Quantcast

«

»

Oct 27 2013

I approve this message

Although the title is a bit weird: Atheists can’t be Republicans? That’s a bit off. One thing we know is that atheists can be all kinds of things: Republican, Libertarian (oh, jebus, but there are a lot smug Libertarian atheists), Progressive, smart, idiotic, egalitarian, elitist. The message is good, though: it’s not enough to just be an atheist. We have to stand up for something, rather than just being against something, and that means that atheism has to find a conscience.

Individual atheists can, of course, have wildly divergent views, but the atheist movement, if it is to have any political clout at all, must focus on some key issues and make those part of the message. If we are going to claim to have positions based on reason and the intelligent interpretation of the evidence, then the climate change denialists, the sexists, the racists, the narcissistic worshippers of the Holy Market…they cannot be regarded as representative. The ones who think the solution to Islamic theocracy is to bomb Muslim countries or deport brown people should be considered as lunatic and beyond the pale as atheists who advocate nuking the Vatican or ostracizing Catholics.

It’s time for the movement to address bigger and real issues, and the biggest issue of our time is income inequality. Of all the developed nations, the U.S. has the most unequal distribution of income. In the past decade, 95 percent of all economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent. A mere 400 individuals own one-half of the entire nation’s wealth. Meanwhile, median household income keeps falling, and our poverty levels resemble that of the Great Depression era. In other words, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being decimated.

Atheists like to talk about building a better world, one that is absent of religiosity in the public square, but where are the atheist groups on helping tackle the single biggest tear in the fabric of our society — wealth disparity? They are nowhere. Its absence on the most pressing moral issue of our time makes it difficult for the movement to establish meaningful partnerships with other moral communities.

To remain white, middle class, intellectually smug and mostly apolitical will not only serve to alienate atheism from minorities and the poor, but will also ensure it remains a politically impotent movement that is incapable of building a better America. Growing up means less time and money spent on self-righteous billboard campaigns, and, instead, more resources allocated to fighting the political conditions that have caused this nation’s middle class and infrastructure to resemble that of a hyper-religious Third World nation.

I would broaden the mission a bit, though. On economic issues, atheists as a whole ought to be behind reducing the rich-poor divide — it’s the only rational position to take — but I would consider it legitimate to regard human rights as an umbrella topic to be more important, or to make the even bigger issue of environmental degradation the major crisis of our time. We can have a broad tent, but that does not include supporting ideas that conflict with reality.

Atheism is ultimately going to have to be a progressive political force, fighting for inclusion, evidence-based policy, humanist values, and the goal of expanding knowledge and power for all. We’re hampered right now by a rather reluctant leadership that tends to focus on pettier issues in the name of unity.

237 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    R Johnston

    While it’s sadly true that atheists can be Republicans, I think its fair to say that intellectually honest and rigorous atheists who have actual valid reasons for being atheists can’t be Republicans. The only rigor of an atheist libertarian is the ossified mindlessness of rigor mortis.

  2. 2
    rturpin

    Let me point to the obvious cognitive dissonance: How is it any libertarian can be a Republican? How is it the GOP has a “libertarian wing”?

    Except for their love of guns, the GOP has been on the authoritarian side of every significant personal liberty issue in recent decades: gay rights, gay marriage, torture, immigration, reproductive liberty. How then is it possible for anyone who claims personal liberty as their political lodestone to ally with the GOP?

  3. 3
    wcorvi

    OK, so remind me again, what’s wrong with nuking the Vatican?

  4. 4
    penumbra

    Yes, we must stand for something rather than nothing and “reality has a well-known liberal bias” (to quote both Colbert and Krugman).

    Most of the atheists I know and even agnostics tend to work towards a better today in ways that use their best abilities. Maybe it’s because we know that this is the only world and time we will ever have. I know it’s hard to own the present, but taking a more positive, active role in changing our current situation whether from a social, political or economic perspective into one that is respectful and egalitarian makes a difference to others and ourselves.

  5. 5
    Endorkened

    We can’t nuke the Vatican?! ;_;

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    No. Humans only have one life, this material, all-too-brief one, so atheists should be particularly reluctant to destroy anyone’s.

    I know, that’s not in the dictionary definition of atheism. But it should be one of the obvious implications.

  7. 7
    rturpin

    If we’re going to be the group that attends to reality, then we have to remember that politics would be hard, even swept clean of all the ideological garbage that usually clutters it. The core problem is that lofty goals often conflict, either directly, or in their competition for limited resources. It’s easy to want all of environmental protection, economic growth, technological advance, well-funded science and education, less inequality, universal healthcare, sustainable social security, strong legal safeguards for liberty, the US to serve real good in the world, and many other things. The reality is that more of some of those things likely means less of some others. The other reality is that we each are biased in our affinity for those goals, from our age, personal economic position, and professional or avocational concerns.

    Given the innately hard problems of politics, it’s amazing politicians make any headway at all, when further burdened by the ideological crap that most people bring to the table.

  8. 8
    Endorkened

    …can we at least bulldoze Jerusalem?

  9. 9
    Ani J. Sharmin

    I agree with the message that atheists should work together on progressive issues, like addressing the horrible income inequality. There are (inevitably) going to be atheists who disagree. But this is to be expected. Not all atheists agree, just as not all Christians/Muslims/Jews/Hindus/etc. agree. Those who do agree on a particular issue can work together; we don’t have to give up/never try addressing important social problems because there happen to be some atheists who disagree with us.

    The only point I would add that there are already atheists who are involved in these kinds of progressive movements, but they are often not the ones who get as much attention. Drawing more attention to these issues, getting them more support, may make them a central concern within the atheist movement (rather than a side issue).

  10. 10
    Endorkened

    Which will be difficult, since the Tumblr crowd already believes “We’re not ALL [insert insulting stereotype here]!” is some sort of long-discredited canard.

  11. 11
    Al Dente

    rturpin @2

    How is it any libertarian can be a Republican? How is it the GOP has a “libertarian wing”?

    Other than a few social libertarians like Ed Brayton, the average libertarian is a hard-right, fiscal conservative who would have people starve in the streets rather than pay a penny in taxes to help them. Libertarians claim to be simultaneously anti-Republican and anti-Democrat but when election time rolls around they usually vote for the most far-right Republicans available. It’s no surprise that the self-proclaimed libertarian Koch brothers are bank-rolling the Tea Party.

  12. 12
    M can help you with that.

    Let me point to the obvious cognitive dissonance: How is it any libertarian can be a Republican? How is it the GOP has a “libertarian wing”?

    “Property, property, all for property…”

    For Libertarians, allowing unlimited economic exploitation, accelerating the wealth-disparity-driven drift towards a capital-based feudalism, is a fundamental human rights issue. (I agree, but they’re on the wrong side.) The GOP does more to amplify wealth disparities, and so to expand the rights of the wealthy, and so appeals to those Libertarians who take their capitalist fundamentalism as a founding principle.

  13. 13
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @wcorvi, Jonathan: While I do bear a certain amount of anger about the special treatment that is given to certain locations (the Vatican, Jerusalem), the point is that there are people living there who consider these places their home. And their lives matter, their ability to stay in their homes and be safe matters. Attack the idea that these places are special to god, certainly, but no, don’t physically attack them. If one day, the Vatican closes its doors, if it becomes a museum because people have voluntarily left Catholicism, I’ll be happy. If the various “holy sites” in Jerusalem are likewise made into museums, where people can visit to learn history, rather than to fight over them, I’ll be happy. But to advocate their destruction is (a) first and foremost, harmful to the humans who live there and (b) a destruction of historically important places.

  14. 14
    rayfowler

    I disagree. Atheism is defined by what it is not, not what it is. To lean on an old canard, 99.9% of the world doesn’t believe in Thor, but it makes no sense to rally them around particular social issues.

    What atheism is not is a good thing, and that should be sufficient. Trying to group us into categories that don’t fit is just going to dilute the point of atheism and create schisms in what is otherwise a completely rational and coherent worldview.

  15. 15
    rturpin

    Al, I understand that. I just don’t take seriously their claim that personal liberty is their chief concern. The issue isn’t just whether they would pay a penny in tax to help people starving in the street, but whether they prefer the politician who will save them that penny in tax, even if the same politician is fighting to ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and close the border to immigrants? That’s not a concern with liberty. That’s simply low tax uber alles.

  16. 16
    ryangerber

    I would say that the two biggest issues of our time are environmental degradation and antibiotic resistance. Of course, by leaving them for later, they solve each other. Hooray for procrastination.

  17. 17
    Rey Fox

    Except for their love of guns, the GOP has been on the authoritarian side of every significant personal liberty issue in recent decades: gay rights, gay marriage, torture, immigration, reproductive liberty. How then is it possible for anyone who claims personal liberty as their political lodestone to ally with the GOP?

    Well, for the most part, they want personal liberty just for the right kinds of people. So that would exclude “enemy combatants”, immigrants, and pregnant women.

  18. 18
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    rayfowler #14

    Every single time the subject of what the atheist movement should aim to do comes up for discussion, it gets derailed into discussion of whether atheism can be considered to have consequences on the rest of one’s worldview.

    Just for once, please lets not do this.

  19. 19
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @Jonathan (#10):

    Which will be difficult, since the Tumblr crowd already believes “We’re not ALL [insert insulting stereotype here]!” is some sort of long-discredited canard.

    Usually, when I’ve seen that come up, it’s because someone wrote about discrimination against a minority group, and then someone from a privileged group incorrectly accused the first person of calling everyone in the privileged group bigots.

  20. 20
    rayfowler

    This was worded incorrectly and I can’t edit:

    What atheism is not is a good thing

    Read it as:

    What atheism is (i.e. not religious) is a good thing

  21. 21
    ChasCPeterson

    On economic issues, atheists as a whole ought to be behind reducing the rich-poor divide — it’s the only rational position to take — but I would consider it legitimate to regard human rights as an umbrella topic to be more important, or to make the even bigger issue of environmental degradation the major crisis of our time.

    aw. It’s no fun when you already said what I was going to say.

  22. 22
    rayfowler

    “Just for once, please lets not do this.”

    Maybe it’s always getting derailed for a reason? I never post here and just thought I’d chime in on the first post I read. Is there a link or FAQ somewhere listing the opinions approved for posting?

  23. 23
    Endorkened

    Al Dente @11,
    Is it really any surprise? Can you name anybody in history who pushed some kind of “Third Way” and didn’t turn out to be a fascist looney toon?

    Ani J. Sharmin @13,
    I know, I know… it’s just so tempting. When your kids won’t stop fighting over a toy, you take it away until they can behave, right? People have been fighting over that damn hunk of worthless mud since the dawn of history–I think the best argument against the existence of ghosts is that the entire Levant isn’t heads-on-backwards, pea-soup-spewing haunted yet!

  24. 24
    brucegorton

    Considering a fair chunk of what led to the current atheist movement is essentially a fight to maintain decent science education standards in public schools, and that for decades atheists were painted as being communists, I don’t see the “about time” here.

    Various atheist groups have been dealing with American inequality ever since Joe Hill joined a union. It has generally ended up with Christian groups like the American religious right doing their damndest to maintain that inequality out of spite.

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    Despite citing Dawkins, the article is weirdly confined to the US in its scope.

  26. 26
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    rayfowler

    Is there a link or FAQ somewhere listing the opinions approved for posting?

    It was a personal request, not an instruction. It might be the first for you, but it’s not for most commenters here.
    </derail>

  27. 27
    Kagehi

    How then is it possible for anyone who claims personal liberty as their political lodestone to ally with the GOP?

    Because, libertarianism, is least in the US, at some point, became, for way too many of them, about a) lack of responsibility to anyone else, just self, b) the transformation of the country into something that gave them liberty, without the recognition that personal greed isn’t compatible with anti-authoritarianism, c) the transforming of the country to allow some ideological principles, while not caring that those principles must ***stay*** personal, or they must, by definition, infringe on other people’s liberty, and d) the belief in personal well being, in the near total absence of a belief in the well being of society in general (hence the willingness to rob, then blame, war against, and jail, people that “infringe” on libertarian goals, such as the non-existent, but for them, real, rights to a) not be offended by ideas they don’t like, b) not be told they can’t have something, c) not have to admit their own actions promoted/caused someone elses grief, and d) not to have to give something back to society, like taxes, to actually produce a civil, just, or plain fair, society.

    I think that about covers it… For too many of them, its a philosophy of self interest, with a complete and total lack of anything like enlightenment. And, if all you are interested in is your own self interest, the best method to “get” anything is by forcing other people to give things up, like their rights, their wages, they political power, or their freedom in general. Having to actually live next door to someone that doesn’t just like.. smoke pot or something, but believes in abortion, is the wrong religion, and complains about being in poverty because you won’t pay them anything, that just… really isn’t allowable, and something, other than changing your own prejudices, or recognizing that you are part of the problem, has to be done, and well… How else besides via an authoritarian government do you get that?

    Went a round with someone in this vein a few days back, before giving up. He hated authority, despised “big government”, recognized that their where problems with poverty, and a mess of other things, but.. he had jack all answers to how to fix anything at all, other than the completely inconsistent idea that somehow we had to “reduce the government”, while, at the same time, “making people take personal responsibility for their problems!” He wanted the authority to stop everyone from whining, stop “bad people” from doing bad things (what ever his definition of bad might be on any given subject), end poverty, etc., but his “solution” was some bizarre mish mask of, “Little or no government, except, in some limited sense, to make certain things happen, and then only an enlightened one.”, and, “Poof! Magic!”

    His whole argument seemed to rest on, “The one we have is bad, so we need a smaller one, without all the wrong people in it, like there is now, and more freedom.”, but he literally couldn’t get from there to, “What exactly do you replace it with, which wouldn’t be worse, especially given that the people you seem to be wanting to replace it with are pro-business, but not pro-money from business in the government, and a long list of other delusional, self contradictory, things?”

    What ever libertarianism may be “somewhere else”, here, in the US, its been pushed as a solution to “economic problems”, and “personal freedom”, at the same time, often among the single most delusional, and clueless, people on the planet – MBAs. The result is a political position that imho, should probably be diagnosed as bi-polar, or schizophrenic.

  28. 28
    carlie

    rayfowler – you might start with searching for “dictionary atheism” in posts here. The search engine kind of stinks so you might be better off using your favorite engine for the term with this site, but the general position of this blog is that the conversation is now far past the “but should atheism be mixed with any movement at all” question. I agree that it might be helpful for PZ to have a background sentence inserted into these kinds of posts that link to a couple or three or four of the most salient background posts for reference (or to add “dictionary atheism” as a tag, perhaps, since “atheism” and “politics” is so broad).

  29. 29
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @brucegorton (#24):

    Considering a fair chunk of what led to the current atheist movement is essentially a fight to maintain decent science education standards in public schools, and that for decades atheists were painted as being communists, I don’t see the “about time” here.

    Various atheist groups have been dealing with American inequality ever since Joe Hill joined a union. It has generally ended up with Christian groups like the American religious right doing their damndest to maintain that inequality out of spite.

    I think it’s historical ignorance/forgetting, as people try to give religion credit, and forget about contributions by non-religious people (or even people of minority religions). For example, I learned a lot from Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, because contributions of historical figures who were atheists weren’t discussed in school (or if they were, their religious views weren’t mentioned). Re education: Atheists already get involved in education issues to fight for evolution, and that can be expanded to include more things, like access to education, disparities due to socioeconomic status, under-representation of minorities in colleges due to lack of available opportunities, etc.

  30. 30
    Al Dente

    rturpin @15

    I doubt the Koch brothers care about abortion or gay marriage. They haven’t said anything public about these and similar topics. However they do care about tearing down the government, repealing government restrictions on pollution and such-like issues which cost their companies money. Accumulating more wealth is their sole motivation. The GOP are anti-tax so the Koch bros support the GOP. Since the religious right social agenda is what keeps most Republicans supporting the party, the Kochs perforce support the social agenda rather than lose the bodies.

  31. 31
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I disagree. Atheism is defined by what it is not, not what it is. To lean on an old canard, 99.9% of the world doesn’t believe in Thor, but it makes no sense to rally them around particular social issues.

    Why not?
    Humanity has problems, we pretty much are one huge problem. It’s nice for each one of us to do what we can, to help an elderly neighbor with groceries, give to charity, maybe even do some more palpable good like assisting the homeless or victims of domestic violence. But what we need are waves of change. People organizing, making some difference on a larger scale. Movements that are going to make governments think twice before enforcing a harmful law.

    I don’t consider myself a part of the atheist movement, unless commenting here on Pharyngula is enough to count me in. But there are apparently many people who are invested in this movement, and more willing to join. So now that you already have a group with this one thing in common, you start discovering that many have other things in common too. Not everyone has reached the same conclusions about sexism after leaving religion (if they were ever religious to begin with), but that doesn’t make fighting against sexism something that doesn’t fit into the atheist movement. I can’t think what immigration rights have to do with atheism, but I don’t see why immigration rights couldn’t become a part of the atheist movement either.

    Atheist movement is going to be whatever its members make it be. Atheism is what gave you the first push, but my impression is that it’s in equal parts secularism that has brought the movement together. Skepticism is lurking there too, even though you can find atheist with all kinds of woo beliefs. You’ve already got a whole bunch of progressive ideas there, use the opportunity and get even more progressive. That’s what PZ is trying, and that’s what people should encourage instead of asking for some kind of movement purity.

  32. 32
    consciousness razor

    Atheism is defined by what it is not, not what it is.

    According to whose definition? An atheist is a person who doesn’t believe in gods. Hence, they are not everything that is not a person. In any case, isn’t it true that everything can be defined apophatically? And isn’t it true that every person is situated in a larger social context and has a wider array of beliefs than merely those concerning a single set of issues like the existence of gods?

    To lean on an old canard, 99.9% of the world doesn’t believe in Thor, but it makes no sense to rally them around particular social issues.

