s stories about how they became irreligious, most of them say they became agnostic at some point. From the examples I know personally, a lot of folks move from religious to deist, to agnostic, to atheist or Humanist. You’re right that Atheists and Humanists are different, but most Humanists happen to be Atheists. This is not a coincidence.

    Can you make arguments without personal attacks, or do you just get off on being a dick on the internet?

    Cheers,

    Someone who agrees with you on most of what you’re saying, but you’re alienating.

  56. Woo_Monster says

    Side with the less deluded until you make the worse delusion obsolete, then start asking your hard hitting questions.

    Why do I have to side with any delusions? Like I said, they DO NOT NEED our support. Liberal theists will continue to advocate liberal social issues. And that is commendable. I am not going to pretend that their beliefs aren’t ludicrous though. I am on their side on a lot of issues, but again, I don’t see the point in “supporting them”. It is not necessary for the continued promotion of sound policies (both us atheists and those liberal theists can all support equality), and I cannot in good conscience support faith in any form. Faith is dangerous. Lack of reality checks and all that.

    And remember, different strokes for different folks, right?

    Yes, different strokes are necessary to combat delusional thought. Polite, diplomatic, firebrand, rude, …etc. All work for different people and in different situations. But, my agreement that different methods can be successful for fighting irrational belief does not extend to any approach that supports those very irrational beliefs. Take a nice-guy approach to fighting religion, I will not object. Support religion, and I will.

    I prefer to focus on the real source of damage, the right wing of religion holding delusional beliefs that are held independently of reality and evidence.

    Fixed it

  57. jfigdor says

    You didn’t fix it, Woo. You just made it fit with your plans. Good luck with those. I’ll be working with the religious left on trying to fight the war on women, the corporate assault on the poor, and trying to end racism. I’ll be asking them why they believe some of the goofier things that religious people claim to believe in. Along the way, I’ll continue to have friends in the religious left confess to me that they’re closet atheists, or that they’re coming out as atheists, as has happened throughout my career at Harvard as both a student and as a Chaplain. And I’ll be there to support them in their transition towards a more reason-based lifestyle.

    Have fun trashing both the religious left and the religious right. But would you mind peeing out of the tent instead of on your atheist allies?

  58. Sastra says

    Caine #51 wrote:

    It really doesn’t matter if you could replace their bible, their God would still hate the same shit they do. They’d find some other way to justify it.

    Maybe … but I doubt it.

    I think that, looked at as individuals, a lot of fundamentalists are just as fundamentally nice and normal as the liberal Christians or, for that matter, us. They don’t all have some hate-seeking nature that ferrets out the nastiest interpretation of the Bible, nor do they choose to follow it in order to express and justify what they’d no doubt do anyway. It really does matter that the Bible says what it says.

    Mark Twain once wrote that his mother was the most tender, sensitive person he knew — but she still thought slavery was a good thing and had a hard time seeing how anyone could think otherwise. It was in Scripture and had been taught to her as God’s plan since she was small. Her tender sensitivity worked against her, given her situation.

    Yeah, every version of Christianity cherry-picks. And there’s a fair amount of movement from denomination to denomination, as people go from one church to another depending on which one seems more “Christian” to them. But what they see as “Christian” isn’t always going to be determined by how nice they are — how secularly reasonable, how humanist they are, in other words. Sometimes they’re compelled by an internal logic and desire for consistency based on the methods of interpretation they were taught — and all the sweetness and light in their personal nature won’t move them to what we consider a more enlightened stance.

    The problem isn’t the Christians. The problem is Christianity itself, and the methods it encourages. If we replaced the Bible with something else, I think their God would get better. It would be able to. They would get better. Not all of them, no — but a lot of them.

  59. Woo_Monster says

    Can you make arguments without personal attacks, or do you just get off on being a dick on the internet?

    Ah, tone-trolling. Just for this comment, you have earned a hearty FUCK YOU. If you are going to complain, again, about the culture here, you are just going to get more personal insults.

    For example: tone-trolls are shit-eating*, BORING, wastes of space. No one gives a fuck if tone-trolls are offended because tone-trolls are idiots who care more about style than substance.

    Someone who agrees with you on most of what you’re saying, but you’re alienating.

    Are you going to stop supporting reproductive rights now? Or do you see how you can be confrontational with someone without hurting any causes you may both agree on?

    *not to disparage anyone with that particular kink

  60. jfigdor says

    Oh, ok, so you’re childish. Good to know. I won’t bother to engage with your childish tone, but I advise you to not waste the space on the page for the sake of the grownups who read this thread.

  61. says

    jfigdor, claiming to agree with us on ‘mostly everything’ is misleading in the extreme when you are taking the diametrically opposed stance in the argument.

    I mean, I don’t really care if you are alienated, in this context, but it’s a pretty blatantly dishonest attempt.

  62. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    If you read people’s stories about how they became irreligious, most of them say they became agnostic at some point. From the examples I know personally, a lot of folks move from religious to deist, to agnostic, to atheist or Humanist.

    Jonathan is right about this; it’s very common. People don’t hew neatly to the dictionary definition of these terms and they have lots of logic fails on the way to revising their positions, especially when it comes to religion. That’s how people work.

  63. Sastra says

    jfigdor #64 wrote:

    I’ll be working with the religious left on trying to fight the war on women, the corporate assault on the poor, and trying to end racism.

    That’s a noble goal, and a valid tactic.

    But the real problem isn’t that, from our point of view, some versions of religion lead to good consequences and others lead to bad consequences. It’s that religion isn’t supposed to measure the consequences against our point of view.

    If astrologers were encouraging people to wage war on women, assault the poor, and promote racism, it might be wise to try to work with the astrologers who insist that the stars and planets do NOT mean this — this is not what astrology tells us at all! But we have to be careful that we don’t forget that steering people towards ‘good astrology’ is not going to work long term unless we get them to leave off the crap about the stars and planets.

    How important is God to the religious left? How important is believing in God? If it’s very, very important — then we’re in trouble.

  64. consciousness razor says

    From the examples I know personally, a lot of folks move from religious to deist, to agnostic, to atheist or Humanist.

    Deism is a religion, so that is not a move. Many believers are agnostic, just like many nonbelievers are. It is not a transitional step between the two, and I could care less which label they choose based on that misconception. The point is that you’ll only convince them to stop believing things if you challenge those beliefs, not other things which are irrelevant. You’re not going to make Christian feminists into atheist feminists (for example) by changing their minds about feminism because there’s nothing to change. What ought to change is their Christianity, however watered-down it may be.

  65. Woo_Monster says

    Have fun trashing both the religious left and the religious right.

    I will.

    But would you mind peeing out of the tent instead of on your atheist allies?

    I’ll piss on you all I want. I don’t give a fuck if you are my “ally”. I do not support liberal goddists. Supporting them gives them cover to go on believing*. And they in term provide cover for more pernicious types of faiths.

    Sastra’s analogy sums up my sentiments,

    But we have to be careful that we don’t forget that steering people towards ‘good astrology’ is not going to work long term unless we get them to leave off the crap about the stars and planets.

    My main point is that both in my dealings with liberal theists, and even my dealings with you personally, if I disagree about something, I’ll make it known. And confronting either you, or liberal theists, can be personally alienating (which I don’t care about), but it does not force them to abandon the various causes we agree about.

    It isn’t that nuanced of a point. Some liberal theists do some great things. I support those things. I cannot honestly support their delusional world-view. Confronting people about irrational belief will not alienate their support of say, equality. It just makes them think you are rude perhaps (if they are the polite, tone-concerned types), or just blunt (if they value honest, straight-forward expression).

    *you say that you do spend a lot of time confronting liberal theists about the irrationality of their belief. If so, then you are not supporting them, but are confronting and fighting them. So, if you are attacking their beliefs, then I have no complaints really, besides that you shouldn’t claim to be in support of them.

    If, on the other hand, you often find yourself ignoring the unsupported claims they make for reason of trying to maintain a common ground, then I do have some objections.

  66. Brownian says

    I support liberal religious believers because I see them as a destination along the way to agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism.

    Sure. But likely, the biggest influences on my deconversion were friends of mine who were openly atheist and antagonistic to religious belief. I also had a friend who is pretty New Agey Buddhist. We agreed a lot on many things, but I realised I was no longer agnostic when our vapid platitudes began to wear thin.

    And anyway, how did we get to this point in the conversation? What does ‘support’ mean in this context? Does anyone really advocate cross examining everyone fighting for GLBT rights on their religious persuasion and punching them in the face if they don’t declare themselves utterly atheist? What is this argument meant to mean, jfigdor?

  67. Woo_Monster says

    Oh, ok, so you’re childish. Good to know. I won’t bother to engage with your childish tone, but I advise you to not waste the space on the page for the sake of the grownups who read this thread.