    Why does it make no sense? Suppose there were significant social consequences because a tenth of one percent believes in Thor. Why wouldn’t the rest of us rally around that cause? Since this isn’t merely about Thor but about stuff a much larger proportion believes, aren’t the consequences even more dire, making it even more sensible to rally around it?

    Maybe it’s always getting derailed for a reason?

    Maybe they’re not good reasons.

    I never post here and just thought I’d chime in on the first post I read. Is there a link or FAQ somewhere listing the opinions approved for posting?

    If all you wanted was approval, I’d suggest you shouldn’t bother commenting at all, anywhere. If you can accept criticism, then chime in on anything you want, however you want.

  33. 33
    abewoelk

    OK, but the problem is that the question “Does god exist” is a yes-or-no, straightforward question that lends itself to an answer based on objective evidence. The question of racism/sexism vs. egalitarianism, or libertarianism vs. socialism, is that those are ideologies that rise or fall on one’s personal opinion about what the world should look like and what’s just. Just to take a simple example, the question, “Is it fair that single mothers live in poverty” can be answered by the question “Is it fair that people have children they can’t afford and then expect other people to pick up the tab.” Such mirror-image questions can be applied to pretty much any hot button issue that’s ever been discussed here. And how any given person answers those questions will mostly be based on that person’s individual idea of what is fair, and not on anything even remotely as objective as whether Jesus died for our sins.

    I’m far from being a libertarian; I voted for Obama every time he’s been on the ballot, even though in retrospect I think Hillary Clinton would have been a better president. That said, if atheism means I have to buy into leftist politics, please count me out. I’m willing to work with other atheists on issues on which we agree; I’m not willing to be told that being a political moderate makes me a bad atheist.

  34. 34
    Kagehi

    single most delusional, and clueless, people on the planet – MBAs

    Note – for anyone taking an issue with this.. I consider MBAs to be a bit like doctors (in the sense that a doctor has a general knowledge of medicine, and may have specific expertise on one subject, but, even then, is closer to an auto mechanic in terms of knowledge, than an “engineer”, who would understand “why” things are a certain way, not just how to fix them), only.. less qualified. No one requires they “understand” the full complexity of the subject of economics, there are bankers, stock brokers, accountants and lawyers to deal with that. They are not required to have a sound concept of what businesses will actually work, just how to make them successful, in theory, using strategies like “don’t pay your employees more than you need to, if you want to actually compete”, etc. In other words, a lot of things about how “business works”, which is totally disconnected from how things that are “not businesses” need to sometimes work, and no real clue how “the economy” does, outside of their own specific specialty. Hence, the fall, for so many of them, into becoming the Dr. Oz/Phil types of the business world.

  35. 35
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @abewoelk (#33): Personally, I wouldn’t someone a “bad atheist” for disagreeing with me on politics. But I might criticize their actual political ideology, if I thought it was harmful, etc. They’re obviously still an atheist, even I disagree with them on politics, but I might think they are wrong about something else. Atheists who are working together on “leftist politics” (as you phrased it) aren’t kicking people out of atheism; it’s a subgroup within atheism that cares about those issues and are working together to address them. In short, it’s not all about you and what they think of you, it’s about the issues they feel are important enough that they want to work together on them.

  36. 36
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Was that a tldr? Sorry.
    There’s more:

    I don’t particularly care about the difference between dictionary and non-dictionary atheism. I think PZ has on occasions tied himself in knots to explain why one shouldn’t be a dictionary atheist, where he could have used a simpler reason for why atheist movement should support certain values.

    I go to basics. You should be a decent human being. A movement has formed, starting from one tiny little point of not believing in something, which then brought on implications about many parts of our lives, beliefs, traditions and values. Those implications are huge and they are already part of atheism. But there’s still more to being a decent human being that we fail at.

    Here’s a chance to improve. Here’s a chance to take these different views and make them the very basis of a growing movement.

  37. 37
    Al Dente

    abewoelk @33

    That said, if atheism means I have to buy into leftist politics, please count me out. I’m willing to work with other atheists on issues on which we agree; I’m not willing to be told that being a political moderate makes me a bad atheist.

    What are “leftist” politics? Is it leftist to give a damn about your fellow humans? Is it leftist to not want the rich to get richer at the expense of everyone else? Is it leftist to be concerned about global warming and other environmental issues? Is it leftist to argue against denying people rights because “gawd hates what they’re doing”? You need to be more concise with what you’re for and against if you don’t want to be called a bad atheist.

  38. 38
    rayfowler

    “Why does it make no sense? Suppose there were significant social consequences because a tenth of one percent believes in Thor.”

    Because these are issues not defined by atheism (or Thorism), but within the political realms of liberalism, libertarianism, conservatism, etc. There are LOTS of forums devoted to those topics where those discussions are held and atheists regularly participate. That’s where it’s easiest to effect change through numbers because the match between the subject and the forum audience is much greater.

    This board is not going to be a driver for liberal change, except perhaps within the narrow segments of atheism & skepticism. Not that that’s a bad thing, obviously, but far short of the grand scope hoped for in the OP.

  39. 39
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @abewoelk:

    Excuse me?

    The claim that there is a god, somewhere, doing something though that something may be undetectable, is not testable. The derivative claims of religion – at least the vast majority of them – are testable.

    One race being “better” could be defined in so narrow a sense that it was not testable (“it’s just what I feel, don’t judge me”) but the actual predictions of racism and sexism are very much testable, and being tested all the time, and moreover, the racists and sexists generally fail their predictive tests: they don’t describe the world accurately and so decisions should not be based on the tenets or predictions of racism and/or sexism.

    Your definition of religion as simply a single testable claim about the existence of god is absurd, and doesn’t even make sense when used a way to justify atheism: a completely untestable claim about god is not worthy of faithful belief, a testable claim about god doesn’t need faithful belief. So what was your point when you made this ridiculous comparison?

    Oh, right, that

    I’m not willing to be told that being a political moderate makes me a bad atheist.

    But that’s not what’s at issue. The issue is that racism is factually wrong. Sexism is factually wrong. Climate change denial and AGW denial are wrong. We can measure these things. We have evidence.

    So what the F is *our* point?

    That tap dancing around those issues because you’re attached to being a political **whatever** – in your case moderate – is failing at the critical thinking that is supposed to be central to the community we [have created/are creating].

    The inability to recognize testable claims, or in the case of god, the significance of god’s un/testability doesn’t speak well of your critical thinking. We don’t care if you are a political moderate. We care if as a country we are making decisions based on critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence.

  40. 40
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @Beatrice (#36):

    I don’t particularly care about the difference between dictionary and non-dictionary atheism. I think PZ has on occasions tied himself in knots to explain why one shouldn’t be a dictionary atheist, where he could have used a simpler reason for why atheist movement should support certain values.

    I go to basics. You should be a decent human being. A movement has formed, starting from one tiny little point of not believing in something, which then brought on implications about many parts of our lives, beliefs, traditions and values. Those implications are huge and they are already part of atheism. But there’s still more to being a decent human being that we fail at.

    Here’s a chance to improve. Here’s a chance to take these different views and make them the very basis of a growing movement.

    Very well put! :)

  41. 41
    brucegorton

    @abewoelk

    Actually I think a big chunk of the problem is how you are percieving the issue.

    “Is it fair that single mothers live in poverty” can be answered by the question “Is it fair that people have children they can’t afford and then expect other people to pick up the tab.

    The single mothers, in a way, aren’t the ones who are important in this question, and fair has nothing to do with it.

    The ones who are important are the children.

    Under your answering question the children are treated as being a punishment for the single mother’s “misbehaviour”, not as human beings who will end up growing in impoverished conditions.

    This will limit their educational and economic opportunities growing up, which limits how much they can contribute to the whole. While some exceptional children may manage to go to university and achieve great things despite a very humble background, more will not meet their potential.

    In fact with more growing up in relative poverty compared to their richer peers, they are more likely to turn to criminal means of earning a living. Particularly considering the lengths their mother will have to go to simply to keep them fed, lengths which at the very least would mean less time dedicated to their upbringing.

    Which means that society as a whole loses out. That it isn’t fair is aside the point, it isn’t efficient.

  42. 42
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @Crip Dyke (#39):

    We don’t care if you are a political moderate. We care if as a country we are making decisions based on critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence.

    This, so much this. And I agree with your point about things being testable claims. People too often cordon off things into the “that’s just how things are” category when they don’t like results showing that their discriminatory beliefs have no basis in evidence.

  43. 43
    antha

    Sorry, I’m a “dictionary atheist” through and through. I support progressive social causes because I’m a decent person, not because I don’t believe in gods. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with atheists who share progressive values banding together to advance an agenda; secular humanism and Atheism+ being examples of such. I just don’t see how atheism in and of itself though, says anything about your worldview other than that you don’t believe in gods.

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

    @rayfowler

    This board is not going to be a driver for liberal change, except perhaps within the narrow segments of atheism & skepticism. Not that that’s a bad thing, obviously, but far short of the grand scope hoped for in the OP.

    how shortsighted of PZ to think that, given everyone here only participates in Pharyngula and never takes information or perspectives gleaned here into other aspects of their lives, or, if they do, that none of those aspects include working **off** of Pharyngula for social change.

    I can’t imagine how he thought speaking or acting here would affecting anything other than Pharyngula itself.

    PZ, your logical fail gives me a sad.

  45. 45
    lpetrich

    The sort of freedom right-libertarians love is the supposed right to run a business no matter how much trouble that doing so causes anyone. They only care about business leaders, the people they call “successes”. Everybody else is a “failure” who ought to meekly accept their rule. Consider that they get much more worked up over laws that help labor unions than laws that hurt labor unions. Consider also their love of subsidy by tax break.

  46. 46
    consciousness razor

    OK, but the problem is that the question “Does god exist” is a yes-or-no, straightforward question that lends itself to an answer based on objective evidence. The question of racism/sexism vs. egalitarianism, or libertarianism vs. socialism, is that those are ideologies that rise or fall on one’s personal opinion about what the world should look like and what’s just.

    Your answer to the question of gods depends on your personal view of what the world is like. Two people can look at all of the same evidence and come to different conclusions. Since we’re evidently not concerned with the quality of evidence or reasoning, but only concerned with the existence of “agreement” between different subjects, despite all this talk of “objectivity,” this would apparently be sufficient to make it a subjective issue.

    Just to take a simple example, the question, “Is it fair that single mothers live in poverty”

    Why couldn’t that be just as “simple” as your question about gods. No, it’s not fair, so we shouldn’t have such a society.

    can be answered by the question “Is it fair that people have children they can’t afford and then expect other people to pick up the tab.”

    No, it can’t be answered that way. That’s not an answer to the question. It’s another question.

    That said, if atheism means I have to buy into leftist politics, please count me out.

    Leftist politics imply you should buy into them, because they are right. If you want to be counted out from being right, I suppose you can go ahead, but it doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

    I’m willing to work with other atheists on issues on which we agree; I’m not willing to be told that being a political moderate makes me a bad atheist.

    Being a political moderate makes you a bad thinker and a bad person (not to be too essentialist about it: they are bad actions, while you are whatever kind of person you are). Since atheists can be good people or bad people, that is a possible meaning of “bad atheist,” and that’s the sense in which I’d say you are one, whether or not you are willing me to tell you that.

  47. 47
    LykeX

    I was going to write something, but then I saw that brucegorton had already said pretty much what I had in mind. Well done.

  48. 48
    chrisv

    #13. Ani…who came to a comedy club and left sense of humor at home.

  49. 49
    abewoelk

    But CripDyke, No. 39, I think “right” and “wrong” is not the appropriate analysis if we’re discussing racism and sexism, at least if I correctly understand how you’re using those words. Is it sexist that men aren’t allowed to have jobs that require them to be in the women’s locker room when women athletes are in there showering and changing? Probably. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a perfectly good utilitarian reason to keep them out, sexist or not. And my view of good social policy is just that: Pure utilitarianism. So even though I tend toward being egalitarianism, I don’t think it’s strictly speaking correct to say that egalitarianism is “right” and racism is “wrong”. I think society benefits from egalitarianism, and that’s enough to justify it. But that’s not a yes-or-no question in the same sense that “does god exist” or even “did J. Edger Hoover exist” is a yes or no question.

    Bruce, No. 41, you’re exactly right that it’s about the children, but that misses the point. As someone else pointed out, we have limited resources. There simply isn’t enough money to do everything that it would be nice to do, so hard choices sometimes have to be made. Within that context, people who can’t afford to have children decide to have them anyway, thus unilaterally deciding for everyone that resources will be spent on children they shouldn’t have had. (With overpopulation continuing to be a concern, it’s not like everybody has to have children.) That doesn’t mean the children should be left to starve; it does mean nobody should pretend that people who have children they couldn’t afford are victims or that what they have done is noble. It isn’t.

  50. 50
    Al Dente

    abewoelk @49

    Within that context, people who can’t afford to have children decide to have them anyway, thus unilaterally deciding for everyone that resources will be spent on children they shouldn’t have had.

    So you would just have them die so as to not gobble up precious resources that could go to supporting you. To paraphrase Ebenzer Scrooge: “If they’re going to die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    You’re correct when you say this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about humane and inhumane, about giving a damn about other people. We see where you stand on this issue. And the proper term for you isn’t “political moderate,” it’s “selfish bastard.”

  51. 51
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    abewoelk #49

    That doesn’t mean the children should be left to starve; it does mean nobody should pretend that people who have children they couldn’t afford are victims or that what they have done is noble. It isn’t.

    It’s not their fault they were born into a capitalist society which makes “afford” a matter of finance. So, yes, they are victims.

  52. 52
    consciousness razor

    And my view of good social policy is just that: Pure utilitarianism. So even though I tend toward being egalitarianism, I don’t think it’s strictly speaking correct to say that egalitarianism is “right” and racism is “wrong”. I think society benefits from egalitarianism, and that’s enough to justify it. But that’s not a yes-or-no question in the same sense that “does god exist” or even “did J. Edger Hoover exist” is a yes or no question.

    Utilitarianism, like any philosophy, isn’t without its faults. And “pure utilitarianism,” whatever that may be, wouldn’t imply it’s only ever about issues in which (1) there is no fact of the matter, or (2) there is no possibility of validly using Boolean logic or others like it.

    Bruce, No. 41, you’re exactly right that it’s about the children, but that misses the point. As someone else pointed out, we have limited resources. There simply isn’t enough money to do everything that it would be nice to do, so hard choices sometimes have to be made.

    There are limited resources, thus people should “live in poverty“? (Any arbitrary group of people, or just the groups you don’t like?) What the fuck? People do not, in fact, need to live in poverty. And they should not, in fact, live in poverty — nor could that possibly change due to the amount of resources we have at our disposal, because poverty is relative to what everyone else has and would be meaningless if it were applied to all. So what you presented was not any kind of hard choice.

  53. 53
    rpjohnston

    I just don’t see how atheism in and of itself though, says anything about your worldview other than that you don’t believe in gods.

    If you don’t believe in gods then you can’t base your moral view of “good” as “whatever gives the Deity its satisfaction”, as for instance William Lane Craig does. If bigotry, xenophobia, narcissism, and entitlement are intrinsic aspects of humanity, and you have an invisible superfriend who is by definition right about everything, you can do whatever you want and shift responsibility to the ghost. “Mommy, it’s not that I think I should get all the candy in the checkout lane, Superfriend does and he’s always right!”

    Rejecting the almighty superfriend indicates a greater awareness of one’s place and responsibilities to other people and society. Personally, I categorize my worldview as Humanistic rather than Atheistic, but my atheism is intrinsically linked to my humanism.

  54. 54
    maddog1129

    Except for their love of guns, the GOP has been on the authoritarian side of every significant personal liberty issue in recent decades: gay rights, gay marriage, torture, immigration, reproductive liberty. How then is it possible for anyone who claims personal liberty as their political lodestone to ally with the GOP?

    What do you mean, “except for their love of guns” ? The love of guns (more than people) IS the authoritarian side of the Second Amendment issue. My personal guns are more important than anyone else’s safety, never mind the “well-regulated militia” constitutional basis. And if you don’t agree,, you’ll pay with your life.

  55. 55
    PZ Myers

    I just don’t see how atheism in and of itself though, says anything about your worldview other than that you don’t believe in gods.

    OK. Then your atheism is totally irrelevant to your life or other people’s lives, so you shouldn’t be part of any atheist movement. That’s fine. Have fun.

  56. 56
    zttp

    “A mere 400 individuals own one-half of the entire nation’s wealth.”

    That doesn’t sound right. The original article does not provide sources but a widely quoted study has the top 1% owning 34.6% of net wealth and 42.7% of non-home wealth in 2007. The population of the USA in 2007 was a little over 300 million, meaning that the top 1% was in the vicinity of 3 million people.

    There are some problems with my back-of-the envelope calculations: things may have changed since 2007, the stats apply to households and I multiplied by people and, no doubt, some others. But 50% of wealth in the hands of 400 people is a claim that at least merits a footnote.

    The strange thing is that the statistics on economic inequality are stark anyway. I don’t understand why people like to exaggerate them.

  57. 57
    BCat70

    I have a number of practical disagreements with this post, and at risk of reopening the whole Atheism+ can ‘o worms again;

    “We have to stand up for something, rather than just being against something, and that means that atheism has to find a conscience” Atheism, is in its very name, against the idea of any personal gods and that is all. Social conscience is a more humanism thing.

    “If we are going to claim to have positions based on reason and the intelligent interpretation of the evidence, then the {irrational bigots}…they cannot be regarded as representative.” As long as they hold that gods are not demonstrated to exist, they are in toto representative of atheism.

    “Atheism is ultimately going to have to be a progressive political force, fighting for inclusion, evidence-based policy, humanist values, and the goal of expanding knowledge and power for all.” Which is IMO, called humanistic freethought. As has been mentioned in the comments elsewhere, atheism is mostly one check-box on standardized surveys, and will be a litmus test to our great harm, both immediately and (likely devastatingly) long term.

  58. 58
    sadunlap

    @ rturpin #7

    The core problem is that lofty goals often conflict, either directly, or in their competition for limited resources. It’s easy to want all of environmental protection, economic growth, technological advance, well-funded science and education, less inequality, universal healthcare, sustainable social security, strong legal safeguards for liberty, the US to serve real good in the world, and many other things. The reality is that more of some of those things likely means less of some others.

    I notice that conspicuous by its absence in your comment is military spending. Are you sure your inner militarist isn’t showing? Marilyn Waring once did the math, back in the 70s, when she determined that for what the world’s governments spend on their militaries for just one day could feed, clothe, educate and vaccinate every child on the planet for a year. Even if this no longer proves precisely the same now, the point remains: we have the resources, right-wing nuts chose to spend them on two pointless wars. Now we hear arguments to the effect that we can not afford anything else.

    This is not an accident, google: “starve the beast.” Paul Krugman traces the history of how running up a huge deficit then making the argument that we can no longer afford social programs has been a deliberate tactic by the right since the 80s. If you do not like the form or structure of the Great Society programs or the New Deal then please suggest something other than magical thinking belief that “the free market” solves all problems then I, and I would expect many others, would be all ears.

    Yes, resource allocation matters. Think about the priorities. I notice many libertarians set their hair on fire over the money that goes to some stereotypical lazy unemployed person but when reminded of the enormous waste that is the U.S. military reply with something like, “Oh, yeah, we’re against that too.” Yes, but the rage goes to poor people.

  59. 59
    Nick Gotts

    Is it sexist that men aren’t allowed to have jobs that require them to be in the women’s locker room when women athletes are in there showering and changing? – abewoelk

    No, it isn’t. “Sexism” refers to actions that reinforce gender inequalities. Any other stupid questions?

  60. 60
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @chrisv (#48): I’m not going to pretend something’s funny when it’s not. Not saying you can’t joke about serious things … but basically saying “why can’t we do horrible thing x” isn’t really a very funny joke. And considering people actually *do* advocate bombing certain places due to hatred of the people there … I expect people come up with a better joke than that if I’m going to consider it funny. I mean, come on, with all the atheist humor out there, we can do better than that. :)

    Usually, I would just ignore that kind of comment, with an eyeroll, but considering the topic of the thread was about atheists getting involved in social justice issues, I just found the comments worth responding to. Because I consider the attitude of “just bomb them” a horrible stance/ideology and worthy of criticism, relevant to the “atheists should be involved in social justice” discussion.

  61. 61
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Atheism, is in its very name, against the idea of any personal gods and that is all.

    Only if one acknowledges they exist in a vacuum. Then anybody who can think a tad beyond just the decision that there are no gods realizes that society is saturated in attitudes that mimic those found in holy books for those who believe in god. If you disbelieve in god, you disbelieve in that holy book too, as it is nothing but a book of myths. Why should that holy book have anything to say about society?
    All it means is that the decision to disbelieve in gods does have consequences. Now, you need to determine those consequences, and see how to build a godless society.

  62. 62
    rturpin

    Thank you, zttp. If there is any political stance my atheism entails, it is attention to facts and care with statistics.

    Maddog1129 objects: “My personal guns are more important than anyone else’s safety, never mind the ‘well-regulated militia’ constitutional basis.”

    I think it quite understandable that a libertarian will fall more on the personal liberty side of issues where public safety is in the other corner. I don’t count myself a libertarian partly because I give weight to some of those other issues. The point I press is this: there is nothing libertarian in voting for a Republican who opposes personal liberty on an entire rafts of social issues, solely because of concern about taxes. That’s not libertarian. It’s just anti-tax.

  63. 63
    consciousness razor

    Atheism, is in its very name, against the idea of any personal gods and that is all.

    If everything were in its very name, things would be very simple indeed. Discussion and critical thinking may as well stop now, no matter what the conversation is about. The real world is a much more difficult place than that, so this must not be the case.

    As long as they hold that gods are not demonstrated to exist, they are in toto representative of atheism.

    Although I doubt the bigoted and otherwise irrational/immoral atheists are a majority, perhaps they are, but even then they should not be representative. Disbelieving in gods is not enough to imply that they should be, so you are wrong about this. You’re wrong because that is what this is about: what they are “ultimately going to have to be” is an elliptical phrase for what they should be, not what they are simply and regardless of any such evaluation.

    “Atheism is ultimately going to have to be a progressive political force, fighting for inclusion, evidence-based policy, humanist values, and the goal of expanding knowledge and power for all.” Which is IMO, called humanistic freethought.

    Suppose that what you’re calling your “opinion” here is correct. Should atheists be humanistic freethinkers? If I said “Atheists should be like that,” would you say that is a true statement? While we’re at it, is it the case that theists should also be humanistic freethinkers, because it is the right way to be? And of the two, since they’re mutually exclusive, which group is likely to lead the other to that end?

  64. 64
    burgundy

    I think that maybe some of the disagreement (dictionary atheism vs social and political goals) comes from the difference between atheism and atheist movement. It’s true that being an atheist requires only a lack of belief in gods. But the post is about atheist movement, not individual atheists. And “movement” inherently involves change, and any kind of effective socio-political movement requires directed change. So – what is movement atheism moving toward? What are the ultimate goals, and what are the ideal means to achieve those goals? Is the goal secularism, and the relegation of religion and religious influences to private life only? I think that’s a pretty good goal, but I also think that in addition to ensuring that our textbooks cover evolution, it also means addressing things like the lack of employment protections for queer people, because so much discrimination in that area is religiously motivated. It means protecting contraceptive access for women for the same reason.

    Is the goal improving people’s critical thinking skills and ability to evaluate evidence, because that will ultimately contribute to more people turning away from religion? I think that’s a good goal too, but I also think that in addition to opposing Young Earth Creationism, it also means addressing things like the Bell Curve, because so much of our racist discourse is founded in factual inaccuracies and sloppy reasoning. It means opposing trickle-down economics for the same reason.

    No one is saying that individual atheists have to take any particular position. But atheism as a movement has to, or it won’t be moving anywhere.

  65. 65
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I can still see no reasons why atheist organizations and movements shouldn’t embrace progressive values.

    “But the name doesn’t say so” really doesn’t count as a reason.

  66. 66
    brett

    I don’t think you can separate Atheism entirely into just a dictionary thing, unless it’s merely a personal stance and not something you want to be active in society about.

    But I don’t see how income inequality ties into that as an Atheist issue. That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy issue to discuss and get active on, but it’s not directly related to Atheism, at least not in America. Poverty is a separate issue, and there you do have a connection, since a lot of conservative Christian rhetoric ends up relying on religious terms and arguments to argue against social welfare programs (Rep. Steve King of Iowa did explicitly that in arguing for SNAP cuts).

    More importantly, I think if we try and redefine the Atheist Movement as a more generic left-wing progressive movement, then we dilute our resources and focus. The traditional issues that the movement has focused on – education, debunking pseudoscience, promoting science, questioning religious beliefs – haven’t gone away or become less important. Creationism and ID still rear their heads every so often.

  67. 67
    brett

    To add-

    Why this perception that we have to get everything progressive under a single movement? I think it’s perfectly fine to be part of an Atheist Movement whose primary focus is fighting superstition in the schools and the attempted enshrinement of religious practices in government, a separate movement in favor of LGBT rights, and another movement in favor of stronger safety nets.

  68. 68
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Hey, I really don’t know what’s democratic party got to do with economy, health or anything other than ensuring that a country has a democratic political system. Could someone please tell democrats to shut the fuck up unless they want to tell you that democracy is the bestest system ever? Or change the name so as not to confuse people who own dictionaries.

  69. 69
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    brett

    More importantly, I think if we try and redefine the Atheist Movement as a more generic left-wing progressive movement, then we dilute our resources and focus. The traditional issues that the movement has focused on – education, debunking pseudoscience, promoting science, questioning religious beliefs – haven’t gone away or become less important. Creationism and ID still rear their heads every so often.

    I’m confuzzled.
    A lot of things fall under pseudoscience. I don’t really see the connection between cheating people into believing you can bend spoons with your mind, heal them by making their energy flow the right way or that vaccines make kids autistic and religion. So really, atheists should keep focus and stop diluting the movement with things that aren’t part of… atheisting.

  70. 70
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    abewoelk

    Within that context, people who can’t afford to have children decide to have them anyway, thus unilaterally deciding for everyone that resources will be spent on children they shouldn’t have had. (With overpopulation continuing to be a concern, it’s not like everybody has to have children.) That doesn’t mean the children should be left to starve; it does mean nobody should pretend that people who have children they couldn’t afford are victims or that what they have done is noble. It isn’t

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooo
    Not the welfare-queen and single-mum monster.*
    Really, John Major would revolve in his grave if he were dead.
    Because, you know, things are not as wonderfully easy as you’re painting them. It’s not just some bastards who decide that having kids who grow up poor would be a wonderful idea.
    It’s not like things called “abstinence only education” existed or like there was an actual problem with having access to contraception or increasingly worse access to abortion all over the planet.
    It’s also not the case that during the last 10 years lives that were deemed secure middle-class plumeted into the abyss of an economic downfall they didn’t cause at all.
    Maybe they should have shot the kids once they lost the mortage and maybe made some new ones once the economy picked up speed again? Just a modest proposal….

    *I should try that as a Halloween costume

  71. 71
    unclefrogy

    abewoelk #49
    yes we do have limited resources in the sense that they are not infinite they are limited.
    That 400 people in the U.S own 50% of everything and do not in any way pay there fair share for the privilege of being that rich of being that wealthy in this society is a large part of the reason we have such limited resources to handle the problems we are facing . That the 1% do not pay any where near their proportional benefit for being wealthy is the limit we are suffering from.
    so spare me the cry of limited resources we are not even close to any real limit on what we could “tax and spend” to solve the problems we are facing without causing any problems by so doing not even problems for the rich would result from modest improvements in the tax structure.
    uncle frogy

  72. 72
    abewoelk

    At Nick, no, sexism is the idea that people should be treated differently because of their sex, though reinforcing negative stereotypes is a part of that. If women are allowed in women’s locker rooms but men aren’t, that’s sexism. It’s justifiable sexism in that there’s a perfectly legitimate reason for it, but it is treating people differently based on their sex.

    And by the way, I seriously question whether anybody really and truly believes in gender equality, and one of the charges periodically thrown at feminists is that they believe in equality when it suits them and want special privileges when that suits them. In point of fact, female sports reporters can and do enter men’s locker rooms, and men who complain are mocked and told to quit whining, even though that would absolutely not be the result if a male sports reporter attempted to enter a women’s locker room. So, at the end of the day, I think “is it sexist” is a less relevant question than “is there a legitimate reason for it.”

  73. 73
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @Rey Fox (#17), maddog1129 (#54): And even with the 2nd amendment, people interpret it differently based on the race, religion, political affiliation, etc. of the person. For example, stores whose owners say they will not sell guns/give gun classes to Muslims or Obama supporters or xyz other group. Because, apparently, background checks before gun sales are a horrible civil rights’ violation, but refusing to sell guns to people based on religion or political affiliation (so that only people who agree with you have guns, and others don’t) is an example of individual freedom. Also, I once saw this clip of Tavis Smiley speaking with Bill O’Reilly in which Smiley made the point that, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the NRA didn’t advocate that African Americans should have guns to protect themselves the same way that they do when there’s a shooting in which most of the victims were white. He said, in part, “I’m waiting to hear the NRA say that if Trayvon Martin had had a gun, he might still be alive today” and “Arm every black person in America, and then see what the NRA has to say”.

    @abewoelk (#49):

    And my view of good social policy is just that: Pure utilitarianism. So even though I tend toward being egalitarianism, I don’t think it’s strictly speaking correct to say that egalitarianism is “right” and racism is “wrong”. I think society benefits from egalitarianism, and that’s enough to justify it.

    The thing is, it’s really easy to come up with a ridiculous rationalization for why society would “benefit” from discrimination against/disregard for a particular group, the way that fundamentalists come up with arguments for why society would benefit from not giving equal rights to LGBTQ+ people, preaching religion in schools, persecuting atheists, etc. But a lot of these rationalizations are due to people putting a lot of emphasis on what would benefit them/make them feel more comfortable and ignoring what harms others. Their aim is to build a society in which their own ideology/group/whatever gets special treatment, so they see things which forward that goal as being “beneficial” to society. But if we want to build a better society, it has to take into account how everyone is affected, everyone’s rights.

    Or, to paraphrase Al Dente said @50, it’s important to give a damn about other people.

  74. 74
    consciousness razor

    But I don’t see how income inequality ties into that as an Atheist issue.

    Well, to start with, no argument can possibly stand which in effect claims people deserve to be poor (middle class, wealthy, etc.) or that it’s somehow their station in life, or that it’s the situation they belong in to serve a purpose in what is supposed to be an ideal society. (I’ll emphasize it’s the effective claim which matters, because it may couched in all sorts of different language.) The notions of the “free market” and “class” and “capitalism” that many people have are yet more gods which do not exist. There is no cosmic (or more close to home, economic) purpose which people exist to fulfill. They are not pawns to be used for a particular kind of society, because the particular society we have is not a given written into the laws of the universe. (Nor is ours inherently a good society, for at least the vast majority of people if not everyone.) There is also no nation or group of nations (or ethnicities or their groups) which ought to rule over any other or ought to be at an economic advantage over others because the system has been rigged in their favor. The U.S., for example, is not exceptional. It has no manifest destiny (a supernatural term if there ever was one). And if it “fails” (on a capitalist account) to protect what some think are its economic interests as others improve, this is not in itself an argument against that happening.

    There are, in short, all sorts of concepts people use to describe inequality and justify it in various circumstances, but none of them stands up — and it is simply naive to think their concepts about the nature of the universe don’t generally enter into it some way or another, as can plainly be seen by the examples I’ve already given.

    If you could come up with some argument to support the notion that inequality ought to exist, which somehow doesn’t imply that some group is superior or deserves to be treated differently than others or has some inherent right that others do not have — if you could do it, then you’re free to do so at any time. An atheist isn’t compelled to make such an argument; and I think it’s utterly hopeless, so I won’t even try.

  75. 75
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @abewoelk (#72):

    And by the way, I seriously question whether anybody really and truly believes in gender equality, and one of the charges periodically thrown at feminists is that they believe in equality when it suits them and want special privileges when that suits them.

    The fact that this charge is thrown at feminists doesn’t mean it’s true. Feminists have fought for women to be able to take responsibility for themselves, to not have to rely on men for financial support. Feminists have fought for women to be able to do jobs that were considered “for men” like joining the military, police, etc. Feminists have argued *against* other women who were in favor of preserving the certain so-called “special privileges” that women, arguing that they would rather take on the responsibility that comes with the rights, instead of being “protected” by men (because that “protection” comes with a loss of rights and being in a position where others can manipulate you and control your life).

    In point of fact, female sports reporters can and do enter men’s locker rooms, and men who complain are mocked and told to quit whining, even though that would absolutely not be the result if a male sports reporter attempted to enter a women’s locker room. So, at the end of the day, I think “is it sexist” is a less relevant question than “is there a legitimate reason for it.”

    Honestly, I think reporters in general should just stay out of the locker rooms, regardless of gender. Interview the athletes outside the locker room. I find it weird, though, that you ignore feminist actions that have encouraged and gotten women to take on responsibilities for men, but you only notice something like this issue of sports and locker rooms.

  76. 76
    anuran

    2 rturpin writes:

    Let me point to the obvious cognitive dissonance: How is it any libertarian can be a Republican? How is it the GOP has a “libertarian wing”?

    Except for their love of guns, the GOP has been on the authoritarian side of every significant personal liberty issue in recent decades

    Just think of Libertarians as Conservative Plutocratic Republicans who like their hookers and blow. Then it will all make sense

  77. 77
    Maureen Brian

    No, abewoelk, you simply confirm what I’ve long thought about you. You should get out more.

    If the women’s locker room is there for the comfort and convenience of the women, if the women asked for it or confirmed that they wanted it and, also, if nothing was taken from the men and no man was harmed in the building of the locker room then NO! it is not sexism.

    This “special privileges” notion that you are fixated on seems to be an excuse not even to think about what you are complaining of. For instance, how many women sports reporters are there on the planet? How long have they existed at all? I reckon 20 years at most. So we are in a period of adjustment to a new phenomenon, protocols and etiquette are still being worked out – just as they were worked out when women first began to play sports, or go to medical schools, or fly fighter planes, or whatever. Or, indeed, when working class men first became Prime Ministers and didn’t have a spare houseful of furniture to move into 10 Downing Street.

    Relax! Civilisation is very unlikely to end because of locker rooms.

  78. 78
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    What is the connection between atheism and a progressive agenda?

    For thousands of years, the supernatural (gods, reincarnation, ghosts, whatever) is what guaranteed inequality in the social order (cf. the divine right of kings, etc., etc.) and notions of what is good or bad. People of different classes or castes (sexes, colors or whatever) were seen as inherently unequal or even radically different from each other and all this was the reflection of the supernatural (it’s the way God made it, what the gods want … may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven). You take away the supernatural and justification for the whole social order comes crashing down.

    The revolutions that did away with the old order in Europe and her colonies were about equality (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…)

    When the supernatural justifications are removed, new justifications for a new order must be found. And it is good to base our thought and action in and about society on evidence, on reason, on knowledge and science.

    Equality, reason, science, knowledge, these are the ingredients of a progressive agenda and the latter is a direct consequence of removing the supernatural.