    From Pharyngula’s “Standards and Practices” page,

    This is a rude blog. We like to argue — heck, we like a loud angry brawl. Don’t waste time whining at anyone that they’re not nice, because this gang will take pride in that and rhetorically hand you a rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice. If you intrude here and violate any of the previous three mores, people won’t like you, and they won’t hold back—they’ll tell you so, probably in colorful terms.

    Read that italicized portion, and then shove your concern-trolling up your pompous ass.

    Seriously, no one gives a fuck about insults here, so long as they don’t promote sexism, racism, ableism…

    And on that note,

    Can you make arguments without personal attacks, or do you just get off on being a dick on the internet?

    Do not use gendered insults. Be insulting all you want, but don’t use gendered terms in being so.

  68. says

    Sastra:

    I think that, looked at as individuals, a lot of fundamentalists are just as fundamentally nice and normal as the liberal Christians or, for that matter, us.

    Obviously, we haven’t met and spent time with the same fundamentalists. I’m glad yours are all fuzzy wuzzy and would be lost without their bible. That’s not at all how the ones I know happen to be.

    As for Mark Twain? He spoke nicely about his mommy. That’s irrelevant.

  69. Brownian says

    Have fun trashing both the religious left and the religious right?

    Wait, what? Where do you get off deciding what issues are important and who are valid allies? Are atheist libertarians on my side because they’re against theocracy? How about conservatives who decry police brutality? Is it possible for me to have allies on some issues and yet me still disagree with them? What if I alienate them by criticising their fiscal positions? I mean, given the plurality of beliefs, I think everyone’s pretty much an ally of mine on at least some issues. Given that, I’d best not trash anyone’s position on anything, right?

    So, yeah, there are positions the religious left holds that I feel pretty okay in trashing, just like there are positions the atheist libertarians hold and the fiscal conservatives do. Is that alright with you, or are we back to “never disagree with anyone ever?”

  70. Woo_Monster says

    from 76,

    shove your concern-trolling tone-trolling up your pompous ass.

    FIFM

  71. Sastra says

    Caine #77 wrote:

    Obviously, we haven’t met and spent time with the same fundamentalists.

    True. Or, what time I spent didn’t end up bringing up any problems, for whatever reason.

    I’ve often wondered what would happen if you took a large and otherwise homogenous group of fundamentalist Christians, liberal Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus, atheists, New Agers, Buddhists, etc. and gave them a task to perform and a condition. Build a house, hold a pancake breakfast, clean a park – but nobody allowed to bring up religion or allude to what belief system they followed in any way whatsoever. Distract them from this condition by imposing other insignificant conditions, so they don’t know what’s being tested. Then have them secretly watched.

    Would neutral, objective observers be able to tell which religion/philosophy each person held? How would this hold, statistically?

    My guess is that, overall, it would be random. You could not look at the hard workers, the planners, the shirkers, the complainers, the authoritarians, the followers, the bossy, the meek, the kind, the cruel, the competent, the incompetent, the friendly, the aloof — and credibly assign which religion went where, and to whom. And you could run the experiment over and over again, and get the same non-results. Absent specific identifiers and in a neutral situation, religious belief is insignificant.

    That’s what I’d guess. But there might be some patterns, over time. I don’t know. It would be interesting to find out.

  72. Brownian says

    My guess is that, overall, it would be random. You could not look at the hard workers, the planners, the shirkers, the complainers, the authoritarians, the followers, the bossy, the meek, the kind, the cruel, the competent, the incompetent, the friendly, the aloof — and credibly assign which religion went where, and to whom. And you could run the experiment over and over again, and get the same non-results. Absent specific identifiers and in a neutral situation, religious belief is insignificant.

    I know that trick where you grab a hammer or some other tool and just walk around purposefully with it. Whenever someone asks you to lend a hand, you say “Sure, be right there. Just gotta bring this hammer over here, first,” and you walk away. You look busy without doing a thing.

    What was the point?

    Oh yeah, I think you’re probably right.

  73. Sastra says

    Ah, well, if the task is “pick out Brownian,” then that would be easier, of course.

    The thought experiment above seems, on the surface, like it ought to promote tolerance towards religion. It actually does the opposite. It isn’t ‘bad’ people in one religion and ‘good’ people in another. The religions themselves are introducing the problems. And the mindset which sees “faith” as the method which weeds good people from bad people is the root of religion, and thus the root of the problem.

    I’m about 80% of the way through Greta Christina’s terrific new book Why Are You Atheists So Angry. In it, she says that if there is one major point that she could make to the religious — one thing to remember and understand and take away from her book — it is this: religion is a hypothesis. It’s not a value, not a moral axiom, not a subjective opinion, not a personal perspective. It’s not a “choice for God.” It’s a rational hypothesis derived from evidence.

    Which means it can be wrong. And you can’t use it as if it separates the wheat of enlightenment from the chaff of humanity.

  74. Brownian says

    The thought experiment above seems, on the surface, like it ought to promote tolerance towards religion. It actually does the opposite. It isn’t ‘bad’ people in one religion and ‘good’ people in another. The religions themselves are introducing the problems. And the mindset which sees “faith” as the method which weeds good people from bad people is the root of religion, and thus the root of the problem.

    Well said.

    And interfaith groups?

  75. Sastra says

    Brownian #83 wrote:

    And interfaith groups?

    As Greta says, “Religious ecumenicalism … shows a callous disregard for truth.” And, I would add, a dangerous dislike of debate.

    “…this ecumenical attitude that reality is an annoying distraction from the far more important business of feeling good — and that insisting on reality is an ugly form of bigoted intolerance — is part and parcel of this unique armor that religion has built against valid criticism, questioning, and self-correction. It is not a protection against the evils of religion. It is one of them.” — Greta Christina

    To which I say, amen.

    When I talk to people of faith, or read about religious and spiritual faith, I think I begin to understand how faith is supposed to operate. In spirituality, you’re not drawing tentative conclusions about a hypothesis, conclusions that any other objective person should draw. Instead, you hold certain beliefs — faith beliefs — because of the kind of person you are, or the kind of person you want to be. You choose to believe that God exists the same way — and for the same reasons — you choose to believe that love has value. It’s because that’s how you are, or how you want to be, or who you wish to become. You seek the divine, respond to God, experience the sacred.

    Unlike the atheists. Who SUCK. Not that they’re judging or anything.

    I think that interfaith groups will either gang up against the people without faith and politely denigrate the fact that they are not the “kind of person” who chooses faith — or they will try to find some cheesy way to think that the atheist has faith after all, widening the definition long enough to feel all warm and inclusive and then snapping it back shut again the minute the atheist leaves the room, their critical thinking shuts down, and/or something reminds then that God and believing in God and being the sort of person who believes in God and wants to believe in God is the most goddam important thing in the universe.

    Or they will change the subject to something we all can agree on.

    In some ways, I hate interfaith groups. “Look, as long as you believe in God, you’re AOK!” But I perceive, darkly, the possibility that they may contain the seeds of their own destruction within. If you remove their ‘foundation’ of faith, you can discover they have a very dangerous tendency to try to make sense — and a reckless habit of caring about people. This is their eventual doom. They don’t know it. Yet.

  76. jfigdor says

    I say engage in interfaith and bring your sharp attacks to the interfaith group. Tell them why you mistrust them and why you, rather validly, think that your concerns will be white-washed. But don’t just assert that this is what will happen. Get the data. Let’s be observation-based.

  77. jfigdor says

    @SC

    Regarding this: ‘“I say…bring your sharp attacks to the interfaith group.” – Jonathan Figdor’
    Do you expect me to gasp and retract this? This is how to make interfaith work. If you really have questions for religious people, an interfaith group is the right place to ask those tough questions. If they don’t want to discuss theology, then they really aren’t committed to Interfaith. But if you show up, and you have no intention of helping out through interfaith service, and your only plan is to tell them that they’re morons, I think that will be less successful.

  78. jfigdor says

    @ ING

    “Only once you’re invested can you see why it works.”

    No. It is just that they won’t really care about you until you invest something in a common project. Right now they have no reason to care about you. Many religious people think we are immoral people. Show up, help clean up a park, volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, and then, once you’ve actually showed that you care about something more than yourself, they’ll be inclined to listen.

  79. jfigdor says

    I know it is ridiculous that we still have to prove that we are moral people, but that is our metaphorical cross to bear.

  80. says

    Do you expect me to gasp and retract this?

    No.

    This is how to make interfaith work.

    What faith are we supposed to be? (Please do not play word games – in what precisely do you think I have faith in the “interfaith” sense? Be precise or stop including us.)

    If you really have questions for religious people, an interfaith group is the right place to ask those tough questions.

    I don’t have questions. I have teaching. I doubt you want me to bring my sharp attacks to your interfaith shindigs.