    Of course, the supernatural can be replaced by an idea of what is natural (it’s only natural for a woman to cook for her man, for a black man to serve a white man, for….). This kind of natural is a hangover from theism, a veil for prejudice and is why we need the humanities, the natural and social sciences to counter essentialist mythologies and build societies that work for us all.

    I, too, would like to see the atheist movement adopt a progressive, or more progressive or at least somewhat progressive agenda, but I don’t think it will happen. And though I would like it, I am unconvinced that it would be the best thing for the atheist movement to do now.

  79. 79
    Pierce R. Butler

    Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins says that Obama is an atheist.

    HuffPo has a bit more evidence backing the exact opposite claim.

    But this thread has to do with progressives, so I apologize for the digression.

  80. 80
    Rey Fox

    In point of fact, female sports reporters can and do enter men’s locker rooms, and men who complain are mocked and told to quit whining

    You mean like when this happened?

    This has to be the lamest derail in the history of threads.

  81. 81
    cubist

    There is a very pragmatic reason why atheists, both as individuals and (particularly) as a collective movement, should work for progressive/humanist goals: The more shitty a society is, the more likely its members are to turn to the false ‘comfort’ of religion. And on top of that, there’s rather a lot of religious social-good organizations who actually do provide measurable real-world benefits to people in need… and you know damn well that the vast majority of these organizations insist on slipping in some Jesus along with the soup and/or night’s shelter and/or whatever else. You think black people in America are so strongly attached to the Xtian religion of their slavemasters because blacks are stoopid? Not hardly; it’s got a hell of a lot to do with the fact that in all too many cases, the people who were actually there to provide blacks with necessary assistance have been Xtians.

    If you’re an atheist who thinks the world would be a better place if the world were a damn sight less god-soaked than it currently is… that’s why you should fold progressive values into your atheism. If, on the other hand, you happen to be a dictionary atheist, or maybe you just don’t really care one way or another about how god-soaked the world is, then of course my first paragraph above will elicit from you a reaction somewhere in the neighborhood of “[shrug] Uh… so what..?” Fine; nobody says you must fold progressive values into your atheism. But if you are an atheist of the ‘dictionary’ and/or ‘who cares?’ variety, could you please not get in the way of those atheists who don’t share your serene unconcern? Thanks in advance…

  82. 82
    consciousness razor

    Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins says that Obama is an atheist.

    And JFK?? That Kennedy? Were they both also abducted by communist aliens working for the CIA/mafia, by any chance?

    At least he counts the pope as a doubtful case… who is nice therefore dangerous, thus we don’t want him in the Vatican?

    How sloshed do you need to be, in order to be one of the guest bullshitters on Real Time? This is “clarity” for him, “saying clearly what you think and what you’re saying”?

    But this thread has to do with progressives, so I apologize for the digression.

    I detect sarcasm somewhere. (There’s a lot, so it’s a little hard to pin down.) I don’t think you’re sorry.

    For the record, I don’t put much stock in a HuffPo puff piece which is so transparently parroting his handlers to counter talking points from the “religious right.”

  83. 83
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    One definition I have of adult behavior is that when you make a decision, you live with the consequences of that decision. Example, if you as a male, decide to have unprotected sex, you must be willing to support the consequences of that decision, including and up to 18 years of child support.

    The same thing occurs with the decision to not believe in gods. What are those consequences of making that decision, and are you ready to accept them? Otherwise, don’t make the decision.

    The MRA contingent is very heavy on making decisions without consequences, be it god or sex. Makes me think of them as immature fuckwits.

    Atheism needs adult leadership which accepts the responsibility for their decisions. Which often includes a progressive social agenda, which is a rational acceptance of the responsibility of making the decision to be an atheist.

  84. 84
    HappyNat

    And by the way, I seriously question whether anybody really and truly believes in gender equality, and one of the charges periodically thrown at feminists is that they believe in equality when it suits them and want special privileges when that suits them.

    And you best example of this is locker room reporters? If only feminists would speak out about the poor male reporters not allowed in female locker rooms you’d be on board with feminism? I’m glad you go right to the big important issues.

  85. 85
    AMM

    I dunno. I don’t consider myself an atheist (or a theist). As far as I’m concerned, your arguments about whether being an “atheist” (or whatever) obvigates you to not be an a****** are about as interesting as debating the existence of Bigfoot.

    I care about what happens to people (and animals and other creatures who have the misfortune to share a planet with my species.) That’s not some conclusion of some rationalized argument, that’s my starting point (and I don’t think I’m alone in this.)

    If you all believe in kindness and generosity and justice and not being selfish and making this world a better place than it is, _and_ your life _testifies_ to that belief, then I stand with you, whether you believe there is no God or you believe in bowing to Mecca or burning incense or whatever.

    On the other hand, if you’re about self-righteousness and pilpul and exploitation and turning your back while people starve and freeze to death and are enslaved and have their spirit murdered (slowly!), then, while I won’t wish you to the Hell you don’t believe in, I will shed not a tear if you all squabble yourselves to oblivion.

    You are judged by your fruit. What fruit do you want to bear?

  86. 86
    chigau (違う)

    oblink
    http://m.xkcd.com/774/

    (What does “obvigate” mean?)

  87. 87
    Nick Gotts

    At Nick, no, sexism is the idea that people should be treated differently because of their sex – abewoelk@72

    No, it isn’t. If it was, opposition to sexism would just be fucking stupid. Your biological sex makes a considerable difference, for example, to the medical tests and treatments that might be appropriate for you.

    And by the way, I seriously question whether anybody really and truly believes in gender equality

    Quite possibly no-one believes in your stupid caricature of gender equality.

  88. 88
    consciousness razor

    I dunno. I don’t consider myself an atheist (or a theist).

    Since those are the only two possibilities, that must mean you don’t consider yourself.

    Does that make you inconsiderate or selfless? Confused?

    (What does “obvigate” mean?)

    1) To obligate and obviate, to make something both necessary and unnecessary.
    2) To navigate obliviously.
    3) To put up an obvious gate or barrier.

  89. 89
    Rey Fox

    (What does “obvigate” mean?)

    Possibly a combination of “obviate” and “obligate”. Which sort of have opposite meanings.

  90. 90
    Rey Fox

    I’d say “jinx”, but there’s five minutes of difference in the time stamps.

  91. 91
    Nick Gotts

    What does “obvigate” mean? – chigau@86

    Well obviously, it’s a scandal or controversy of some sort. Maybe an obvious one?

  92. 92
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    chigau and razor,

    you’re supposed to be civil with newbies for three comments.

  93. 93
    ekwhite

    I always find it interesting that people who talk about “limited resources” always mention aid to the poor and elderly, but never corporate welfare or the billions we spend blowing up other countries (yes, I am talking about you abewoelk).

    Your definition of “political moderate” sure sounds like a right winger to me. Your posts reek of privilege. How many of those mothers who keep having children they can’t take care are given the education and access to healthcare that they need? I actually was one of three poor children, the son of one of eight poor children. My grandmother was never given the damn choice of whether or not to have children. A lot of poor women today aren’t given that choice either. Go punish someone else, like those precious “moderates” of yours.

    I believe that any form of atheism that doesn’t take social justice into account is worse than useless – it is actively harmful. I came to atheism through social justice, not the other way around. That is why atheism plus and secular humanism appeal to me. If atheists are going to do nothing but complain about crosses on public space and talk about how superior they are to people who are religious, they can kiss my ass. Martin Luther King was a Baptist Minister. Gandhi was a devout Hindu. Those people were far superior to you or your kind abewoelk.

    /rant.

  94. 94
    ekwhite

    Bicarbonate @92. Three comments or not, I’ll be damned if I am going to be civil to anyone who trots out the “welfare mother” meme.

  95. 95
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    ekwhite,

    not him, AMM.

  96. 96
    abewoelk

    At Rey No. 80, that happened 23 years ago and the people involved were heavily fined; do you have either a recent example, or an example in which the people involved weren’t punished?

    At Ekwhite, No. 93, I’m also opposed to corporate welfare and I’d be happy to shut down half the Pentagon, so we’re on the same page on those issues. But the broader issue, as I see it, is in Nerd’s opening paragraph (No. 83) is that adults live with the consequences of their behavior.

    If someone were to make a list of actions you can take that virtually guarantee you will spend the rest of your life in poverty, having children you can’t afford would be at the top of the list, right next to dropping out of school or getting a degree in something that doesn’t pay well. And the thing is, most of the time, people don’t do those things because they were forced into them; they do them because they’re stupid. So, while I will even agree that there should be a minimal social safety net — we’re not barbarians; we don’t want children to starve to death — at the same time, my main point is that if you’re going to help people evade the consequences of their own stupid behavior, then be prepared to have more stupid behavior. If you subsidize something, you get more of it. That’s Economics 101. So yes, feed the children, but cut the crap about how their parents are victims.

    And that, in a nutshell, is my primary objection to much of what I understand to be leftist politics: Behavior should be consequence free (unless you’re a straight white male, in which case you’re strictly liable for everything.) Yes, I know, that’s a simplification, but as with most simplifications, it contains a certain amount of truth.

  97. 97
    ekwhite

    Bicarbonate @95. My bad.

    Welcome AMM.

    If you all believe in kindness and generosity and justice and not being selfish and making this world a better place than it is, _and_ your life _testifies_ to that belief, then I stand with you, whether you believe there is no God or you believe in bowing to Mecca or burning incense or whatever.

    QFT

  98. 98
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Jonathan, der Ewige Noobe:

    …can we at least bulldoze Jerusalem?

    Yeah, let’s totally destroy an ancient city with gorgeous architecture, amazing archaeology, a mosaic of cultures, and millions of people living there… for the sake of atheism.

    Your comments make me dumber for reading them.

  99. 99
    ekwhite

    abewoelk @96

    If someone were to make a list of actions you can take that virtually guarantee you will spend the rest of your life in poverty, having children you can’t afford would be at the top of the list, right next to dropping out of school or getting a degree in something that doesn’t pay well. And the thing is, most of the time, people don’t do those things because they were forced into them; they do them because they’re stupid. So, while I will even agree that there should be a minimal social safety net — we’re not barbarians; we don’t want children to starve to death — at the same time, my main point is that if you’re going to help people evade the consequences of their own stupid behavior, then be prepared to have more stupid behavior. If you subsidize something, you get more of it. That’s Economics 101. So yes, feed the children, but cut the crap about how their parents are victims.

    And that, in a nutshell, is my primary objection to much of what I understand to be leftist politics: Behavior should be consequence free (unless you’re a straight white male, in which case you’re strictly liable for everything.) Yes, I know, that’s a simplification, but as with most simplifications, it contains a certain amount of truth.

    So you are saying screw my grandmother, who was raped pretty much every day of her life until that bastard of a husband of hers kicked the bucket? Fuck you very much.

  100. 100
    ekwhite

    Ms. Daisy Cutter @98

    Yeah, let’s totally destroy an ancient city with gorgeous architecture, amazing archaeology, a mosaic of cultures, and millions of people living there… for the sake of atheism.

    It isn’t like the Palestinians have suffered enough yet.

    Your comments make me dumber for reading them.

    QFT

  101. 101
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    abewoelk @96

    You really do reek of privilege and have obviously never been poor for any extended period of time.

    The other day I was reading a blog (can’t remember which one) and a young person, 20-30, was explaining to other commenters how difficult things were for their generation, that no matter how many diplomas they earned, however hard they worked at whatever job they could get, made the right choices and so on, that with property values what they are in the U.K. now and the cost of raising children, that this dream of house and children was out of reach.

    Then an older man (white and hetero, you’ll be glad to hear) chimed in very cordially, saying how interesting it was that this young person was saying this and commenting on the fact that they were middle class. He explained that he wasn’t. He was working class. He had been young in the 70s. Had to start work at 16 (at least there were jobs). That he and his friends never even began to have the illusion that they could buy a house one day or pay good rent or have jobs that were meaningful or make enough to raise children how you would want to raise them. His father had been a miner, this was mining country. He knew he’d be going from one temporary job to the next. And still he longed for a family and was stoped from doing so for a while by the stigma of “all those lazy poor getting council houses for their children” and so on. But in the end, he decided to have the family anyway, because though he wouldn’t ever have the house or good job and so on, at least he’d have people to love and be loved by.

    But you, abe, would begrudge the poor their children.

  102. 102
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    It’s so cute how Abe Woelk seems to think that society is set up to the equal advantage of men and women, and so any attempt to level the massive power differential that exists is “special treatment.” I suppose he thinks that if women employees have a right to breastfeeding rooms, so should men employees.

  103. 103
    anthonyrosa

    Eh. My secular humanist, and progressive beliefs are about as related to my atheism as they are to my lack of belief in Santa.

    Though snark aside, I fully support any social movements within subcultures to improve them, including the messages of Atheism+. As a binding social agent for change, that’s great. But that’s not about atheism… that’s about atheism plus other goodies. I’m glad that we have PZ and others working to utilize that shared connection of atheism for constructive purpose. But I’m still gonna giggle a bit even so.

  104. 104
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Ms. Daisy @102

    I was wondering WTF he meant by “special treatment”. All I could think of was having doors opened for you and chairs pulled out for you by gentlemen, things which aren’t really much of an advantage in life.

  105. 105
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    –oops, abewoelk said “special privileges”. Same difference.

  106. 106
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Bicarbonate – yeah, my bad on the misquote but it is indeed the same thing. See also: “Affirmative action is racist!”

  107. 107
    Al Dente

    abewoelk @96

    Your libertarian hatred of the undeserving poor is getting tedious. We understand that you despise women who may have been raped, who may have escaped an abusive relationship, or whose partner may have walked out on them. It’s obviously the stupid women’s fault they got pregnant and, silly sluts that they are, didn’t avail themselves of readily available abortions. Oh wait, in much of the US abortion services are difficult to find, expensive, and not paid by insurance. But you don’t care about that. As long as you can feel superior to single mothers, you’re happy.

    BTW, I don’t believe you’re a political moderate. You’ve been expressing opinions straight out of the libertarian handbook. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck then it’s not likely to be a political centerist.

  108. 108
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    The problem however is how to justify (for the sake of something like reason), defend, explain (for the sake of winning people over) the fact that atheism does entail progressive values.

    Making social justice an axiomatic value is well and good but not good enough in this case. I did my best @78 but that wasn’t good enough either.

  109. 109
    abewoelk

    At Al No. 107, and Ekwhite, most people (men and women) who have children they can’t afford do not do so because of rape or abuse, though obviously that’s true for some. Most people who have children they can’t afford, do so because they can’t be bothered to use birth control. And it’s not a stupid decision only for the mothers involved; for fathers it often means two decades of what can be financially ruinous child support payments. But the bottom line is we know how babies are made, and preventing their conception isn’t difficult. Anyone, male or female, who has unprotected sex is playing Russian Roulette with their future. And is entitled to no more sympathy than someone playing Russian Roulette with an actual gun.

    Bicarbonate, here’s a simple thought experiment to show you what I mean by special treatment: Suppose a man is walking down the street and realizes that a thief is attempting to steal his wallet, so he turns around and punches the thief in the mouth. Would it make any difference to you if the thief were male or female? If your answer is yes (and I’m not assuming it is), then you support special treatment for women — a female thief should be given consideration that a male thief shouldn’t just because she’s a girl.

    And Bicarbonate, No. 101, actually I have been poor. I grew up poor. My parents were religious nuts who believed that birth control was a sin, which means that three of my siblings were conceived after my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When he died, he left my mother with seven small children and no real job skills. She then proceeded to take money that we needed for food, even though it meant not having supper one night a week, to pay tuition at a Christian school so that her children could get a Christian education.

    So if I come across as contemptuous of the poor, it’s because most of the poor that I’ve spent much time with are poor because they make poor choices. It’s inexcusable that my parents kept having children after they knew my father was dying and my mother had no way to support them. It’s inexcusable that we used to go hungry so that my mother would have money to give con artists who ran the particular christian madrassah I attended. All of that was thoroughly avoidable. And when I think about most of the poor people I’ve known over my life, most of their poverty was avoidable as well. You do them no favors by pretending otherwise.

  110. 110
    Ani J. Sharmin

    @abewoelk (#96):

    And that, in a nutshell, is my primary objection to much of what I understand to be leftist politics: Behavior should be consequence free (unless you’re a straight white male, in which case you’re strictly liable for everything.)

    This doesn’t make any sense. The social programs, etc. that many liberals are in favor of are also available to straight white men. And acknowledging that disparities and discrimination exist in society =/= advocating no consequences for certain groups. Holding people accountable for discriminatory actions and words =/= holding the majority strictly liable for everything while everyone else gets away with their actions. It’s about caring about other people, even people different from yourself or in different circumstances. The theme of many of your comments so far seems to be a claim that everyone except upper-class straight white men are just irresponsible, don’t work as hard, don’t face any consequences, etc.—which doesn’t fit with reality.

  111. 111
    Pierce R. Butler

    consciousness razor @ # 82: I detect sarcasm somewhere.

    How could one mention Obama in the context of progressivism otherwise?

    … I don’t put much stock in a HuffPo puff piece …

    Quite rightly. Naytheless, they do quote named sources, which constitutes, as I said in # 79, “a bit more evidence” than Dawkins provided in calling BHO an atheist.

  112. 112
    consciousness razor

    If someone were to make a list of actions you can take that virtually guarantee you will spend the rest of your life in poverty, having children you can’t afford would be at the top of the list, right next to dropping out of school or getting a degree in something that doesn’t pay well. And the thing is, most of the time, people don’t do those things because they were forced into them; they do them because they’re stupid.

    So let’s do as you say and guarantee they’ll spend the rest of their lives in poverty. What a fantastically immoral idea. It’s so absurdly counterproductive in reality, it just might work in your mind.