    But I will.

  81. says

    I know it is ridiculous that we still have to prove that we are moral people, but that is our metaphorical cross to bear.

    Of course it isn’t. Don’t be ridiculous. The religious as a group haven’t even shown that they understand what morality is.

  82. jfigdor says

    You totally should, SC. Please, go to an interfaith shindig and bring your criticisms. If you show up and help out a little to show that you’re interested in trying to find some common ground (even if it means them giving up a ton more ground), and they reject you when you make your sharp but fair criticisms, you should write about it and have PZ put it on his blog. Or if not him, maybe Ophelia or JT would publish it. Either way, you’d have a great avenue to expose the “lie” of interfaith and then you’d have a strong position from which to argue with Stedman and the other Interfaitheists.

    As far as the name, I’m not going to defend the name “interfaith.” It is a bad name. I would actually prefer it if we just called it service, since the interfaith element does, to some extent, privilege that perspective.

  83. says

    Show up, help clean up a park, volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, and then, once you’ve actually showed that you care about something more than yourself, they’ll be inclined to listen.

    You know what I just said about appearing at your events? I rescind it. You are contemptible.

  84. says

    jfigdor:

    As far as the name, I’m not going to defend the name “interfaith.” It is a bad name. I would actually prefer it if we just called it service, since the interfaith element does, to some extent, privilege that perspective.

    So, you’re saying it should just be a regular secular event? Maybe like those organized by individuals, neighborhoods, non-profits, and cities all over the country every day, without fanfare or national PR blitzes?

    Well, hell, what would be the use of that?

  85. jfigdor says

    @SC

    Are you sure you know what the word contemptible means? Because suggesting that someone do something decent for other human beings as part of your attempt to improve the perception of atheism is not what the word contemptible means in my book.

  86. says

    Are you sure you know what the word contemptible means? Because suggesting that someone do something decent for other human beings as part of your attempt to improve the perception of atheism is not what the word contemptible means in my book.

    What decent things have I done, and not done, for other human – and nonhuman – beings?

  87. says

    suggesting that someone do something decent for other human beings as part of your attempt to improve the perception of atheism

    I don’t do anything for anyone in an attempt to improve anyone’s perception of atheism.

  88. says

    suggesting that someone do something decent for other human beings

    Oh, and as I and many, many other people have explained, participating in the epistemic movement that is the gnu atheism is doing something decent and ethical and necessary for other beings. If you don’t understand that, too bad for you.

  89. says

    jfigdor, I think your statement was contemptible because:

    a) you were implying, while actually knowing nothing at all about SC, that SC does not already do something decent for other human beings.

    b) you were implying that there was something super-extra-special and pwecious about doing something decent for other human beings in your group, as opposed to doing this kind of stuff anywhere else.

    c) you were outright stating that the motive for doing something decent for other human beings was ‘to improve the perception of atheism’. Seriously? WTF, dude, how about doing good because it’s the decent thing to do? This is no better than Xians doing things in order to suck up to their imaginary friend.

    SC’s reasons may differ; this was my take. I do not speak for SC.

  90. Aquaria says

    I support liberal religious believers because I see them as a destination along the way to agnosticism and then Atheism/Humanism.

    This is stupid and dishonest.

    Agnosticism isn’t some halfway point between theism and atheism!

    Agnosticism is the lack of knowledge about deities.

    Atheism is the lack of belief in deities.

    Knowledge is not belief Knowledge is knowledge. Belief is belief!!

    Someone knows or doesn’t, but that is in no way the same thing as what that person believes.

    So you can be agnostic about the existence of gods but still believe in them, anyway (agnostic theists–aka fucking morons) or not believe in them (agnostic atheists–the only people who seem to use their damn brains).

    Dawkins and most of the people here consider themselves agnostic atheists for this reason. So they’re agnostics and atheists. It’s not one or the other!

    How many times does this bullshit have to be spelled out for sniveling fuckfaces who try to hide behind this outright lie that it’s some magical middle ground, when it is not?

  91. Aquaria says

    please, go to an interfaith shindig and bring your criticisms.

    Why?

    What good would it do? It’s for interfaith shit for brains, and atheists have none.

    If you show up and help out a little to show that you’re interested in trying to find some common ground

    There is no common ground, shit for brains. They have faith. Atheists don’t. At the very core, there is ZERO to bind atheists to delusional scumbags.

    (even if it means them giving up a ton more ground)

    We don’t have to give them shit. They have enough privilege without demanding that we kiss their asses or yield jack shit to them, too.

    Fuck them. They’re the ones who need to realize what scumbags their privilege makes them. That means listening to us and seeking common ground with us, not the other way around, you sniveling piece of shit.

    and they reject you when you make your sharp but fair criticisms

    Gee, it couldn’t be because they’re privileged scumbags who think they’re entitled to having us sucking up to them, could it? Or that we’re supposed to act all ashamed for not being like them, so they think they can shame us into sucking up to them.

    And another thing: They reject us over even the gentlest criticism or announcement that we even fucking exist, because they’re such privileged sacks of shit that they think anything we say is criticism, even saying that we exist. They’re so fucking insecure and stupid that they attack anything we say or do. It doesn’t matter what we say or how, those privileged scumbags will snivel about how mean we are. Look at the uproar over a sign that said nothing but “Atheists”.

    That you don’t understand this means you’re a sniveling shit for brains.

    you should write about it and have PZ put it on his blog. Or if not him, maybe Ophelia or JT would publish it.

    Start your own blog, asshole. It’s not our job to suck up to the privileged delusional scumbags. We’ll leave that to sniveling sacks of shit like you.

    Either way, you’d have a great avenue to expose the “lie” of interfaith

    We have it, shit for brains: Atheist bus ads.

    and then you’d have a strong position from which to argue with Stedman and the other Interfaitheists.

    We have that, too, shit for brains: Atheist bus ads.

    Sit down and shut up. Your sniveling scumbaggery is annoying the fuck out of me.

  92. jfigdor says

    @Aquaria

    High-level thinking. Too bad I don’t engage with people who can’t conduct themselves like grown-ups. I know PZ’s house rules are that rudeness is fair game, and that’s cool with me. I just won’t bother to converse with you. You’ll make no allies and change few minds calling everyone who disagrees with you shit for brains (and its rather uncreative, I might add).

  93. John Morales says

    [meta]

    jfigdor, you forget where you are.

    [1] High-level thinking. [2] Too bad I don’t engage with people who can’t conduct themselves like grown-ups. [3] I know PZ’s house rules are that rudeness is fair game, and that’s cool with me. [4] I just won’t bother to converse with you. [5] You’ll make no allies and change few minds calling everyone who disagrees with you shit for brains (and its rather uncreative, I might add).

    1. Thus the Molly.

    2. Too bad you lack acumen.

    3. It’s cool…

    4. But I can’t hack it.

    5. Not everyone, just you and your ilk.

  94. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Get the data. Let’s be observation-based.

    Why don’t you shut the fuck, then go and actually do the real work to get the data. That way you would have your data, and we would be relieved by your lack of idiocy with your inane and over frequent posts. Still not saying anything cogent, but saying it often, which doesn’t go over well here, where most people are smarter than you.

  95. Duckbilled Platypus says

    I share a lot of common ground with religious folks. I like to call it “the planet”.

    I sometimes wish they had their own.

  96. says

    jfigdor, I think your statement was contemptible because:…

    SC’s reasons may differ; this was my take. I do not speak for SC.

    Nope, that was pretty much it. Thanks.

    and I’d add

    That, too.

    ***

    to expose the “lie” of interfaith

    This doesn’t make sense. It’s faith that we criticize. Interfaith whatever isn’t a lie, but a joining together of people who self-identify on the basis of their faith – bad epistemic practices and beliefs they have no good reason to hold. Atheists can’t be part of it, obviously, because atheism is not a faith. Neither is humanism, so your organization can’t honestly participate in coalitions or actions with that label, and should not.

    ***

    Jonathan, I think you guys mean well. I really do. But I wish you would try to relate to us in the same spirit of compassion and understanding you bring to religious people. Whatever else we do, we’re trying to live our commitment to reason. We see this as ethical and necessary. It’s not some communications or public relations strategy that we’d discard; trying to ‘live within the truth’ and fighting for reason is deeply humanistic and an expression of love and hope, whether you understand that or not.

  97. Brownian says

    Honestly, every so often I get the sense that jfigdor is a thinking, reasoning person, but then he falls back into this initialise.Harvard.pr.wonkery subroutine and he stops passing the Turing test. Sorry, but we have to raise a barn and then the interfaith people will listen to us tell them that faith itself is the fucking problem? Are you kidding? Do you even read what people write, jfigdor, or do you just scan for suitable openings in which to insert your bafflegab (or insults so you can initialise your get.huffy.and.indignant subroutine)?