    It’s not a given that people must be unable to afford children. It is our choice, thus our responsibility as a society, to make sure no one is living in poverty or will be living in poverty or must be living in poverty, because of any choice they have made. There is no shortage of wealth or resources on this planet, contrary to the right-wing dishonesty you peddled earlier. There is a shortage of empathy, and of taking our responsibilities to other people seriously. (By the way, that isn’t the poor people’s fault either.)

    So, while I will even agree that there should be a minimal social safety net — we’re not barbarians; we don’t want children to starve to death — at the same time, my main point is that if you’re going to help people evade the consequences of their own stupid behavior, then be prepared to have more stupid behavior.

    I see what you mean. We’re not forcing you to stop commenting, so we should be prepared for more of your stupidity. You definitely make a good case, on that point.

    If you subsidize something, you get more of it. That’s Economics 101. So yes, feed the children, but cut the crap about how their parents are victims.

    Because their parents so totally got to choose who they were, what their parents’ situation was, and what their society does/has done to help them. They’re definitely not victims at all. They got exactly what everyone has always wanted: subsidies which prevent them from living in poverty! (At least minimally, when conservative assholes don’t sabotage such programs to protect their “right” to get votes.)

    And that, in a nutshell, is my primary objection to much of what I understand to be leftist politics: Behavior should be consequence free (unless you’re a straight white male, in which case you’re strictly liable for everything.) Yes, I know, that’s a simplification, but as with most simplifications, it contains a certain amount of truth.

    Nope, we should care about what the consequences are for people, because we give a fuck about people. So let’s talk about consequences. You show me a single person asking to live in poverty because of any welfare system on the planet. Don’t show me your delusional evidence-free speculation or any other “Econ 101″ garbage. Show me the consequences you say you’re so fucking concerned about.

  113. 113
    chigau (違う)

    The poor choose to be poor.
    Wow.

  114. 114
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    it’s because most of the poor that I’ve spent much time with are poor because they make poor choices.

    No, they are poor becausee of judgement fuckwits like yourself who think they have a direct line to what is MORAL, which is a religious judgement. You haven’t divested yourself of religious thinking, and the babble “teaching”. Until you get beyond that pile of excrement, you can’t claim to be thinking and empathetic person….

  115. 115
    consciousness razor

    The poor choose to be poor.
    Wow.

    It’s a good moderate position. They could have forced everyone to drive them into poor. They just decided to do it freely on their own terms, to push themselves down by their own … uh … hat straps? Can they afford hats?

  116. 116
    burgundy

    abewoelk @109 – see, this is part of what I was talking about in post #64: it’s a reasonable goal of an atheist movement to encourage critical thinking, but that means turning that critical thinking on social issues as well. For instance, it means understanding that one’s personal experiences might not be representative, and that there are data available that can give a clearer picture.

    You might start, for example, with basic information about TANF recipients. We can see that in 2010, the average recipient family had 1.8 children. One in two recipient families had only one child. Less than eight percent of families had more than three children.

    Most families receiving TANF aren’t on it for long stretches of time. Shit happens. People lose jobs, or partners leave, or any of a million things can go wrong. Should people not have children unless they have sufficient savings to cover a year of unemployment? Should they not have children unless they are clairvoyant and know that their partner will never leave or become abusive?

    One of my favorite books about this issue is Flat Broke With Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform, by Sharon Hays. It’s 10 years old now, and was written specifically to examine the impacts of the mid-90s welfare reform. But I think it provides a very good picture on the interior lives of the women profiled, and these are women who want to do right by their kids, who want to work and live independently. Maybe they don’t have completely unassailable judgment, but I wouldn’t call them stupid. I don’t have 100% unassailable judgment myself; what I do have is a margin of error, because I come from a family with money and education.

    I don’t think people should live their lives free of any consequences of their actions. I do think that people should not have to live lives of unending misery because they made decisions like human beings rather than like robots. And I’m aware of my privilege, and I’m aware that I worked a lot less hard than many and have still ended up in a reasonably good place, and I don’t think it’s fair to penalize people who are no less perfect than I am just because they’re less lucky.

    I also think it’s odd that in a conversation about what an atheist movement might achieve, you use an example of religious brainwashing to argue against strong support for social programs. The big lesson for me from your family story is about the harm that religion can do to people, and particularly how it can limit women’s options. Making it harder for poor people to support their families won’t make people less religious; in fact it’s more likely to make them dependent on religious communities.

  117. 117
    consciousness razor

    to drive them into poor.

    Err, into being poor or into poverty.

    Reading my comments obviously encourages my typos, incorrect grammar and bad spelling.

  118. 118
    LykeX

    And when I think about most of the poor people I’ve known over my life, most of their poverty was avoidable as well.

    If their poverty was so clearly avoidable, why didn’t they avoid it? As I see it, there are three possible answers:

    1) They wanted to be poor
    2) They didn’t know any better
    3) The situation wasn’t really as avoidable as you seem to think

    If they wanted to improve their situation, knew how, and were able to do it, then why are they still poor?

  119. 119
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Ahhh, abewoelk.

    You know, I really do have contempt for your inability to admit error. If you enter into a conversation to convince others, it’s considered rather polite to be willing to be convinced yourself. Otherwise, you’re just a lecturing douchegabber, not a partner in a truth-seeking endeavor.

    But you might be such a partner, and I look forward to exploring interesting issues with you.

    Let’s move the conversation forward, shall we.

    We can just clear up a backlog of issues so that we can identify whether you are, indeed, someone other than a condesplaining douchegabber.

    We might as well start with:

    Anyone, male or female, who has unprotected sex is playing Russian Roulette with their future.

    from your #107, I just have to say that it seems odd that you haven’t heard of lesbian sex.

    Or blowjobs.

    I mention that this is odd b/c you are using this very curious invention known as “the internet” to communicate your ideas. That very same internet devotes quite a large portion of its traffic to depictions – literary, pictorial, video, and otherwise – of just these types of topics. It seems unusual that you would not have heard of this “porn” product and/or some of the rather large genres thereof.

    Then there is the issue of “safe sex”. This is a term that does not mean what you think it means.
    Seriously, is it a full-time occupation for you, maintaining these blinders of yours, or do you just maim the portions of your brain that would otherwise have some capacity for understanding, oh, most anything interesting?

    let’s get back to your #33:

    the question “Does god exist” is a yes-or-no, straightforward question that lends itself to an answer based on objective evidence.

    Do you or do you not concede that the question of the mere existence of a supernatural entity – somewhere, somewhen, either inside or outside the universe – is not a “straightforward question that lends itself to an answer based on objective evidence”?

    Do you or do you not concede that you have to add more to the question before it becomes amenable to accessible evidence?

    moreover, in the context, you were saying that this wrong belief of yours justifies an atheist opposition to religion, where sexism and racism are “ideologies” that are values based and thus untestable, rendering empiricism useless as a basis for opposition to these two oppressions.

    Do you or do you not concede that atheist opposition to deity-claims can be based on the principle that belief in things that are untestable is unwarranted and a bad practice? If so, then not only were you flat out wrong that the existence of god is testable, you were also wrong that this is in any way necessary to oppose god-claims.

    Finally, for now, in #33 sexism and racism are ideologies based on multiple values, rendering them complex and untestable.

    But in #72, a commenter replies:

    Nick, no, sexism is the idea that people should be treated differently because of their sex

    So, do you maintain your assertion in #33 that sexism, along with racism, are together

    ideologies that rise or fall on one’s personal opinion about what the world should look like and what’s just.

    Let me see, you were the person that thought even practical, non-prejudicial decisions based on efficiency – like say, whether men should be employed in circumstances where there work would require them to be in women’s locker rooms while naked women are present.

    And the person who disagreed with that idea in #72 was, let me see…

    Oh, right! That was you!

    So, were you lying in 33 or lying in 72 or are you simply one of a number of people who use the same login and frequently disagree with each other?

    I look forward to you clearing up these issues. I hope that, given you seem to lack much facility with admitting error, a basic prerequisite for truth seeking, Pharyngula can provide you with lots and lots of practice identifying and conceding error.

  120. 120
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @abewoelk
    Let me lead by example: When I referenced your statement in comment #107, I meant from your comment in #109.

  121. 121
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    abewoek @109

    So you’re angry at your parents. And I was wrong about you.

    Did your mom really have a choice? What did that choice look like? I mean, given her beliefs, situation, knowledge, resources, did she have a choice? And your dad? Can you imagine being them and thinking whatever it is they thought?

    I’m not expecting you to answer me these questions (but you can if you want to).

    Did it help you, your mother or your siblings that you were all forced to deal with the consequences of your parents choices?

    most of the poor people I’ve known over my life, most of their poverty was avoidable as well. You do them no favors by pretending otherwise.

    It’s not a question of doing people favors, but of public policy (education, health services, economic opportunity) that allows and encourages people to make better choices, and that when they don’t or can’t or when bad luck strikes, that there is still hope.

  122. 122
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    rturpin #7

    It’s easy to want all of environmental protection, economic growth, technological advance, well-funded science and education, less inequality, universal healthcare, sustainable social security, strong legal safeguards for liberty, the US to serve real good in the world, and many other things. The reality is that more of some of those things likely means less of some others

    Not true, actually. For instance, universal healthcare produces improved economic metrics across the board, as does a strong financial social safety net (of which old-age pensions (Social Security in the U.S ) are an essential part). Similarly, many environmental protection measures involve reducing waste, which improves economic efficiency in delivery of goods and services. Technological advance is a natural consequence of well-funded science and education (which also improve the economy), etc.
    #15

    I just don’t take seriously their claim that personal liberty is their chief concern.

    Ah, well you see the thing is that their personal liberty is their chief concern. Libertarians believe that they should be able to do whatever they want, and everyone else should also be free to do whatever libertarians want.

    abewoelk
    #33

    Just to take a simple example, the question, “Is it fair that single mothers live in poverty” can be answered by the question “Is it fair that people have children they can’t afford and then expect other people to pick up the tab.”

    Fair’s got nothing to do with it, since you claim to be a utilitarian (you’re laughably bad at that, btw). The only question is which leads to the least harm/greatest net benefit. Looked at from that perspective, there’s only one possible answer, which is a social safety net (I.e the one you oppose). A deeply essential part of utilitarianism is actually comparing the net utility of alternate courses of action, using facts and data.

    I’m willing to work with other atheists on issues on which we agree; I’m not willing to be told that being a political moderate makes me a bad atheist.

    Ah, the classic American ‘moderate’ “I’ll repeat right-wing talking points until my face is blue, and insist that they’re just ‘alternate viewpoints’ with at least equal validity to fact-based policies, but don’t you dare call me a conservative. I’m totally in favor of equality and all that good shit, as long as nothing practical is actually done about it.”
    #49

    So even though I tend toward being egalitarianism, I don’t think it’s strictly speaking correct to say that egalitarianism is “right” and racism is “wrong”

    Which makes you a nitwit and an apologist for racism. As was already pointed out to you, the premises of racism are factually incorrect, and thus any social structures based on or derived from same are definitionally wrong, in that they are based on inaccurate premises and cause demonstrable harm. This sort of thing is something utilitarians have to pay attention to, otherwise you sound like a complete idiot spewing half-understood buzzwords to justify your asshole beliefs and behaviors.

    There simply isn’t enough money to do everything that it would be nice to do, so hard choices sometimes have to be made.

    BZZZZT! Wrongo, mate. For someone who insists you’re not a libertarian, you sure are good at repeating their talking points. The U.S. government would actually save money by instituting single-payer healthcare, once all the costs are accounted for. Cutting military spending to a level commensurate with actual military threats would allow for considerable rebuilding of critical infrastrucure (bridges especially), and the construction of new infrastructure (such as universal high-speed internet access or high-speed rail), and that’s not even getting into restructuring the tax rates and simply borrowing more (contrary to libertarian theology, national debt is not intrinsically a problem, and first-world countries do considerably better than the U.S. while carrying considerably more debt relative to GDP. All this blithering about ‘hard-choices’ is FUD pumped out by the ultra-rich who want to fuck everyone else over, because it’s no fun for them being rich if they don’t get to sneer at people who are struggling.

    it does mean nobody should pretend that people who have children they couldn’t afford are victims or that what they have done is noble. It isn’t.

    See, this kind of bullshit right here? Basically the opposite of utilitarianism.
    #96

    If someone were to make a list of actions you can take that virtually guarantee you will spend the rest of your life in poverty, having children you can’t afford would be at the top of the list, right next to dropping out of school or getting a degree in something that doesn’t pay well. And the thing is, most of the time, people don’t do those things because they were forced into them; they do them because they’re stupid.

    Pitch-perfect libertarian cant. Again. Ignoring the fact that in much of the U.S. sex ed is not provided or available, contraception difficult or impossible to access. Ignoring the fact that many school districts don’t provide any better education on any other topics (but having a standardized national curriculum is ‘leftist’ and evil). Pretending that ‘degrees in something that doesn’t pay well’ are something perfectly predictable 4-12 years in advance. Acting as though the pay scales for various types of job are a law of nature. You’ve got those talking points down cold, Mr totally-not-a-libertarian
    #109

    Most people who have children they can’t afford, do so because they can’t be bothered to use birth control.

    Citation needed, shit for brains. Also, still ignoring widespread lack of sex-ed and access to contraception.

    Kagehi #34

    They are not required to have a sound concept of what businesses will actually work, just how to make them successful, in theory, using strategies like “don’t pay your employees more than you need to, if you want to actually compete”

    And even then, they only know how to make businesses ‘work’ in the sense that they transfer the maximum amount of money into the pockets of the shareholders in the shortest time, rather than for values of ‘work’ that include efficiently providing quality goods and services.

    cr #52

    there is no possibility of validly using Boolean logic or others like it.

    When that’s the correct form of logic, I cannot see how anyone refusing to use it could legitimately claim to be acting based on utilitarian concerns/thought processes.

    zttp #56

    That doesn’t sound right

    It’s not. The article writer misrecalled the figure. 400 people own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans, who own considerably less than 50% of the wealth between them (which is rather the problem, really).

    brett #66

    But I don’t see how income inequality ties into that as an Atheist issue. Poverty is a separate issue,

    No, it isn’t separate at all. They’re two sides of the same coin; the reason so many people are poor is because wealth is so concentrated among so few people. Money for social programs comes from taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, and thereby keeps that money circulating, for a net economic benefit as well as the social benefits of people not starving, freezing, or suffering and dying from treatable conditions.
    #67

    Why this perception that we have to get everything progressive under a single movement? I think it’s perfectly fine to be part of an Atheist Movement whose primary focus is fighting superstition in the schools and the attempted enshrinement of religious practices in government, a separate movement in favor of LGBT rights, and another movement in favor of stronger safety nets.

    Because education is part of those same social safety nets, along with workplace protections, civil rights guarantees, and the other things that progressives favor?

    cubist #81

    And on top of that, there’s rather a lot of religious social-good organizations who actually do provide measurable real-world benefits to people in need

    And they never provide enough to get people out of need, only enough to string them along for a while. And there’s never, ever, enough to go around and help all those who actually need it.

    ekwhite

    Your definition of “political moderate” sure sounds like a right winger to me

    That’s pretty much always the case in the U.S. ‘moderate’ means ‘supports the right wing, but doesn’t like to admit it, because they’re such blatant assholes’.

  123. 123
    M can help you with that.

    most of the poor people I’ve known over my life, most of their poverty was avoidable as well. You do them no favors by pretending otherwise.

    Fuck you.

    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

    Oh, in case I haven’t mentioned it — fuck you.

    Partly because your anecdata is full of shit. But also because you don’t stick to the claim of majority status — you also insist that everyone be treated as if we were your straw majority.

    So yeah, you’re insisting that I be treated like shit on the grounds of psychiatric disability. So fuck you for that. You also, though, imply that people who fit the category (“poor”) that I fit due to a specific psychiatric disability deserve to fit that category and, thus, deserve to be treated like shit. And fuck you for that, too. Poor and/or broke-as-fuck people are poor and/or broke-as-fuck for a whole multitude of reasons, many of which include various degrees of psychiatric disability and many of which do not. Either way, though, you are in no fucking position to be judging worthiness, categorically or individually. Fuck off, go away, and let the less-morally-stunted people get back to the business of trying to create a culture which is humane for everyone, not just the people who you in your infinite wisdom declare worthy of consideration.

    Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it yet? Fuck you.

  124. 124
    chigau (違う)

    M can help you with that. #123
    Good answer.

  125. 125
    consciousness razor

    See, this kind of bullshit right here? Basically the opposite of utilitarianism.

    But it’s so pure and at such a high level, you just can’t understand the measurements of utility, all happening behind the curtain. *waves hands* Look over there!

    Ah, never mind, it was nothing. So, on to the next point….

    When that’s the correct form of logic, I cannot see how anyone refusing to use it could legitimately claim to be acting based on utilitarian concerns/thought processes.

    It doesn’t matter what you can or can’t see. By using the word “utilitarianism,” the arguments are clearly more sophistimicated. That extra sophistimication is the relevant difference in utility, compared to not using the word. The fact that no one buys this shit is irrelevant, since any facts (by virtue of being facts!) can be regarded as irrelevant.

    That’s pretty much always the case in the U.S. ‘moderate’ means ‘supports the right wing, but doesn’t like to admit it, because they’re such blatant assholes’.

    A different way of putting it is that we have no substantial left wing to speak of. So anyone who claims to be a “moderate” or “centrist” may be technically correct in the limited scope of our political system, but this makes them die-hard right-wingers in reality. They don’t want poor children to starve — heavens no, we’re not barbarians! — the ones to be starved are merely the parents of poor children. Because they must have been “stupid,” which must mean they deserve what’s inevitably coming to them. I’m sure the children would be very happy about this outcome. Or if the children are centrists, they just don’t give a fuck.

  126. 126
    chigau (違う)

    So what is the actual reason for refusing to copy-paste the nym and number of the quote?