    As far as the name, I’m not going to defend the name “interfaith.” It is a bad name. I would actually prefer it if we just called it service, since the interfaith element does, to some extent, privilege that perspective.

    Ah, we’re back to rewriting Moby Dick the Bible to make it more palatable. This is why it’s so hard to reason with you. Every problem to you is one of branding, and every one of your solutions involves rebranding. Let’s rewrite the Bible! Let’s call it ‘service’, not ‘interfaith’. Let’s do high profile charitable work to improve the perception of atheists among religious people aged 25–55.

    Did you catch the season opener of Mad Men last night? You really should watch the show. I think your Harvard group could learn a lot from how they spun tobacco back in the first season.

    Atheism, it’s toasted!

    Jonathan, I think you guys mean well. I really do. But I wish you would try to relate to us in the same spirit of compassion and understanding you bring to religious people. Whatever else we do, we’re trying to live our commitment to reason. We see this as ethical and necessary. It’s not some communications or public relations strategy that we’d discard; trying to ‘live within the truth’ and fighting for reason is deeply humanistic and an expression of love and hope, whether you understand that or not.

    QFMFT.

  98. Sastra says

    jfigdor #85 wrote:

    I say engage in interfaith and bring your sharp attacks to the interfaith group. Tell them why you mistrust them and why you, rather validly, think that your concerns will be white-washed.

    I might. I’d be interested in having a real discussion with an interfaith group. The problem is this:

    jfigdor #89 wrote:

    If you really have questions for religious people, an interfaith group is the right place to ask those tough questions. If they don’t want to discuss theology, then they really aren’t committed to Interfaith. But if you show up, and you have no intention of helping out through interfaith service, and your only plan is to tell them that they’re morons, I think that will be less successful… It is just that they won’t really care about you until you invest something in a common project.

    The first part here seems to contradict the second part — particularly if “your only plan is to tell them they’re morons” is more generously interpreted as “your only plan is to ask tough questions.”

    On the one hand, I am encouraged to go to an interfaith organization and have a dialogue with them wherein I explain why I think faith, and faith identities, are a dangerous and divisive way to ‘bring people together.’ I am an outsider presenting them with an opposing viewpoint. The goal is to persuade them to re-think the value of identifying through faith, and faith as a value. You say that’s fine; they may like that. How would I know unless I try?

    And then it seems that no, I’m not to go to them as an outsider for the purpose of dialogue, but join the group first. Invest in it by helping out with a project. Then and only then will they be open to listening to me, for my view is now that of an interfaith insider and I’ve proven to them that I’m nice and more interested in the common ground than I am in arguing.

    I have a problem with that.

    To me, it would be like a science-based medical doctor joining an Alternative Medicine Holistic Healing Health Care Centre with the goal of getting the other practitioners to drop the woo and just concentrate on the things they already do which have no conflict with science, like the yoga and common-sense nutrition. Science can work within alternative medicine and move it closer to science! Let’s keep emphasizing the common ground.

    Not likely. In both cases you’d be buying into the “Many Ways, All Valid” mindset in hopes that they’ll drop the very thing that distinguishes them from the secular and scientific — the idea that faith matters and it’s all good. You’re giving credibility to what you’re going to argue against and tacitly accepting that the argument you’re making is therefore another faith. The “good” atheist or the “good” scientist is okay with “letting” people be themselves.

    I see a conflict and I’m not comfortable.

  99. jfigdor says

    @SC

    “Jonathan, I think you guys mean well. I really do. But I wish you would try to relate to us in the same spirit of compassion and understanding you bring to religious people.”

    I try to relate with more than compassion to the Gnu Atheists. I consider myself a Gnu myself, as I think that most religion is harmful and all religion is based on asserted and incoherent metaphysics.

    “Whatever else we do, we’re trying to live our commitment to reason. We see this as ethical and necessary. It’s not some communications or public relations strategy that we’d discard; trying to ‘live within the truth’ and fighting for reason is deeply humanistic and an expression of love and hope, whether you understand that or not.”

    I totally agree on the importance of this. Fighting for the acceptance of Atheism and defending your beliefs in public is absolutely essential. Heck, it is part of what the Reason Rally was all about, getting Atheists to come out of the closet and tell their friends and family that they don’t believe in god. I believe you when you say that fighting for reason is not some PR strategy that you would abandon. I would never tell you NOT to criticize religion.

    What I am saying is that if you want religious people, many of whom have never met an Atheist, and many of whom have been told their whole lives that Atheists are bad/immmoral people, to change their minds and abandon their religious faith, I PROPOSE (not require, and I’m not going to condemn you if you choose not to) that it would be efficacious to partner with religious folks in a mutually acceptable service project, so that when you make your hard hitting criticisms, they don’t come from someone that religious folks consider an immoral person, but from someone who demonstrated a commmitment to shared values.

    Here’s an example. Matthew Martin is the Regional Manager of New England, Outreach, Inc. – Kids Care. Kids Care provides durably packaged, extremely affordable food to homeless shelters. Each meal literally costs $0.25. Matthew is a Christian (full disclosure, he was Chris Stedman’s former pastor). When I put a comment up on Facebook about there being little common ground between religious and irreligious Americans, he said this: “You ask, ‘What would common ground between supernaturalists and naturalists look like?’ Feeding hungry people, that’s what it looks like. Thanks again for your partnership, John.”

    It is true. Matthew and I may not agree at all about theology. And I might think that some of his theology is not just wrong, but deeply harmful (I actually am not sure what Matthew’s theological position is). But we can agree, even if we both think that the other is wrong, that no kid deserves to go to be hungry at night in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. And it would seem to me that mitigating against a person’s bad luck in the so-called “natural lottery” – against their bad luck that they happened to be born into a poor family – is moral common ground that seems to me to be firmly fixed in secular moral language. In Humanism, we would say that this is part of treating people with the dignity and respect they deserve, and part of living a life of freedom that is consonant with our responsibilities to our fellow human beings.

  100. jfigdor says

    @ Sastra

    Very thoughtful comment. Here are my $.02: I agree with you that it is ridiculous that we have to first demonstrate our commitment to values that we secular Americans demonstrate every day in secular contexts. After all, we could totally back out of interfaith service altogether and replace it with secular service, and accomplish almost all of the same goals. However, I think that religious people have a bubble-effect sometimes, and don’t pay attention to things outside of their religious community. They care about interfaith because it is a chance for them to show the other religious folks how cool their religion is. I’m suggesting that temporarily, while the vast majority of Americans are religious, it might make sense to take that burden of proof head-on and prove to religious folks that we are good without god. Certainly it is ridiculous to have to prove this. You’ll hear no debate from me – this is a clear form of anti-atheist bigotry and religious privilege. But I think that if we want to end this bigotry and privilege sooner, I think that saying something like this to religious folks will help: “fine, you want proof we care about other people? we just helped you clean up this park. And we did it even though we are deeply uncomfortable with how calling this “interfaith” privileges religious perspectives. So now we would like to ask all of you some questions about your faiths and the damage they have caused for humanity.”

  101. Woo_Monster says

    It is contemptible that we should acquiesce to this form of extortion. If they are bigoted against us, and presume us to be immoral, and will not listen to our criticisms until we have met their quota of putting in time in their particular club doing good works, then fuck them. I will not capitulate to their irrational prejudices. The way to counter their irrational beliefs and prejudices is not to do the little dance they irrationally demand of us to do. We are good without god. If they do not think so, they should be derided for that bigoted stance.

    If petty interfaith groups won’t listen to criticism unless we clean up a park with them, that is just one more irrational part of their world-view that should be mocked.

    And, it can never be said enough, atheism is not a faith-based belief and rightfully should not be included in interfaith.

  102. Woo_Monster says

    I agree with you that it is ridiculous that we have to first demonstrate our commitment to values that we secular Americans demonstrate every day in secular contexts.

    Spot on there. It is ridiculous, and one rightfully looks ridiculous in doing so. Going along with their framing, that atheists are presumed immoral until they prove themselves, grants more strength to that harmful meme.

    I’m suggesting that temporarily, while the vast majority of Americans are religious, it might make sense to take that burden of proof head-on and prove to religious folks that we are good without god.

    How does this not validate their irrational presuppositions about the character of atheists? We should reject their incorrect framing from the outset. We should not have to do their required song and dance before we are allowed to tell them that their presuppositions about atheists are bigoted and that their faith-based beliefs are unfounded.

  103. jfigdor says

    @ Woo

    Your perspective is certainly valid. You have no obligation to prove to religious folks that you are a moral person. Indeed, it is religious folks who have a lot of explaining to do about their history of abuse against women, atheists, and other minority groups. But all I’m saying is that if both groups stone-wall each other, nothing is going to change. True it may be justified to demand that the other side should change. But if it results in stalemate, that is hardly a good conclusion.

  104. Sastra says

    jfigdor #118 wrote:

    I’m suggesting that temporarily, while the vast majority of Americans are religious, it might make sense to take that burden of proof head-on and prove to religious folks that we are good without god.

    Oh, I said upfront that this strategy is not necessarily a bad one. It might make sense, and is worth a try for those who are comfortable with it. I know more than a few atheists who work with groups like Habitat for Humanity or help out in soup kitchens which are run by religious organizations. As long as they make their atheism explicit and don’t try to “blend in” by holding hands in prayer circles and agreeing that atheism is a ‘faith,’ then fine.

    But I’m very hesitant about actually endorsing the strategy, or participating myself. Religion encourages muddled thinking and in my experience, if the pious can misunderstand you, they will. The ‘discomfort’ over the label of “interfaith” will likely be pushed aside and instead the situation will be translated as atheists admitting that faith has values that atheism doesn’t.

    I’d be much happier bribing them with the offer of participation conditional on changing the name, or modifying it – but that’s probably not practical. Which goes to show how significant that “faith” designation is.

    Years back I was in a similar dilemma. I was regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and had even been asked to give a few lectures (including one on “Humanism and the UU.”) Should I join?

    After all, I liked the people. A lot of them were pretty darn “woo” — neopagans, Wiccan, liberal theists, New Agers, and of course the old standby “spiritual but not religious” — but they were also humanist in ethics and involved in many causes I agreed with. And one of the principles (or whatever they’re called) was the honest pursuit of truth. They respect and honor all spiritual and philosophical paths.

    Which is where I ran into trouble. You can’t get much more ecumenical than the UU’s. Hell, they make faith optional. Atheists welcome! But … with an understood condition. Respect and honor all spiritual and philosophical paths. Which hardly ever translated as “be nice and tactful when you tell them their spirituality is wrong.” That honest pursuit of truth falls into the more fruitful celebration of common ground. And, in the henceforth immortal words of Brownian:

    “Yes, yes, we get it: your ultimate goal in every interaction is to celebrate common ground. God fucking bless you in your holy quest to dumb everything down to nothing of substance.”(Brownian)

    I once gave a lecture there on “Science and Pseudoscience.” It included alternative medicine. I was polite and friendly. I was as tactful as fucking hell, in fact. I framed it as “consumer awareness” and suggested that reiki and homeopathy needed to be more upfront about their spiritual components so that those who did not want to use spiritual healing would not be mislead. The audience was very polite and friendly to me. They were also very polite and friendly to the spiritual healer who spoke another week. Enthusiastic, even. They loved her. It was all fine.

    I said no to joining UU, and later on drifted away. Maybe I’m jaded, but I think polite and friendly can be over-rated. I’m not sure it gets the message across as well as it’s supposed to.

  105. Brownian says

    When I put a comment up on Facebook about there being little common ground between religious and irreligious Americans, he said this: “You ask, ‘What would common ground between supernaturalists and naturalists look like?’ Feeding hungry people, that’s what it looks like. Thanks again for your partnership, John.”

    It is true. Matthew and I may not agree at all about theology. And I might think that some of his theology is not just wrong, but deeply harmful (I actually am not sure what Matthew’s theological position is)

    Right, as I wrote earlier, as long as you keep the conversation away from what divides you, of fucking course you’ll find common ground.

    “The sky is blue most days. That’s what it looks like.” Would Matthew agree with that? I mean, it’s true, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound nearly as mystical, though.

    I suppose the important thing is that you let him dictate what the common ground is.

    But, why bother with all of this interfaith fucking shit at all? If you’re really about feeding the children, then why not just start a charity called “Feed the Children”, and stop trying to shoehorn in this bullshit about faith and non-faith and atheists and theists all coming together and isn’t it wonderful? Is the Canadian Cancer Foundation an working coalition between religious and irreligious Canadians, or is just a bunch of people whose focus is reducing the burden cancer? Because they manage to do the latter without any back-patting about how they’ve worked so hard to overcome their great metaphysical faith divides.

    You want another example of an interfaith group? I work with several people of a variety of faiths, sexual orientations/identities, and ethnicities, but all of whom are committed to improving the health of the public. What brings us all together? Why, nothing so lofty as high-handed crap about service to shared humanist and religious ideals—it’s our damn job, and we leave religion off the table because that’s how you continue to draw a paycheck without being slapped down by HR in a pluralist society where religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal.

    So, are you people about doing good works, or are you about proving that people of different faiths can do good works together? If it’s the former, then just fucking do it. If it’s the latter, then don’t pretend it’s all about feeding the children and nothing else matters.

    I’m suggesting that temporarily, while the vast majority of Americans are religious, it might make sense to take that burden of proof head-on and prove to religious folks that we are good without god.

    LGBT people should consider living in nuclear family-like relationship, at least while there’s still homophobia among a large proportion of heterosexuals. Ethnic minorities, please consider breaking the law a lot less, and maybe not eating such weird foods. Good god, atheists, would it kill you to pray once in awhile?

    Look, I’m very glad you’re not requiring all of us to play this approval-seeking game; I’m just wondering if you’ve considered what it signals to the religious when you’re all about appropriating all the trappings (the Harvard Humanist ‘Chaplaincy’, for instance) of the religious just so they won’t pick on you so much.

  106. Brownian says

    The ‘discomfort’ over the label of “interfaith” will likely be pushed aside and instead the situation will be translated as atheists admitting that faith has values that atheism doesn’t.

    Now, what in the world would give you the impression that atheists building temples and humanist chaplaincies might be misconstrued this way?

  107. Brownian says

    So, is Atheist Vatican still up for grabs? If so, then I hereby declare my home to be the new Atheist Vatican, at least until I can appropriate me some of that sweet, sweet New World gold. Now all we need is an Atheist Pope. I nominate myself. Since there is only one Atheist Cardinal residing in the Atheist Vatican, and he is me, I win. All hail your new Atheist Pope!*

    *You don’t all have to hail me. However, if you’re interested in finding common ground with theists, primarily Catholics, so that when you make your hard hitting criticisms they don’t come from someone that religious folks consider an immoral person but from someone who demonstrated a commmitment to shared values, please consider the PR value in tithing to me. I’ll set up a PayPal or something.

  108. Woo_Monster says

    But all I’m saying is that if both groups stone-wall each other, nothing is going to change. True it may be justified to demand that the other side should change. But if it results in stalemate, that is hardly a good conclusion.

    You imply that unless we join their group, and criticize it from the inside, there will be some kind of “stalemate”. Why do you think this? You can apply social pressure as outsiders. Sometimes that pressure will force a change.

    Do you criticize any groups that you are not a member of? I assume you do, and that you think your criticisms are not completely meaningless and ineffective. See, you do not have to join a group to effect change in it (or a change in peoples’ general perception of it). I reject that unless I join an interfaith group, any criticism of it is ineffectual, resulting only in a stalemate.

  109. Woo_Monster says

    Now all we need is an Atheist Pope. I nominate myself. Since there is only one Atheist Cardinal residing in the Atheist Vatican, and he is me, I win. All hail your new Atheist Pope!*

    Pah, you cannot be Atheist Pope. Because it just so happens that I, as head of the Latter Day Atheists, have just pre-post-mortem baptized you into the Church of Woo of Latter Day Atheists. Sorry, mormon-atheists cannot be Popes.

  110. Brownian says

    Pah, you cannot be Atheist Pope. Because it just so happens that I, as head of the Latter Day Atheists, have just pre-post-mortem baptized you into the Church of Woo of Latter Day Atheists. Sorry, mormon-atheists cannot be Popes.

    Can too!

    [Runs home to Atheist Vatican, touches door, stamps feet.]

    Stamp, stamp, no erasies!

    Now, do you respect my authoritah, or do we need to settle this with a game of freeze tag?

  111. Woo_Monster says

    Now, do you respect my authoritah, or do we need to settle this with a game of freeze tag?

    Oh noes, not freeze tag! Perhaps we can find some common ground here. We are both leaders of atheist leaders of our perspective faux churches, so we have that.

  112. Sastra says

    Brownian #128 wrote:

    Now, do you respect my authoritah, or do we need to settle this with a game of freeze tag?

    Now don’t be silly. This is theology. We of course settle all disputes with a game of Calvinball.

    Brownian is Atheist Pope because it’s Monday. The Church of Woo of Latter Day Atheists only holds dominion on Thursdays and alternate Wednesdays, on which days Richard Dawkins becomes Pope. PZ is our Guru.

    Since I have umpty-thousand to the infinity power energy vibration points, I am the Higher Consciousness of Atheism. I am giving jfigdor the flag. Because I can, and because he’s likely to share it later on with Aquaria and that will be fun to watch.