  127. 127
    consciousness razor

    Because they must have been “stupid,” which must mean they deserve what’s inevitably coming to them.

    Except when what’s coming to them is welfare, obviously. That’s not guided by the hand of God the free market, so it’s not inevitable. Nor is it invisible, which is to say people can actually see the positive consequences it has.

    The point is, nobody deserves that. Because it’s what people want. And we should not give them what they want, lest we encourage them to continue existing and such. It’d be better if they were just out of our way altogether. Higher utility in that, you see.

  128. 128
    consciousness razor

    chigau, #126:

    So what is the actual reason for refusing to copy-paste the nym and number of the quote?

    I don’t refuse it. I forget to do it sometimes. Sorry.

  129. 129
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    I’m still waiting for abewoelk to present the numbers on rampant fraud and abuse of the system and how people suck on the government tit their whole lives because they’re just stupid and lazy and any other dog whistle words you can think of.

  130. 130
    abewoelk

    At Cripdyke, 119, you seem to think that there’s a rule that says that comments have to comment on every possible tangent that could arise, and sorry, this is a blog comment, not a doctoral dissertation. I’m not going to talk about lesbian sex or blow jobs when the subject is procreation because, well, lesbian sex and blowjobs don’t lead to procreation. They might lead to STDs, including HIV transmission, so they, too, can be dangerous, but that doesn’t happen to be the specific danger we were talking about at the time. Most of the rest of your comment involves taking my earlier comments completely out of context.

    At Nerd, 114, morality has nothing to do with it. I’m a utilitarian, remember? That means that my inquiry is limited to “Behavior X is more likely than not to produce Y result.” Or, in this case, having children you can’t afford is more likely than not to lead to poverty. So, decide if you want to be poor, and make your reproductive choices accordingly.

    Bicarbonate, No. 109, my mother was a product of her own religious upbringing, and there’s some stuff in her background I haven’t mentioned, so I’m actually inclined to cut her more slack than my earlier comment would suggest. That said, I think one of the few things Marx got right is that religion is the opiate of the masses. Opium is, of course, a powerfully addictive narcotic that’s incredibly difficult to get free from. However, when someone has an addiction, be it drug, alcohol, religion, or irresponsible sex, I think it is possible to BOTH recognize that they are a product of their circumstances AND ALSO recognize that tough love sometimes means just exactly that, and that they ultimately are responsible for the choices they make.

    And M, No. 123, I would say “fuck you” right back except I suspect you’re probably not my type.

    And, I have an early plane to catch tomorrow morning, so that will be my last contribution to this thread.

  131. 131
    chigau (違う)

    abewoelk
    Your comments lead me to believe that you are a very bad person.
    And rather stupid.
    Bless your heart.

  132. 132
    abewoelk

    Oh, and one last thing. I did not say that the poor choose to be poor. I said they make choices that lead to poverty. Those are not the same thing, although if you don’t read carefully I can understand how they might be confusing.

    And, while I had assumed it would be obvious, apparently it is, so I’ll state it clearly: My comments are not directed to victims of rape, abuse, or mental illness. They are directed to people who make bad choices.

  133. 133
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    The whole “single mother” shit being trotted out, has the same air as the stupid ass claim that welfare queens are poppin out babies for the added benefits which they then use to fund their Bimmers and nails and shoes shopping. I’m so fucking pissed off right now. Original research by Abe consists of watching Maury Povich and Judge Judy.
    abewoelk@132:

    They are directed to people who make bad choices.

    What are the figures on the amount of people who’ve made “bad choices” who are also on long-term public assistance? How do you determine that this is an actual problem and not a bogeyman talking point by right wingers?

  134. 134
    chigau (違う)

    abewoelk
    There is nothing confusing about anything you’ve said.
    You have stated many times “abewoelk is a flaming arsehole”.
    We™ agree.

  135. 135
    consciousness razor

    abewoelk, #130:

    At Nerd, 114, morality has nothing to do with it. I’m a utilitarian, remember?

    It’s almost funny how egregiously, pathetically ignorant you are, while attempting to “correct” people on their “errors.” When these are extremely basic facts which require nothing more than a simple google search, you know there is a problem … well, others know, but evidently you don’t. Just stop talking.

  136. 136
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    And one last question for abewoelk to ponder over on what I hope is a very turbulent flight: How are choices limited by poverty? I.e.: What opportunities are not available to them? How can we correct for the fact that the children born into poverty are less likely to escape poverty due to such a lack of opportunity?

  137. 137
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    How can we correct for the fact that the children born into poverty are less likely to escape poverty due to such a lack of opportunity?

    I hope you find that the reasonable answer is to give them, and their entire family, the assistance they need, regardless of the moral policing attitude right wing authoritarians try to establish as a fact with nothing but second-hand anecdotes.

  138. 138
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    morality has nothing to do with it. I’m a utilitarian, remember?

    No, you are a fuckwitted idjit pretending you aren’t making moral decisions, when you are. And since you present not evidence to back you your OPINIONS, they are dismissed as fuckwittery. You aren’t very smart, which requires your to take your own attitudes to a reality check, and all you offer is MRA/liberturd slogans. Which makes you hushfile material until you develop a real morality.

  139. 139
    SallyStrange

    Bad choices? I’m more concerned about the bad choices made by the powerful, which are currently leading us down the path to climate change, than the bad choices made by the powerless. Punishing people who have no power to do anything but ask for help, well. It’s already been stated what Abewoelk’s position reveals about his lack of moral character.

    And… pardon me, I’m not a philosopher, but I thought utilitarianism was a subset of morality.

  140. 140
    consciousness razor

    abewoelk, #132:

    Oh, and one last thing. I did not say that the poor choose to be poor. I said they make choices that lead to poverty. Those are not the same thing, although if you don’t read carefully I can understand how they might be confusing.

    What’s confusing is why you think this matters. Something leads some people into poverty, while other things lead others into poverty. Wouldn’t any utilitarian/consequentialist look at such a situation and ask “what are the best ways we can we get them out of poverty?”

    Because the consequences you want to avoid? They’re being in poverty and all the negative shit that comes with it, for fuck’s sake. Not whether they feel good about being nearly-in-poverty (after assistance), whether they chose to put themselves there, whether choices they made put them there (without the end result of poverty being their intention), whether stupidity was involved, or anything of the sort. What you want to address is the end result itself: poverty. You said we should (disregarding all this) be satisfied with poverty, by making a false claim that society itself can’t afford to do anything about it, then failing to address any criticism of this exact point which is (or was?) so central to your argument. So you apparently don’t care at all what the real effects are for real people; making up a lot of bullshit is the only goal.

    And, while I had assumed it would be obvious, apparently it is, so I’ll state it clearly: My comments are not directed to victims of rape, abuse, or mental illness. They are directed to people who make bad choices.

    People who make bad choices shouldn’t be treated like dirt either. And we should make sure the bad consequences of their choices are negated or reduced by our actions, not amplified by them.

  141. 141
    Ing

    most of the poor people I’ve known over my life, most of their poverty was avoidable as well. You do them no favors by pretending otherwise.

    Instead either exploit or ignore them! Because Utilitarianism

    You know most of the people I’ve seen hit in the face with 2/4 boards were in situations they could have avoided.

  142. 142
    Ing

    Abe has successfully convinced me of the immorality of moderatism. According to him it seems to be the philosophy of “well being a shit some of the time is necessary”

    I can only assume this also carries over into “being SOMEWHAT racist is ok” and “being somewhat sexist is ok” as well. Moderate to him seems to mean “does not actively burn a cross”

  143. 143
    ChasCPeterson

    Those of us whose every choice in life has been the Correct choice can but pity all you poor choosers.
    We pity you, but our choices have gotten us ours, so ha! Too bad you chose wrong! Suckers!

  144. 144
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    CR

    It doesn’t matter what you can or can’t see. By using the word “utilitarianism,” the arguments are clearly more sophistimicated. That extra sophistimication is the relevant difference in utility, compared to not using the word. The fact that no one buys this shit is irrelevant, since any facts (by virtue of being facts!) can be regarded as irrelevant.

    I tend to consider myself to be largely (although not entirely, for practical reasons*) utilitarian, which is why I’m castigating him about his technique more than the concept. There’s a lot of value in utilitarian analyses, people like abewoelk just do a really shitty job of them, and also have really shitty utility matrices to start with.

    *Rather a paradox of ‘pure’ utilitarianism is that it often accounts poorly for certain aspects of predictable human behaviours.
    Ingdigo Jump

    Abe has successfully convinced me of the immorality of moderatism. According to him it seems to be the philosophy of “well being a shit some of the time is necessary”

    QFMFT

  145. 145
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @abewoelk

    I’m not going to talk about lesbian sex or blow jobs when the subject is procreation because, well, lesbian sex and blowjobs don’t lead to procreation.

    Duh.

    And I wouldn’t expect you to. But there you were, using a phrase that includes lesbian sex and blowjobs because you don’t even know how to write with any specificity the point you’re actually trying to make. I didn’t bring those things up: you did. If you want to leave it out, don’t bring them up with your sloppy writing.

    Most of the rest of your comment involves taking my earlier comments completely out of context.

    No. Besides pointing out that you assume heterosexuality and specific forms of sex such that you don’t even recognize the need to clarify a facially vague statement, it involves refuting your argument and showing where your writing is self-contradictory.

    Do you or do you not insist that the existence – the mere existence – of “god” (here undefined) is a question of empirical evidence? You earlier did. Do you maintain that position? If you do, it’s hard to see how you have any contribution to a discussion on faith as you seem to believe it doesn’t apply to the single biggest question on which its use is advocated…and not for no reason either.

    If you can’t address a refutation – either show why its wrong or concede that it refutes your **apparent** point, but that, in fact, you meant to say X instead of why – then you have to concede that you were wrong. Otherwise, a discussion goes nowhere.

  146. 146
    consciousness razor

    Dalillama, #144:

    I tend to consider myself to be largely (although not entirely, for practical reasons*) utilitarian, which is why I’m castigating him about his technique more than the concept.

    Right, well, I’m about the same. It’s an approach to ethics, often a good one, not the approach. Anyway, I wasn’t criticizing utilitarianism there, just making fun of the obvious nonsense posing as utilitarianism. I was also criticizing the nihilism involved in disregarding facts, which is sort of a side-issue except that it cannot be part of any brand of utilitarianism even in theory.

    There’s a lot of value in utilitarian analyses, people like abewoelk just do a really shitty job of them, and also have really shitty utility matrices to start with.

    He’s not a utilitarian. If you weren’t convinced by many of his other claims, he made it very clear that he has no idea what it even is, much less is it something he practices or agrees with in some way, no matter how confused or misapplied his concept of it may be (or would be, if there’s any sense in saying he had a concept of it). To remove it from ethics would be to remove so much that there wouldn’t be any meaning left.

  147. 147
    SallyStrange

    I just find is spectacularly obtuse and lacking in imagination to refuse to imagine a world in which “can’t afford to have children” isn’t even a thing.

  148. 148
    mary2

    Rayfowler @ 38: I agree with most of what you say. I think ‘atheism+’ is a great idea and one should take every opportunity to stand against racism, sexism and other bigotries. I also think that the best place to fight for the environment is to join an environmrntal organisation; the best place to fight for single mothers is in the political sphere etc. I think that many, if not most, atheists with a conscience are already doing this. I have nothing against turning an atheist blog site into a movement of whatever thinkers you want it to be but, perhaps a more practical way of effecting change in the real world would be to encourage people to pursue the avenues already in place rather than starting a new one.

    Consciousness razor @ 46: Is everyone who disagrees with your politics “a bad person” or is it possible that some political questions just don’t have an easy black amd white answer?

  149. 149
    brucegorton

    @49 abewoelk

    Except poverty is economically expensive – it actually costs more to society overall in terms to resources to have a high income gap than to have a narrower one.

    Take South Africa as an example, we, much like the US, have a large income gap. The result is that we are a frequent target for industrial action and have a major violent crime problem. We also tend to have a less educated workforce than a lot of our competitors, due to the fact that access to education is an economic concern.

    Okay, so here is the result of all of this:

    Lonmin has repeatedly missed its environmental targets, apologised for it, and then promptly done nothing about it, meaning they miss the next one. Instead of punishing them for that, the government has essentially eased up on its environmental regulations in order to allow them to keep operating because the alternative may mean job losses.

    Except of course that hits to health tend to be both highly expensive and unbudgeted. People just don’t think about how much cancer costs in terms of resources. The workers, and local communities thus end up falling victim to loan sharks when they fall sick and need the money to tide them over being sick, or to get their kids to a decent doctor, which means that to a large extent their wages are effectively halved.

    The local communities thus hate Lonmin, and the workforce recently went on a major strike which ended up costing the country in investor confidence, setting up a domino effect of strikes ripping through the mining industry as a whole.

    It also excacerbates issues like access to education, which in turn leads to greater problems with regards to youth unemployment, leading to greater crime problems which in turn hurt our economy even further.

    Hazy View is a logging town with a side order of tourism due to its proximity to the Kruger National Park, recent reports of tourists getting robbed won’t help that tourist industry.

    It costs more to be poor than it does to be wealthy, because poverty introduces a lot in the way of wastage of resources. A relatively prosperous people can afford to say no to industries that operate in a wasteful and damaging manner, they can afford to invest in technology and science which reduces how much you need in order to produce the same resource.

    It is the old problem of cost cutting in business, nine times out of ten it doesn’t lead to great things for the company because it means cutting production, which means cutting income, which means the business dies.

    Lonmin can get away with the way it operates because our country has a high poverty level, much as Shell can get away with its treatment of Nigeria because of Nigeria’s high poverty level. Our country is desperate for jobs, and thus those offering them can get away with that little bit more than they should.

    However in real terms the result is greater wastage across the whole economy, which means greater expense in terms of resources. While it could cost Lonmin more to operate ethically, it does cost us more as a country for it not to, but because of that high level of poverty doing anything about it is politically risky and difficult because it could cost jobs in the short term.

    The fact that resources are limited is not an argument against doing anything about poverty levels, it is an argument for it.

  150. 150
    consciousness razor

    mary2, #148:

    Consciousness razor @ 46: Is everyone who disagrees with your politics “a bad person” or is it possible that some political questions just don’t have an easy black amd white answer?

    I don’t need to believe I’m wrong about what is good or bad. If I did believe I was wrong about something, I would try to have what I think is the correct belief. If we disagree about some substantial issue in ethics (of which politics is a subset), at least one of us must be wrong. Thus, at least one of us must be proposing something unethical.

    At the same time, not all questions need to have an easy black and white answer, and nothing I’ve said suggests they’re easy or black and white.

    I’ll add that none of this supports political centrism, since I assume your comment is in response to my claim at the end of #46.

    So the answers, in order, are “no, it’s possible they aren’t” and “yes, that’s not just possible but is actually the case,” with a side of “this isn’t relevant.”

  151. 151
    mary2

    PZ @ 55: “Then your atheism is totally irrelevant to your life or other people’s lives, so you shouldn’t be part of any atheist movement.” I think this is possibly a response to an intentionally simplistic understanding of what the commentator meant.

    Atheism “in and of itself” doesn’t say anything about a person’s worldview – full stop. One can extrapolate that a person who has reached atheism through application of reason could be assumed to apply similar reason to other beliefs and may, therefore, share concerns and views with similar atheists. One could further extrapolate that these atheists may be willing to work together to pursue these shared beliefs, even under the umbrella of their atheism, but none of this is a forgone conclusion. Atheism “in and of itself” means only one thing: if you want atheism as the flag for a wider movement, in the interests of clarity, it may be wise to expand the label to reflect this. (Perhaps ‘Atheism +’? ;) )

  152. 152
    mary2

    Burgandy @ 64: Very nice summary.

    Brett @ 66: very nicely put.

    It is not that these issues are not important but is addressing them under the umbrella of atheism, instead of directly, going to have maximum input; especially when there are issues (as detailed by Brett) which still need to be addressed and which closely tie into atheism?

    Bicarbonate @ 78: Are you suggesting that all racism and sexism is descended from theology? Racism has also been defended and perpetrated using the very opposite of religion – i.e. Social Darwinism from the 1830s used the ideas of evolution to suggest that some human populations were more evolved than others and colonisation was just ‘survival of the fittest’ in action. This was not mere replacement of religious reasoning – religion was still alive and well. What would now be termed sexism among some early hunter/gatherer groups had nothing to do with religion but was purely derived from practicalities of childrearing. It’s a little harder to breastfeed and carry babies when you are following game with a spear in the other hand. Religious justification sometimes followed other beginnings: not the other way around. As much as I agree that religion is a dark force in the universe it is not always, and not the only, bad guy. Conversely atheist does not inherently mean ‘for the good of all’ as previous discussion of libertarians would attest.

  153. 153
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Conversely atheist does not inherently mean ‘for the good of all’ as previous discussion of libertarians would attest.

    No it doesn’t. Why not make it so it starts meaning that?

  154. 154
    jefrir

    Mary2, yes, atheism by itself doesn’t say anything about a person’s worldview. But the mere fact of having an “atheist movement” suggests that that movement is doing something, else you haven’t really got a movement. You’ve just got a bunch of people saying “Yes, I agree, there is no god”. At which point we might as well all go home. It’s fine if people don’t want to do more than that, but if we’ve got something worth the name “movement” then it needs to move – and social justice seems like a pretty good thing to move towards.

  155. 155
    jste

    mary2, 151:

    Atheism “in and of itself” doesn’t say anything about a person’s worldview – full stop.

    I don’t understand why this keeps coming up. Consider: For most of humanity, our ethical framework is built on our religious values. On what angers our gods, and what pleases them.