  113. Sastra says

    Too late. You are now leaders of atheist leaders, which both gives you more power and obligates you to get the snacks for the rest of us.

  114. says

    What I am saying is that if you want religious people, many of whom have never met an Atheist, and many of whom have been told their whole lives that Atheists are bad/immmoral people, to change their minds and abandon their religious faith, I PROPOSE (not require, and I’m not going to condemn you if you choose not to) that it would be efficacious to partner with religious folks in a mutually acceptable service project, so that when you make your hard hitting criticisms, they don’t come from someone that religious folks consider an immoral person, but from someone who demonstrated a commmitment to shared values.

    Again, I’ll note that you have no idea what charity work or activism I or anyone else here has been involved with or with whom. I can tell you one thing: in nothing I have done unrelated to atheism, however little that might or might not be, have I made it about religion or atheism, unless that’s relevant to the specific issue.

    Just as I don’t “use” politeness as some kind of strategy, I wouldn’t even think of making any volunteer work or activism a vehicle for promoting atheism, and I wouldn’t trust someone who would. It would be wrong. To intelligent people, it doesn’t demonstrate that someone’s good, but that they’re cynical and inauthentic. Especially when their service work is in the context of a paid position at their comfortable Harvard home. (I’m totally fine with atheist or humanist organizations raising money for or supporting efforts in their own names, as long as it’s about the efforts and not propaganda.)

    Here’s an example….

    But we can agree, even if we both think that the other is wrong, that no kid deserves to go to be hungry at night in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. And it would seem to me that mitigating against a person’s bad luck in the so-called “natural lottery” – against their bad luck that they happened to be born into a poor family – is moral common ground that seems to me to be firmly fixed in secular moral language. In Humanism, we would say that this is part of treating people with the dignity and respect they deserve, and part of living a life of freedom that is consonant with our responsibilities to our fellow human beings.

    This might surprise you to learn, but you’re in social movement central. There are many people and organizations in your area, including some that engage in charitable and service work, and including some that are religious, who don’t see middle-class charity and “service” as the be all and end all of social change and who engage with poor people in activism related to food and poverty (recognizing that those behind the policies that have led children to be hungry have been and continue to be overwhelmingly religious people should show any claim about atheists, as opposed to the religious, not caring about hungry people to be rather obviously stupid).

    This activism is “treating people with the dignity and respect they deserve, and part of living a life of freedom that is consonant with our responsibilities to our fellow human beings.”* You and the specific religious groups you join with think your service work exemplifies the humanist spirit, but you don’t in fact get to define humanism as whatever you do and suggest that only those who act like you are being humanists. You have to learn to accept and respect that other people, atheists and religious, live their humanism (or post-humanism) differently.

    *As, again, is much gnu atheist activism.

  115. says

    I PROPOSE (not require, and I’m not going to condemn you if you choose not to) that it would be efficacious to partner with religious folks in a mutually acceptable service project,

    no, you actually don’t; you propose that we join them on their turf. most people who volunteer already “partner with religious folks in a mutually acceptable service project”. what you are proposing is joining them in an interfaith project. two completely different kettle of fish.

    But we can agree, even if we both think that the other is wrong, that no kid deserves to go to be hungry at night in the United States, or anywhere else in the world.

    feeding the hungry does not require joining an interfaith organization.

    However, I think that religious people have a bubble-effect sometimes, and don’t pay attention to things outside of their religious community.

    you know some odd religious people then. are your environmental organizations, your women’s health clinic escorts, your feminist organizations, your sociology clubs, your NRM clubs, your public libraries, your women’s shelters, etc. all church-based? or populated solely by the non-religious?

  116. says

    So, is Atheist Vatican still up for grabs? If so, then I hereby declare my home to be the new Atheist Vatican, at least until I can appropriate me some of that sweet, sweet New World gold. Now all we need is an Atheist Pope. I nominate myself. Since there is only one Atheist Cardinal residing in the Atheist Vatican, and he is me, I win. All hail your new Atheist Pope!*

    As Comment Czar I naturally seek your blessing over my divine mandate

  117. says

    All hail your new Atheist Pope!

    Having just returned home on my bicycle, riding several miles without falling over even once, I think it’s clear that I have the attribute of infallibility necessary in any sort of pope.
    Also, I just issued several puffs of smoke out of my window.
    I trust that settles the matter?

  118. jfigdor says

    Now I’m just curious. [arm chair philosophizing] Imagine a world in which there was no possibility of doing service without working within the context of an interfaith organisation. Would you oppose working with religious folks to feed hungry people in this context? Or do you so vehemently oppose collaboration with religious folks that even if that was the only vehicle for helping poor people, you would abstain from wanting to remain free of the taint of religiosity?

    To relate this to the real world, consider the case in Cambridge, Mass, where I work, where the largest homeless shelter near Harvard is run by a Church. When non-religious Harvard students want to work with homeless students, and they ask me if I would recommend working at the local homeless shelter, should I be telling them, “no, don’t work there. You’re tacitly supporting a religious organisation. You should try to find a secular shelter somewhere else and work there?” Personally, I don’t think so. But I’m curious what others have to say.

  119. says

    Or do you so vehemently oppose collaboration with religious folks

    if you want to be taken seriously, I suggest you stop repeating shitty strawmen like these, especially after people already explained to you the difference between working with religious people and working within an Interfaith organization.

    But I’m curious what others have to say.

    then why don’t you read what people have already said on the subject? for example, this:

    I can tell you one thing: in nothing I have done unrelated to atheism, however little that might or might not be, have I made it about religion or atheism, unless that’s relevant to the specific issue.

  120. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But I’m curious what others have to say.

    Fuck off accommodationist tone troll. Use your decaying porcupine properly, so you never return with your inane accommodationist drivel. Now, what part of that don’t you understand???

  121. says

    also, this is a bit… entertainingly shallow:

    Imagine a world in which there was no possibility of doing service without working within the context of an interfaith organisation.

    it’s as if the matrix of oppression was a foreign or completely new concept to you.

    the above example is a hypothetical, but plenty of other people deal with the fact that the groups that do work they’d like to support are always shitty in terms of not being oppressors along a different axis than the one they’re trying to work on. Doesn’t matter if it’s atheism and race-fails, environmentalism and class-fails, OWS and sexism-fails, etc. And people navigate these by deciding whether alternatives exist (or can be created), whether the oppression perpetrated is tolerable, as a “lesser evil” or whether it would be unethical to join even if some good would have come of temporary acquiescence.

    And entirely unsurprisingly, people who have grappled with these issues won’t be able or willing to answer a hypothetical that’s a wee bit thin on the ground with the relevant details. Because it doesn’t lend itself to a realistic intersectional cost-benefit analysis

  122. Brownian says

    Now I’m just curious. [arm chair philosophizing] Imagine a world in which there was no possibility of doing service without working within the context of an interfaith organisation. Would you oppose working with religious folks to feed hungry people in this context? Or do you so vehemently oppose collaboration with religious folks that even if that was the only vehicle for helping poor people, you would abstain from wanting to remain free of the taint of religiosity?

    No, now you’re just being fucking dense. Imagine I held a gun to a child’s head and said, “Eat this pile of dogshit, or I’ll blow this child’s head off.” Are you so vehemently opposed to eating feces that you’d let the child die? I imagine not. Now that you’ve played that little game, what does that tell you about your willingness to eat shit and help children in the real world? Is it possible that, if you could, you’d prefer to help children without eating shit?

    Nonetheless, thanks for the fun little derail, but as Jadehawk wrote:

    then why don’t you read what people have already said on the subject? for example, this:

    I can tell you one thing: in nothing I have done unrelated to atheism, however little that might or might not be, have I made it about religion or atheism, unless that’s relevant to the specific issue.

    Did you read that? That’s one of those opinions you say you’re curious about. Because I don’t think you’re fucking curious at all. I think you’re a PR flack for your little Harvard play pretend church, and I fucking nailed it in 115:

    Do you even read what people write, jfigdor, or do you just scan for suitable openings in which to insert your bafflegab (or insults so you can initialise your get.huffy.and.indignant subroutine)?

    Nonetheless, if you’re actually curious to how minorities are treated even when they follow the rules the majority claims it asks them to live by, read Crommunist’s excellent and heartbreaking When the rug is pulled.

  123. Brownian says

    Also, I just issued several puffs of smoke out of my window.

    I’m thinking I’ll find more adherents if I create an Atheist Rastafarian movement.

  124. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yawn, who give a flying fuck figdor has to say? Boring inane accommodationist tone troll. Nothing of interest, except watching an huge ego in action.

  125. Brownian says

    it’s as if the matrix of oppression was a foreign or completely new concept to you.

    the above example is a hypothetical, but plenty of other people deal with the fact that the groups that do work they’d like to support are always shitty in terms of not being oppressors along a different axis than the one they’re trying to work on. Doesn’t matter if it’s atheism and race-fails, environmentalism and class-fails, OWS and sexism-fails, etc. And people navigate these by deciding whether alternatives exist (or can be created), whether the oppression perpetrated is tolerable, as a “lesser evil” or whether it would be unethical to join even if some good would have come of temporary acquiescence.

    And entirely unsurprisingly, people who have grappled with these issues won’t be able or willing to answer a hypothetical that’s a wee bit thin on the ground with the relevant details. Because it doesn’t lend itself to a realistic intersectional cost-benefit analysis

    Well said, Jadehawk. It’s like all of this is new to the Harvard folks. “I’m not sure if you guys have heard about this, but many religious groups do this thing called ‘charity’, and I really think we should look into it.”

  126. Brownian says

    If you want to share some interfaith, how about on this buddy of Chris’s website where he accuses us Atheists of genocide.

    Meh. It’s pretty easy to make the case that genocides have been directed and carried out by folks on either side of the faith divide.

    What’s the point?

  127. says

    To relate this to the real world, consider the case in Cambridge, Mass, where I work, where the largest homeless shelter near Harvard is run by a Church. When non-religious Harvard students want to work with homeless students, and they ask me if I would recommend working at the local homeless shelter, should I be telling them, “no, don’t work there….

    Oh, for the love of… How does that relate to the real world? There are a gazillion options for service related to homelessness and hunger in your area.* It’s about as far from your imagined scenario as it could possibly be. Knowing this, you had to present a hypothetical about a student who specifically, for whatever reason, wants to work only with that shelter and is entirely unconcerned about the religious aspects. Why not go all the way with it? “A student tells me she’s volunteering at a shelter run by religious people. She likes it, but she says they have a Bible verse on the wall. Would you guys say I should chain myself to the door and bar her entry?”

    As others have said, it’s silly because your question is based on a straw man – people haven’t said that no atheist should ever work with religious people, groups, or organizations. However, if a student approached you who wanted to work at a local shelter and didn’t know much about them, I think you do have an obligation to make them aware that some are religious and talk to them about whether that’s a concern. (You should also familiarize yourself with their practices so that you know that the provision of food and services doesn’t come with any religious requirements.) You could also put them in touch with those who can help them find the best fit for them. You certainly shouldn’t be pushing them into interfaith projects if they haven’t independently expressed an interest in them, but giving them information about their options and letting them make a reasoned and independent choice.

    In any case, none of this has anything to do with the actual arguments people have made to you about interfaith and about our values. It’s a strawmanning tangent.

    *By the way, the Greater Boston Food Bank, “the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country,” is not a religious organization. There’s also a Food Not Bombs chapter right there in Cambridge, where students can provide vegan or vegetarian food for people who are homeless, protest militarism, and defend civil rights.

  128. jfigdor says

    @SC

    We’ve partnered with the Greater Boston Food Bank before on events. Thanks for getting their name out there.

    My example about Cambridge isn’t helping because Cambridge is such a liberal place that there are tons of secular alternatives. When I lived in Butte, Montana, the only homeless shelter in town was a rescue mission run by a church. I worked on a food delivery program, taking meals to low-income residents around the town. There was no secular alternative. The church is what the poor folks in the town had (other than government provided food stamps). So shift the place to Butte, Montana and consider the same question.

    And just to make it clear, SC, I’m not questioning your service credentials. You don’t have to prove you’re moral to me.

  129. Brownian says

    My example about Cambridge isn’t helping because Cambridge is such a liberal place that there are tons of secular alternatives.

    And yet all we hear from you and your group is interfaith this, and interfaith that…

    Why don’t you throw some clout behind some of these secular alternatives? Won’t that garner you the same sort of head-pats from the theists?

    Or are you so vehemently opposed to secularism that you won’t work with an organisation unless it parodies church structures?

  130. Brownian says

    “I mean, I like that you give food to the hungry, but could you maybe call yourself a chaplaincy? The cook over there—mind if we call him ‘Father’?”

  131. jfigdor says

    @Brownian

    We regularly run purely secular service events. The project with the Boston Food Bank is one example. We beautified a park as a Humanist service project a few years ago. We did one food-packing drive as a secular service event.

  132. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    To relate this to the real world, consider the case in Cambridge, Mass, where I work, where the largest homeless shelter near Harvard is run by a Church.

    This is so ridiculously telling and you don’t even know it. You’ve soaked so long in the acceptance of religious privilege, deference to that privilege, and subscription to the idea that People Acting in Good Will Must Be Respected that you actually fucking capitalize the word “church.”
    I know you think I’m picking on you, Jonathan, but I’m not—I mean this seriously. You think you’re all about challenging religious privilege but you’re not. On a gut level you’re entwined with it. I wish you could see that.

  133. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Inappropriate capitalization of non-proper-nouns is always a signal that someone is trying to make something sound Very Important and Official. Industries do it all the time: “Travel Agent,” “Funeral Director,” etc. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you capitalize “chaplain, too.”

    This isn’t some picky, pedantic grammar complaint (though I have to remark that you’re at fucking Harvard and you don’t grasp capitalization). It really is diagnostic of a mindset inclined toward burnishing reputations and imbuing things with outsized credentials. No wonder you want people to “imagine being led” by “gifted leaders.”

    Fucking puke.

  134. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Fucking puke.

    QFT. Still nothing cogent from JF, only ego.

  135. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Or do you so vehemently oppose collaboration with religious folks that even if that was the only vehicle for helping poor people, you would abstain from wanting to remain free of the taint of religiosity?

    And this demonstrates you you can’t see us as full human beings with legitimate concerns but only as selfish zealots, that you would even ask this question. What an asshole.

  136. consciousness razor says

    So shift the place to Butte, Montana and consider the same question.

    How about you respond to any of the questions and arguments posed to you above? Or just keep to the script. I don’t give a fuck anymore.

    Anyway, I’m not familiar with Butte, MT (been there once or twice), so am I supposed to assume that the people there refuse to understand anything I’m saying about theology until I work in their homeless shelter? If so, it’s really a shame that the only ones helping the homeless in Butte are dishonest fucking assholes. I wouldn’t have been interested in helping just so I could to talk with them anyway, but so the fact that they’re dishonest fucking assholes doesn’t seem like it would change much about whether or not I wanted to help the homeless in some way or another.

  137. jfigdor says

    If you go to the deep south, or the Rocky Mountain region, you’ll find places like Butte where religious institutions, for better or worse are the major source of charity.

    As for capitalizing Atheist and Humanist, it is because these are the proper names of philosophical positions. It is like capitalising Social Contract Theory. Also, if you fail to capitalize Atheists, but you do capitalize Christians, you will be accused by some Atheists of privileging the religious versions by capitalising them and not atheists. It is kind of a Catch-22 – people will be pissed whether you capitalise Atheist, or not. Also, in that context, Church is part of a proper name (Cambridge University Lutheran Church).

  138. jfigdor says

    Oh, and are you really saying that Doctors and Lawyers and Professors should capitalise their names, but store clerks and chaplains, and ministers, and travel agents should have lower case titles? Pretty classist.

  139. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, and are you really saying that Doctors and Lawyers and Professors should capitalise their names, but store clerks and chaplains, and ministers, and travel agents should have lower case titles? Pretty classist.

    No, you dumb-ass. Neither doctor nor lawyer nor professor are capitalized when they stand alone apart from a full-name. They’re not proper nouns. You really don’t know this?

  140. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Also, in that context, Church is part of a proper name (Cambridge University Lutheran Church).

    Because it’s a proper-noun/name. The construction, “a church on Main St.” is not. And that’s how you used it before.

    Seriously-I have to explain basic grammar to a Harvard man? I’m sorry, I’m sure you feel insulted, but I’m genuinely gobsmacked.

  141. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I didn’t say you capitalized chaplain. I said I bet you would. I said you capitalized “church”, as you did. Oh, fuck it.

  142. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I didn’t say you capitalized chaplain.

    Of course he would. He thinks it’s the equivalent of a deity.

  143. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I count one place, on comment 63. And I apologise for my typo. Yeesh.

    I don’t think it’s a typo. I know you’d desperately like it to be so you can make it seem like I’m being a mean pedant, but no. I really do think it’s revealing of a mindset inclined to branding and puff-uppery. Every day I deal with this; it’s quite familiar.

  144. consciousness razor says

    If you go to the deep south, or the Rocky Mountain region, you’ll find places like Butte where religious institutions, for better or worse are the major source of charity.

    The deep south and the mountains? You’re being ridiculous again. First, this isn’t informative to anyone here. Second, most of the country fits this description: basically any place that isn’t near a large city. You don’t have to go to the fucking bayou or climb a fucking mountain to find them.