    Except we’ve rejected those gods. We’ve rejected the very worldview that our society’s moral framework cam from! If doing that does not say anything about your world view, well. I have to believe you aren’t thinking. Or reading. Or perhaps you aren’t being honest. Because atheism has implications. A refusal to believe in higher powers, or heaven and hell, has consequences. Most of us here worked that out, some of us long ago, myself personally, only recently. Most of us here want to see these poor excuses for societies of ours improve, and see as many people as we can living securely. And we can do that, because we aren’t shackled by our gods. Tell me again, how my atheism does not say anything about my world views?

  156. 156
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    abewoelk

    So, while I will even agree that there should be a minimal social safety net — we’re not barbarians[1]; we don’t want children to starve to death — at the same time, my main point is that if you’re going to help people evade the consequences of their own stupid behavior, then be prepared to have more stupid behavior. If you subsidize something, you get more of it[2]. That’s Economics 101. So yes, feed the children, but cut the crap about how their parents are victims.[3]

    [1] You can take your racism and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine
    [2] Yes, because parents are really looking forward to seeing yet another kid of theirs being marginalized and cut off from society. Really, there’s no greater joy than telling your kid that no, they can’t go on a school trip because that costs 10 bucks, or that no matter how much they hate them they’re not getting anything but hand-me-downs. Really, why wouldn’t anybody sign up for that as long as they’re not starving?
    [3] Really, they should have known they would divorce within 10 years. Or that Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Banco de Santander and so on would ruin the economy for a few decades to come. Really, stop crying about how the workers at GM who never did anything but put in an honest day of work are somehow disproportionally affected by a crisis they didn’t cause!
    And yeah, I’m sorry that you had a shitty childhood. Tell you what, I had one as well. Tell you another thing, my parents were middle class. My husband grew up poor. Both he and his brother were contraceptive failures. Better said, his brother was the result of a doctor telling his mother she was infertile. No abortion avaiable. He still grew up much better than I did with my vacations at the seaside, because he was raised by loving people.
    And just in case it escaped your attention: Your parents obviously didn’t care about whether they could care for the children they made. No matter how little support they would have gotten, it apparently didn’t make a difference. But apparently you’d ratehr have children who were born to parents who fell on hard times* and children born to shitty parents by no fault of their own suffer to re-enact your revenge on your own parents.

    *There’s a debt counsellor where my husband works and he recently gave a talk for the Union representatives about his work. 90% of those who are about to file for bankruptcy are in that situation through no particular fault of their own: divorce, disease, accidents, partner’s loss of job… They did everything right, carefully calculated their finances and then something bad happened.

    Bicarbonate, here’s a simple thought experiment to show you what I mean by special treatment: Suppose a man is walking down the street and realizes that a thief is attempting to steal his wallet, so he turns around and punches the thief in the mouth. Would it make any difference to you if the thief were male or female?[1] If your answer is yes (and I’m not assuming it is), then you support special treatment for women — a female thief should be given consideration that a male thief shouldn’t just because she’s a girl.[2]

    [1] No, because hitting people over supposed property theft is not justified.
    [2] Hitting assholes who punch children, OTOH, is fully justified.

    So, decide if you want to be poor, and make your reproductive choices accordingly.

    Oh, and one last thing. I did not say that the poor choose to be poor.

    No, that’s true. You said they decide if they want to be poor. That’s totally different.

    And, while I had assumed it would be obvious, apparently it is, so I’ll state it clearly: My comments are not directed to victims of rape, abuse, or mental illness. They are directed to people who make bad choices.

    Ahhh, which means cutting the social security for all of them because you can’t be having people who made a bad choice not suffering the full consequences for their choices for the next 5 generations and then spend a few comforting words on the deserving poor.
    I mean, if those single mothers had just stayed with the abusive yet providing father, they wouldn#t be poor now, right?
    And if they hadn’t gotten pregnant in the first place they wouldn’t be forced to stay with an abusive asshole because of the kids, right?
    And if they hadn’t gotten involved with the guy who turned out an abusive asshole after they became dependent on him they wouldn’t have ended up in that situation at all.
    See, they choose everything!

    +++
    Chas

    Those of us whose every choice in life has been the Correct choice can but pity all you poor choosers.

    Funny thing is, I made a lot of “poor choices*” but somehow I’m still fine. Couldn’t be that I have a metric shitton of privilege and simple luck that makes the difference between me beeing a respectable member of society and one of these worthless single-mother-welfare-queens who pop out more babies than they can afford…
    *for a very negotiable value of “poor” and “choice”

  157. 157
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    jste,

    Atheism should say a lot about one’s worldview, but it’s a guessing game what it does say.

    Example: atheists who rationalize sexism with “natural order” or some bullshit like that, once they lose the excuse of god’s given dominion of men over women

  158. 158
    jste

    Beatrice,

    Atheism should say a lot about one’s worldview, but it’s a guessing game what it does say.

    True enough. At a bare minimum, it at least says “My worldview is not based on a fear of eternal punishment by a giant sky-fairy,” one should hope, which is still more than a couple of people in this thread apparently want it to say.

  159. 159
    DanDare

    I really don’t care what the movement is called. Its a movement that arises when enough people reject the stifling influence of religion. The movement itself is enabled by the atheism of its members.

    Call it the atheism movement, atheism plus, the boogly woogly movement.

    One thing the movement needs is people who can communicate why things are important and why the apathetic should engage.

    For example P.Z. mentions the gap between the rich and the poor. Who can articulate the reasons why this is bad in a way that lights bulbs in other peoples minds?

  160. 160
    Nick Gotts

    Making it harder for poor people to support their families won’t make people less religious; in fact it’s more likely to make them dependent on religious communities. – burgundy@116

    QFT. It’s no accident that the USA, which among rich countries is the one with the worst social safety net, is also by far the most religious; and the religious right know what they are doing when they oppose public welfare provision, universal health care, high-quality public education.

    It’s not a question of doing people favors, but of public policy (education, health services, economic opportunity) that allows and encourages people to make better choices, and that when they don’t or can’t or when bad luck strikes, that there is still hope. – bicarbonate

    QFT again. Greater economic equality (to which the public policies you mention are important contributors), improves almost all measures of social welfare – including such measures as substance abuse, violence, and teenage pregnancy. So, abewoelk, contrary to your “let ‘em suffer” pseudo-utilitarianism, making the consequences of poor decisions less severe actually leads to people making fewer poor choices. As so often, “economics 101″ turns out to be simplistic, self-interested garbage peddled on behalf of the privileged. Income inequality (which of course makes the consequences of poor decisions worse) also correlates strongly with religiosity, as does poor societal health. So if atheists really want atheism to flourish, they need to adopt your despised “leftist politics” abewoelk – a conclusion based on systematic, peer-reviewed research, rather than your personal anecdata. You’ve clearly had a hard life; to see someone in that position, who has struggled with some success to overcome their disadvantages, despise those who have failed to do so, is less repulsive than to see those born with silver spoons in their mouths doing so, but it is no more ethically or rationally justifiable.

  161. 161
    Nick Gotts

    Dan Dare@159,
    See #160.

  162. 162
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    jste,

    Heh, yes. People flying under the dictionary banner would make more sense if they didn’t take their argument to absurd extremes.

  163. 163
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Mary2 @ 152

    Are you suggesting that all racism and sexism is descended from theology?

    No, I’m suggesting that in many places across the planet, pre-modern social orders, in which a place in society is assigned by birth, are justified (not caused) by supernatural stories (“theology” is too specific). For example, the caste system in India, justified by the belief that people are born into the caste they deserve to be born into because of karma accumulated in past lives. Or in European middle ages, writings about the organization of angels in heaven (very complex and strange to modern readers) that reflected and were used to justify the feudal social order on earth. In Rwanda, the relationship between Hutus and Tutsis (roles, obligations, inferior/superior) justified by stories concerning the separate origin of these peoples (Hutus desscended from ants, the Tutsis descended from I can’t remember what). In Europe, the first time a census was suggested (in order to find out how many people in the region were aged 7, 14, 21, etc. –a multiple of 7 because this was an unlucky astrological number and it was believed that at these ages people were more susceptible of dying and there was a small pox epidemic and….) the census proposal caused a scandal because the idea was to count all human beings when it was obvious to everyone that the nobility could not be counted with the common folk because they were beings of an entirely different order. Pre-modern social orders divide labor and assign duties, rights and privileges based on sex, caste, class, order, guild, age, freeborn or not, ethnicity, tribe, clan, etc. Whatever the reason for the emergence of a social order of some kind (utility, domination), people are kept in their places and the social orders are commonly justified by stories, supernatural stories, just-so stories, that may or may not qualify as parts of what we now think of as religion.

    When the stories are no longer believed or are not believed by everyone, it allows challenging the social order. When the French challenged the old stories, they beheaded the King and Queen, a good part of the nobility and the clergy (all of whose power was of divine origin), they declared the ancien régime dead, declared that they were now in the year 0, renamed the months and created new secular holidays, etc., they attempted to create a new society (that did not last very long).

    The inequality of the races, sexes and so on, are explained and justified by supernatural narratives. When the narrative breaks down (women are secondary because created from Adam’s rib, dark peoples are descended from Cain and therefore cursed by God), those with an interest in perpetuating the old unequal order can and will find new stories to justify it such as the Social Darwinism you mention, 19th century anthropology, evolutionary psychology, an Ayn Rand novel or facts pulled out of their asses or whatever including

    I seriously question whether anybody really and truly believes in gender equality (abewoelk @72)

    .

    But ultimately, refusing to believe in supernatural explanations for the order of things and the order of society, means attempting to look at things as they are, to describe them and explain them through natural means. In the social sphere, it means implementing evidence-based policies because on the whole reality does seem to have a liberal bias.

  164. 164
    Nick Gotts

    You’ve just got a bunch of people saying “Yes, I agree, there is no god”. At which point we might as well all go home. – jefrir@154

    Exactly. If the atheist movement is not based on preferring some social outcomes to others, what could it possibly be about? If we’re not saying something like: “Religion and the ethical value-systems based on it give rise to undesireable consequences, which we want to change”, why do we even want to talk about our atheism? Without an atheistic value-system, how can we even object to the teaching of creationist lies in public schools, blasphemy laws, or the exclusion of “out” atheists from public office? I suppose the atheist “movement” could just be an excuse to pat ourselves and each other on the back for realising that religious belief is irrational, but that’s hardly enough to justify blogs, books, conferences, membership organizations… – and I’d certainly have no interest in taking part.

  165. 165
    Nick Gotts

    I think one of the few things Marx got right is that religion is the opiate of the masses. Opium is, of course, a powerfully addictive narcotic that’s incredibly difficult to get free from. – abewoelk@130

    Then it’s rather a shame you haven’t the slightest idea what he meant by that statement. Here it is in context:

    The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

    Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

    So you see, Marx was, in his somewhat verbose and jargon-heavy way, making the same point many of those arguing with you here have been making: atheism on its own is pointless – to be of any value, it must be part of a much broader criticism of the society that maintains it.

  166. 166
    LykeX

    @abewoelk #132

    Oh, and one last thing. I did not say that the poor choose to be poor. I said they make choices that lead to poverty.

    Do they know the consequences of their actions? If not, then you’re advocating punishing them for not acting on information they didn’t have.
    If they did know (and assuming they don’t actively want to be poor), they must have some irrational reason for not accepting the facts. Maybe they thought they’d be the exception; you know, the “it won’t happen to me” syndrome. In that case, the consequences are irrelevant for their actions. They don’t think those consequences will apply to them, so making the consequences worse won’t change their behavior.

    Leaving people to fend for themselves will not reliably prevent anyone from taking these actions that supposedly result in poverty. The only thing you achieve is the effect on the next generation; a purely negative effect.

  167. 167
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    abewoelk,

    I said they make choices that lead to poverty.

    I’m interested to know, at which point someone’s stupidity (if we take the worst case example which you try to push as the default) becomes reason enough they and their families should starve to death or expire on the street in winter?

  168. 168
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    And as Marx knew well, the solution is to fix the problems which lead people to turn to religion. Poverty, inequality and so on.

    Just focussing on that one oft-quoted sentence is simplistic, misrepresentative and somewhat arrogant. Trying to persuade people away from the only thing which gives them a feeling of relief from their troubles, without attempting to help them out of those troubles, A) won’t work, and B) seems bloody cruel.

  169. 169
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Nick Gotts @165

    The Marx opium quote. Wow. Never read that. Never in fact read Marx. Did not realize he was a great writer (should have suspected so, but didn’t). THANK YOU

  170. 170
    ekwhite

    Nick Gotts @165

    I was intending to upload the actual Marx quote and saw that you had beat me to it. Thank you.

    People like abewoelk who misquote Marx usually misunderstand or distort the meaning of the quote – opium as pain relief, not as “addictive substance” as abewoelk stated.

    Bicarbonate: yes Marx was a brilliant writer as well as a brilliant theorist.

  171. 171
    grayhame

    I really don’t understand how atheism is a political movement. It might form a small part of a political platform or ideology, but you need more than atheism, or even secular humanism or freethought.

    I have many atheist friends who are libertarian, conservative, liberal, ultra-socialist, and even a few anarchists. We are all atheists, yet we disagree politically on many many issues, and there are many issues we have agreement. PZ and others here seem to imply that if I don’t subscribe to their brand of atheist politics, then I have no business belonging to an atheist movement. Or have I missed something? Compare Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens — both atheists (or agnostic for Chomsky) with some profound differences of opinion on political issues. It would be hard to reconcile their respective positions on many issues. This is why I cannot possibly understand or support a genetic atheist political movement — too many details have to be worked out, and these details will inevitably lead to significant differences that should be expressed as separate political parties.

    Or maybe, I’m just confused by the (ridiculous) two-party system in the U.S. It’s much better here in Canada :-)

  172. 172
    chigau (違う)

    Marx wrote in German so there are some pretty clever translators at work here, too.

  173. 173
    chigau (違う)

    grahame #171

    PZ and others here seem to imply that if I don’t subscribe to their brand of atheist politics, then I have no business belonging to an atheist movement.

    It must have taken some effort to extract that message.

  174. 174
    SallyStrange

    I really don’t understand how atheism is a political movement.

    I really don’t understand how people can NOT understand this, given how heavily our politics are dominated by religious thinking.

    If our politics were not such, if theocrats did not exist, if half the country were not so much in the thrall of religiously inspired false beliefs, such as that climate change is a hoax, or that evolution is, or that there’s something morally wrong with being gay, or that there’s something morally wrong with women choosing whether and when to reproduce, then atheism would not be a political movement.

    Serious question: were you being serious when you said you don’t understand how atheism is a political movement? Did what I just wrote help you understand? I mean seriously, once you accept that religion is a fantasy, if you value truth, how could you accept living in a society where people who believe in fantasies make the rules and expect you to live by them?

    Compare Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens — both atheists (or agnostic for Chomsky) with some profound differences of opinion on political issues.

    If they have profound differences of opinion, then one of them must be closer to the truth on a given issue. If you became an atheist because you value truth, empiricism, and critical thinking, then applying the same to the issues on which Hitchens and Chomsky differ should allow you to figure out which is which.

    What PZ is saying is that if you are going to have a political movement, then truth, empiricism, and critical thinking dictate that it should be a progressive political movement.

    If you aren’t down with truth, empiricism, and critical thinking then naturally you’d want no part of it.

  175. 175
    grayhame

    If you aren’t down with truth, empiricism, and critical thinking then naturally you’d want no part of it.

    I don’t think you got the gist of my point, which is that atheism alone is not enough to distinguish between different brands of “progressive politics” of which there are many. You can be a progressive conservative atheist or a progressive liberal atheist. If you can explain to me how you can use empiricism or logic to choose whether or not to be fiscally conservative or liberal, or on matters of market regulation, and so forth, then I may start to understand. Until then, it is great to espouse “critical thinking and empiricism” but I can’t see how a single atheist political movement will bridge these divides.

    Maybe this reflects my disdain for American-style politics and the black-or-white style of thinking — Democrat or Republican? As if any two political brands could possibly represent the vast diversity of political ideologies.

  176. 176
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I really don’t understand how atheism is a political movement.

    Then stop wearing blinders, and start looking around at society that is soaked in bullshit based on religion and religious holy books. Including laws and public morality. That means you should be political toward working for a secular society, where religion is relegated to sidelines; home and church only.
    Take one example, hating gays because the babble says so. How do you feel about that without religion? What can be done to change hating of gays? Now you are political.

  177. 177
    chigau (違う)

    graham #175
    This is the preferred method for quoting

    <blockquote>paste copied text here</blockquote>

    paste copied text here

    It is also polite to use the nym of the commenter and the number of the comment.

  178. 178
    SallyStrange

    I don’t think you got the gist of my point, which is that atheism alone is not enough to distinguish between different brands of “progressive politics” of which there are many.

    I guess you never got the gist of the point in the OP or in my post, which is that it’s not atheism that allows one to make such distinctions, but the aforementioned commitment to truth, empiricism, and critical thinking, which, when properly applied to supernatural claims, also results in atheism. So, howzabout you try addressing things people ARE saying rather than what they are NOT saying? That would be interesting.

  179. 179
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    grayhame #175

    You can be a progressive conservative atheist

    No, no you cannot. ‘Progressive conservative’ is an oxymoron on the same level as a ‘Marxist Nazi’.

    If you can explain to me how you can use empiricism or logic to choose whether or not to be fiscally conservative or liberal, or on matters of market regulation, and so forth, then I may start to understand.

    The depth of your ignorance is so stunning I hardly know where to start. Look up ‘Gilded Age’ on Wikipedia, that’ll at least give you a starting point. Market regulations are what stopped the constant boom-bust cycle that culminated in the Great Depression (and removal of same has led to the early 21st century busts, one of which is ongoing at the moment). Workplace safety regulations are a no-brainer, social safety nets provide an endless litany of social and economic benefits, many of which have been enumerated in this thread. Wealth inequality and poverty both largely stem from ‘free-market’ and so-called ‘fiscally conservative’ policies, once again covered lightly in this thread, etc.