  145. jfigdor says

    No, but in the proper context, I was referring to the specific Cambridge University Lutheran Church as the Church in shorthand. What’s wrong with that? And please, the “OMFG you’re so stupid I can’t believe you graduated from Harvard” thing is pretty weak. None of my profs at Harvard had a problem with my spelling or grammar.

  146. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Jonathan, don’t be dishonest as well as ignorant:

    No, but in the proper context, I was referring to the specific Cambridge University Lutheran Church as the Church in shorthand

    Um, no. Whatever might have been going through your mind there was no context for the reader because you didn’t give any first reference or any indication you were talking about Name Brand X church:

    To relate this to the real world, consider the case in Cambridge, Mass, where I work, where the largest homeless shelter near Harvard is run by a Church.

    We can read.

  147. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Now, if you’ve had your sufficiency of diverting the conversation about your caps problem, would you kindly explain why you insulted our integrity with that bullshit hypothetical?

  148. consciousness razor says

    “run by a Church”
    “run by a Hospital”
    “argued by a Lawyer”
    “dissembled by a Faitheist”
    “stabbed by a Knife Enthusiast”

    Yep, it checks out. The silly capitalization is there to make it sound important.

  149. jfigdor says

    The “bullshit hypothetical,” which was an actual situation I lived in in Montana, and not a hypothetical, but I digress. What I was attempting to establish here was not that all you Atheists are shitty people. Far from it. I find it amusing that you interpret me as saying this, when I have said, I fully understand and defend your choice to NOT participate in interfaith events. What I was trying to establish was the fact that there are many parts of the country where, if an Atheist wants to do service, such as providing meals for the homeless (one can’t do it alone), that Atheist might be forced to choose between doing service with a religious community, or not doing service. My question was whether people here think that if religious/interfaith avenues are the only established and available providers of services in a local area, it is wrong for Atheists to serve with them as it gives tacit consent/support to religious organisations?

  150. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    My question was whether people here think that if religious/interfaith avenues are the only established and available providers of services in a local area, it is wrong for Atheists to serve with them as it gives tacit consent/support to religious organisations?

    Bullshit. Your question was whether we’d refuse to feed hungry people if the only option to do so meant working with religious people. That’s exactly what you asked, and it’s a disgusting and nasty thing to ask as it indicates you think there’s a non-zero likelihood that anyone would say “yes, I’d refuse to feed hungry people.”

    If you mean to ask something else, then ask that. But shit, J, what the fuck do you think? How out in la-la land do you have to be to imagine any but the smallest misanthropic minority would actually act that way?

    That’s what pisses me off about you. You don’t even know it consciously, but you allow for the possibility that we’re as depraved as that.

    Fuck you.

  151. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    And stop capitalizing “atheists.” Jesus H. Christ tomatoes in a sidecar. Do I need to buy you a grammar primer?

  152. jfigdor says

    Josh, if you don’t capitalize the A in Atheist, then you privilege religious views, which are capitalised. Also Atheism is the proper name of a philosophical position, so it must be capitalised. I’m stepping away from this conversation as it has now become a discourse on grammar, and I’m not on a grammar website.

  153. consciousness razor says

    Oh my, jfigdor is fucking off. What will we do now? Which gifted experts shall we turn to for guidance?

  154. says

    Maybe jfigdor isn’t listening anymore (though do they ever really stick the flounce? I know I never could…), but I just got here, so…

    Josh, if you don’t capitalize the A in Atheist, then you privilege religious views, which are capitalised.

    Ahh, I get it: Since aAtheism is just another cChurch, you want to make damn sure nobody thinks it’s a second-class one! Glad I sorted that out…. </snark>

    JOOC, why did you spell the first instance of capitalize with the American-style z, but the second one with the British spelling? Did you momentarily forget how High Toned™ you were trying to be? I anticipate that you’ll say this is just more nitpicking, but these things really often are markers of class and particular ways of thought… and even when they’re not really that, they sound like they are. You ignore the feedback at your peril.

  155. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Which gifted experts shall we turn to for guidance?

    Why, the ones who we imagine will lead us. If I could just get my hands out of my naughty place. . . I’m writhing in anticipation.

  156. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Bill, you’re so right. I noticed his using the ‘s’ in “capitalized” too, but decided it would be baroque to mention it. But yeah, I think it’s anglophilia (you know, how Americans characterize Brits as “classy” when they’re not mocking them). Maybe he’s just been hanging around James Croft too much.

    Such fixation on style, presentation, and branding. Jonathan. . .can you really not see this?

  157. says

    Maybe he’ll be back when he’s corrected the capitalisation* of Atheism on wikipedia. And all of the English style guides’ entries on proper nouns. He’s from Harvard; it’s unpossible that he might fail English.

    *I am an Australian, so that’s how I write it. No snobbery involved.

  158. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    “Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn’t have a good answer to.”

    Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

  159. Brownian says

    Bullshit. Your question was whether we’d refuse to feed hungry people if the only option to do so meant working with religious people.

    It’s as if this weren’t a blog, where the words used are recorded for handy reference.

    Or do you so vehemently oppose collaboration with religious folks that even if that was the only vehicle for helping poor people, you would abstain from wanting to remain free of the taint of religiosity?

    Yeah. It’s a question about ‘tacit support’, hence the loaded language like ‘vehemently opposed’ and ‘taint of religiosity’. Right.

    Rebranding your own writing now, jfigdor?

  160. says

    when I have said, I fully understand and defend your choice to NOT participate in interfaith events.

    well, you have certainly said that, but that doesn’t make it so. what you’ve written about not working with religious people betrays that in fact, you don’t understand shit.

    If you go to the deep south, or the Rocky Mountain region, you’ll find places like Butte

    but you’re not in the deep South, the Rockies, or Butte.

    you’re at Harvard.

    and you’re still pushing interfaith.

    even though you don’t need to.

    because you’re at fucking Harvard.

    where there are secular organizations aplenty.

    if you were in Butte, this would be a different conversation.

    Josh, if you don’t capitalize the A in Atheist, then you privilege religious views, which are capitalised

    … and here I thought they were capitalized because they were proper nouns, unlike “atheist”, and “theist” which are common nouns. Capitalization is privilege now? *sigh*

    and no, atheism isn’t a philosophy. Humanism is, Secularism can be, even Skepticism can be. But atheism? How the fuck does that work?

  161. echidna says

    Capitalise, capitalize: I will use readily use either. As an Australian, “capitalise” is the form required for academic writing, unless an international journal requires “capitalize”. Here we see both forms all the time; they both look relatively normal to me. The only real rule in informal writing is to try to be consistent, but it’s harder than catching a spelling error because neither form trips the “that doesn’t look right” trigger.

  162. echidna says

    There is no way I would work with interfaith groups. One of the messages such work would send is that good works inherently belong to religious groups. That is not a message I would support.

  163. John Morales says

    jfigdor:

    Also Atheism is the proper name of a philosophical position, so it must be capitalised.

    Then I’m an atheist, not an Atheist, since that ain’t mine — for me it’s a conclusion, not a philosophy!

    My philosophical position is rational empiricism (and that doesn’t need capitalisation, either))

  164. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ah, the egotistical fuckwit finally flounced, but over capitalization rather than the fact he was boring folks with talk about a position (“interfaith”) nobody here, not even Sastra the wise, was interested in talking about. Talk about obtuse.

  165. says

    Also Atheism is the proper name of a philosophical position, so it must be capitalised.

    humanism, essentialism, nihilism, theism, atheism all do not ping as incorrect on my grammar check for being lower cased. Furthermore a quick glance of wiki articles on them show their casual use when not part of a proper noun to be lower case.

    A proper noun refers to the name of an individual or institution, not just of any noun that is named. You are horrendously wrong.

    clerk is lower case. the clerk might even be lower case but debatable since you are using it as a stand in for the person’s name, but then again some pronouns are not capitalized as well so yeah. Clerk Bob or Bob the Clerk is capitalized because it is being used as a title+name.

    general == lower case
    the general == either or depending on preference and context
    General Eisenhower == capitalized.

  166. says

    Now don’t be silly. This is theology. We of course settle all disputes with a game of Calvinball.

    Sastra FTMFW.

    Also, I declare myself Atheist Dictator for Life. Bow to me.

    Brownian, #151:

    The cook over there—mind if we call him ‘Father’?”

    Is he the fish friar, or the chip monk?

    Josh: Dead on, every comment. Especially in re the use and misuse of language. Figdor, I am guessing that your professors share your mindset; my (very limited) experience with Harvard is that florid and even obfuscatory presentation trumps clear and concise exposition every time. BTW, I have never encountered an atheist who demanded that the word be capitalized.

    As for the “Rogue Priest” link at #143: What a fucking idiotic post, and I suspect from the tenor of the comments that a non-groveling dissent would be deleted. I can’t be bothered, personally.