  180. 180
    grayhame

    chigau #177

    It is also polite to use the nym of the commenter and the number of the comment.

    Thanks!

    Nerd of Redhead #176, I’m not wearing blinders. I am political and I am against homophobia, racism, and consider myself politically liberal an progressive. But so are my Buddhist friends and some of my more “moderate Christian” friends. I use quote for moderate Christian, because I secretly suspect them of being just as atheistic as I am, but just without the courage to admit it. But if I were to exclude these political allies because I can’t agree with them about atheism is narrow-minded and foolish, in my opinion.

    Just as a general comment, questioning the role of atheism in a political ideology is not the same thing as being apolitical. Atheism is TOO VAGUE to be a complete political ideology. It can be a part of one, but I would much rather see atheists talk about the kind of politics they would like to see rather than making sure that everyone in their movement is an atheist first before looking for common political ground.

  181. 181
    SallyStrange

    For instance:

    If you can explain to me how you can use empiricism or logic to choose whether or not to be fiscally conservative or liberal, or on matters of market regulation, and so forth, then I may start to understand.

    How do you do this? You look at the claims made by fiscal conservatives vs. fiscal liberals and see what evidence is presented. So far the evidence says that trickle-down economics is a lie and the Greenspan style of market regulation results in market failures, just for a couple of quick examples. It’s not like this hasn’t been discussed over and over again. Did you just emerge from a cloning vat or something, that you are so unaware of the existence of such claims, the evidence for and against them, and the discussions surrounding them?

  182. 182
    SallyStrange

    Atheism is TOO VAGUE to be a complete political ideology.

    Please stop contradicting what no one is saying and try to engage what people are saying.

  183. 183
    chigau (違う)

    grayhame
    sorry I misspelled your nym

  184. 184
    ChasCPeterson

    I got put in as a pinch-runner starting on third base, but I brag about choosing to hit a triple and sneer at those who have to try to bunt their way on with a broken broomstick. Hey, it was their choice to play metaphorical baseball!

    (why, yes, the Fall Classic is on my mind, why do you ask?)

  185. 185
    chigau (違う)

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy #179

    ‘Progressive conservative’ is an oxymoron on the same level as a ‘Marxist Nazi’.

    That explains alot about Canadian politics…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Conservative_Party_of_Canada
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Conservative_Association_of_Alberta

  186. 186
    grayhame

    No, no you cannot. ‘Progressive conservative’ is an oxymoron on the same level as a ‘Marxist Nazi’.

    Dalillama, in Canada we had a federal political party called the “Progressive Conservatives” and few provincial ones. I suggest you start with “Progessive Conservative” on wikipedia as a primer.

    You also misunderstood me if you think that I don’t understand why market regulations exist, workplace safety, and other issues are important or how empiricism and critical thinking led to their creation. What I’m talking about is the distinctions between competing political brands or ideologies. Maybe you envision a “atheism party” where everyone miraculously agrees on all issues because their all atheists! That would be as foolish as saying that all democrats should agree on issues. Or maybe you think that there is an ultimate political ideology that can be deduced through empiricism or critical thinking that everyone will agree.

    I think we are arguing a cross-purposes here, and my point is that I can’t rally behind the atheist banner because it isn’t sufficient to distinguish between progressive politics and non-progessive. Many non-atheists support progressive politics, and many atheists support non-progressive politics. You can’t even get some well-known (and self-professed progressive) atheists to agree on the need for rules and regulations around sexual harassment at conventions, let alone on running a nation.

  187. 187
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Chigau # 185 & Grayhame #186
    Looking at the Wikipedia articles, they were lying about the Progressive part. That’s not uncommon, IME.

    Grayhame

    You also misunderstood me if you think that I don’t understand why market regulations exist, workplace safety, and other issues are important or how empiricism and critical thinking led to their creation.

    So now you say that you were lying when you claimed not to understand in #175? To refresh your memory, then you said:

    If you can explain to me how you can use empiricism or logic to choose whether or not to be fiscally conservative or liberal, or on matters of market regulation, and so forth, then I may start to understand.

    This implies that you do not understand the empirical underpinnings which distinguish fact-based progressive policies from ‘fiscal conservatism’ (which means ‘doesn’t understand macroeconomics and has a poor grasp of microeconomics’ with a big side helping of ‘fuck the poor’). In fact, your statement at 175 is clearly the more correct one, in that you have demonstrated that you do not, in fact, understand the empirical distinction between different political goals.

  188. 188
    SallyStrange

    Maybe you envision a “atheism party” where everyone miraculously agrees on all issues because their all atheists!

    Again, can you see where anyone actually says that? Please engage with what people are saying rather than with what they are not saying (but what you imagine they “maybe” saying).

    I can’t rally behind the atheist banner because it isn’t sufficient to distinguish between progressive politics and non-progessive.

    That’s fine. However, since there ARE people who are rallying behind the atheist banner, and given that so far this coincides with a commitment to empiricism and critical thinking, as demonstrated by the atheist movement’s efforts to promote science education and combat creationism in schools, AND given that part of the goal of the atheist movement is to have more people becoming atheists rather than believing in false fantasies, the logical direction for such a movement to go is towards equality and inclusiveness. That these values are coded “left” and “progressive” is a sad indicator of the dysfunction of our political system.

  189. 189
    grayhame

    I think I’m being needlessly invidious. I agree with PZ’s main point that atheists should be able to agree on the big umbrella issues. Or if they don’t, they need to be engaged and forced to examine why they don’t and hopefully they will come around. I just think that even if religion wasn’t part of the political equation, we would still have to fight for progressive values. We just wouldn’t have to fight for atheism at the same time.

  190. 190
    SallyStrange

    I agree with PZ’s main point that atheists should be able to agree on the big umbrella issues.

    You continue to misunderstand, I think. To my mind, the proper phrasing would be:

    “I agree with PZ’s main point that atheists who have arrived at their atheism because of critical thinking and a commitment to the truth (and who experience empathy for their fellow human beings) should be able to agree on the big umbrella issues.”

    There are many atheists who did not arrive at atheism that way. Those atheists cannot and should not be expected to be on board with the goals of an atheist movement, (political and social) as distinct from “atheism.”

  191. 191
    grayhame

    There are many atheists who did not arrive at atheism that way. Those atheists cannot and should not be expected to be on board with the goals of an atheist movement, (political and social) as distinct from “atheism.”

    Point taken.

  192. 192
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @grayhame, who said:

    I don’t think you got the gist of my point, which is that atheism alone is not enough to distinguish between different brands of “progressive politics” of which there are many. You can be a progressive conservative atheist or a progressive liberal atheist. If you can explain to me how you can use empiricism or logic to choose whether or not to be fiscally conservative or liberal, or on matters of market regulation, and so forth, then I may start to understand. Until then, it is great to espouse “critical thinking and empiricism” but I can’t see how a single atheist political movement will bridge these divides.

    SallyStrange gave a statement that encapsulated the thought I will here expand.

    You’re not **using atheism**. Atheism is simply a failure to believe, an unwillingness to accept a particular proposition on faith. What creates an atheist community, however, is the fact that we have more in common this this “mere” or “dictionary” atheism. We tend to come to atheism from different places. Jews, frankly, have a long history of coming to atheism through a tradition of questioning, of discussion, critique, and improvement. It’s unsurprising that my judaism and my atheism are intertwined in complex ways. There are many, many more such atheist jews around. Then, of course, Jews aren’t the only ones with a tradition of learning and questioning. (Nor do we always get the right answers, particularly when we start with certain premises that forbid investigation of some causes/phenomena/consequences. We remind me of libertarians that way.) Many others, too, came to atheism through this questioning.

    Still others came to atheism not because of a personal search, but because of one undertaken by parents or grandparents: they were born into atheism. Others come for various other reasons, including the much maligned though certainly extant example of people who were primarily moved by being treated badly (let me not understate this, sometimes horrifically) in communities of birth that were very religious. Part of leaving behind the horror is leaving behind religion.

    We come with different experiences, but with a great many commonalities. A very large subset comes to atheism through critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence. For us, these are tools so powerful and so valued for that power, that they are indispensable. Certainly we can’t imagine how we would justify being an atheist without them. These tools that build our atheism also built many other things: Gregorian telescopes, x-ray crystallography, the Rutherford-Bohr model, and so on. These things made possible further advances in knowledge: would the knowledge of polymer chemistry or metallurgy or combustion necessary to make a modern car be possible without the Rutherford-Bohr model? I rather think not.

    So when we advocate applying the values of atheism to society, these are the values: critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence. Libertarians including libertarian atheists frequently use the latter two without the first. Whatever number of irrational atheists are out there (I don’t believe in gods, but have you heard about chemtrails and NDEs?) employ the first without the latter two. Obviously we will not be united.

    But when we agree on a problem, a large number of atheists agree that given the history of faith’s answers to difficult problems of practical relevance (Why are there seasons? Why is there day and night?) and given the history of answers built on critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence, we advocate the latter.

    I don’t care at all whether the solution supported by critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence was devised by the Heartland Institute or Ophelia Benson. To that extent, I’m politically independent. Nor do I care whether you define yourself as liberal, moderate, or conservative.

    But I care a great deal if when a person, even when free to define the problem on one’s own terms, proposes a solution to that problem, the solution does not stand up to critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence. With a solution that stands up to these, we can have a debate about whether or not the problem is correctly defined – maybe our values are different. Without a solution that stands up to these, there’s no point in having a conversation with you: even if we agree on the problem you’re a crank proposing nonsense.

    So we’re not advocating using critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence (you said “empiricism and logic,” but rational thinking is larger than logic and critical thinking is both vital and unrepresented in your phrase) to choose to be liberal or conservative.

    But if you don’t understand how these things might be used in regulating markets, you’re far more ignorant and unintelligent than I thought.

  193. 193
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Sally @190

    Yeah. I think there are people who are atheists because they don’t like being told not to masturbate or asked to contribute to charities and what not. And then they turn atheism into a kind of badge of honor and believe themselves to be above those poor deluded believers.

  194. 194
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Well, I missed a lot of conversation while writing that.

  195. 195
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Hi Crip Dyke, I’ve been wishing you would show up here and kick some ass.

  196. 196
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Bicarbonate, #193:

    Although there are a number of useful investigatory lenses through which one can view coming to atheism, I find the formulation, “critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence,” to be very useful.

    Was a willingness to self-determine values, question authority, and seek to understand process an important part of the journey? Check 1.

    Did you use rational thinking when determining your values, in your analysis of past (or present) authority, and in any inferences you were willing to make about process (including cause-effect relationships)? Check 2.

    Did you compare your initial results to real-world evidence? [Per 1 & 2, did you evaluate the real-world evidence before assigning it value in your analysis and using it in this comparison?] Did you discard your initial results if they were contradicted by real-world evidence that passed the tests of critical thinking and rational thinking? Check 3.

    There are atheists who don’t come to atheism through this frame, but those of us who got here by valuing these things should be able to come to agreement on quite a lot.

  197. 197
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @bicarbonate

    I was busy hiding my Frosted Flakes from the kids.

    No, really.

  198. 198
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Crip Dyke @192

    I really like the tri-partite formula. It’s very easy to grasp and remember and use to evaluate other people’s (and one’s own) statements:

    So when we advocate applying the values of atheism to society, these are the values: critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence. Libertarians including libertarian atheists frequently use the latter two without the first. Whatever number of irrational atheists are out there (I don’t believe in gods, but have you heard about chemtrails and NDEs?) employ the first without the latter two. Obviously we will not be united.

    and 196, the checklist, is great too. And those elements are in the right order, follow nicely one from the other. I find the biggest hurdle for most people, far as I can see, is #1, self-determining values.

  199. 199
    everbleed

    One of the most stimulating and interesting threads birthed by PZ ever.

    Thank you all! (Well almost all.)

    Maybe we are, each of us, just on the edge of something wonderful. We’re simply working it out. The job is too big not to attempt. Our Home needs us.

    Thank you PZ. I am amazed at how you find the energy and motivation to do, what you do.

  200. 200
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @bicarbonate:

    it can be particularly difficult. One of the fundamental failures of the common critique of the authoritarian personality is the frame employed in portraying of the dynamics of identification-with-authority. The combination of infantile amnesia and innate difference in disposition makes the source of one’s core values invisible without a difficult, conscious struggle. Even then, our picture is inevitably unclear to the extent that we are attempting to depict the source of those innate differences as a deeper source of the ultimate values.

    In other words, we know what we value (or believe), but we don’t necessarily know why. When an authority is questioned, we often wonder why the sheep is reacting to criticism of the shepherd. But if you aren’t good at critical thinking and don’t know – to the extent that we can – the source of your values in a way that allows you to justify them in the face of critique, there is a logical implication here. The sheep follow the shepherd through unthinking conditioning. But we human beings. We choose our own shepherds, to the extent that we have shepherds. If our shepherd is deficient, we’ve made a bad choice in choosing. I don’t have to identify with the shepherd to reason that I, also, am being criticized. But if I’m bad at asking questions, I have no ready answers. In response to this threat my reason perceives, I must use the defense I do know: bald assertion.

    This is more thought that we frequently credit to authoritarians. But it’s easy to explain when saying that they aren’t good at 1, but are at least competent at 2. The logic doesn’t escape them, it’s the capacity to frame questions and investigate that escapes them. Some of us who commonly employ both assume that they go hand in hand, but they don’t.

  201. 201
    dogfightwithdogma

    R Johnson @1

    I think its fair to say that intellectually honest and rigorous atheists who have actual valid reasons for being atheists can’t be Republicans.

    Simply not true. One of the most intellectually honest and rigorous atheists I know, Dr. Robert Price, is a republican. I don’t agree with him on virtually every political, economic and social issue, but his atheism is based on the soundest of reasons. The intellectual rigor that supports his atheism is equal to that of Dawkins, Hitchens or any other atheist I am sure you consider to be an intellectually honest and rigorous atheist.

  202. 202
    SallyStrange

    One can be honest, rigorous, and still wrong.

    Also, neither Dawkins nor Hitchens is a particularly good example of honesty or intellectual rigor, due to the compartmentalized way they apply/applied their rigor and honesty.

  203. 203
    vaiyt

    I did not say that the poor choose to be poor. I said they make choices that lead to poverty.

    That’s even worse! What you’re basically saying is that poor people should be punished for not seeing the future – and their children alongside them. Sorry, kids, your parents made bad choices so YOU must live with the consequences. No, we can’t have, because wishy-washy “moderates” always prefer gutting help for the needy if there’s any chance, small as it may be, that someone who doesn’t “deserve” help (and they reserve to themselves the authority to decide who deserves help and who does not) might get a benefit.

  204. 204
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    How then is it possible for anyone who claims personal liberty as their political lodestone to ally with the GOP?

    They love their bang-bangs (“frequently”) and hate being told to share with the other children, of course.

  205. 205
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Sally @202

    Compartmentalized. I’ve always thought that this was very curious, particularly in male engineers or “hard” scientists who manage to cultivate a devout faith.

  206. 206
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I disagree. Atheism is defined by what it is not, not what it is. To lean on an old canard, 99.9% of the world doesn’t believe in Thor, but it makes no sense to rally them around particular social issues.

    What atheism is not is a good thing, and that should be sufficient. Trying to group us into categories that don’t fit is just going to dilute the point of atheism and create schisms in what is otherwise a completely rational and coherent worldview.

    Not this shit again….

  207. 207
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Crip Dyke at 196.

    If you’re talking about infantile amnesia, then you’re positing non-verbal early experience as the basis of moral sentiment? + some innateness. Well, it couldn’t be otherwise, could it? But is that more than trivial?

    And if this were overwhelmingly true then it would be pretty useless to try to change people’s minds about a lot of things outside of manipulation, shaming and fear-mongering.

    A separate but related point: when you’re pushing ideas around every which way, trying them on for size, turning them inside and out and yourself with them, pushing them to their limits to see what type of absurdity you obtain, trying to determine scope, application and truth conditions for them, and trying to source them back through history, and running your checklist on them, and then if you come to a draw, to something undecidable, there comes a point where you have to take an axiomatic stance: Well, this is what I believe is right and good and fair. And I’ll stick with this until proof of the contrary.

  208. 208
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    –oops, I meant Crip Dyke at 200.

  209. 209
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I saying that this is the initial condition, and that without critical introspection the initial condition is not displaced. Moreover, the failure to examine the initial condition results in an inadequate response to external examination later.

    Is that clearer? Sorry I didn’t make it sufficiently clear that I don’t believe that early conditioning + some level of innate disposition is all. I thought it was implied when I was limiting my argument to people who hadn’t employed critical analysis of their core values.

  210. 210
    dogfightwithdogma

    consciousness razor @63

    Suppose that what you’re calling your “opinion” here is correct. Should atheists be humanistic freethinkers?

    If you examine the statement of principles for Secular Humanism (http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/12), and the definition of freethinker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freethought), I think it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of the commenters on and followers of this blog are already humanists and freethinkers. They just prefer to put the atheist label in front of all the others. I have no quarrel with this. I think it is just a matter of preference.

  211. 211
    erik333

    @192 Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    So when we advocate applying the values of atheism to society, these are the values: critical thinking, rational thinking, and evidence.

    It seems to me that you spent the beginning of that post explaining how those weren’t the “values of atheism”, but rather that if you hold these values and apply them successfully – atheism follows.

    Atheism gets you exactly this far – you can deny the soundness of any argument that uses god’s existence as a premise. Which is different from showing that the conclusions of said arguments are wrong, all you’ve done is to show it was a bad argument.

    In order to make a positive case about something (like gender equality being a good idea or so) you need to apply more of critical thinking, rational thinking and evidence (preferably with some sort of feedback loop to your values) which was what led you (presumably) to atheism in the first place. Those conclusions in no way hinge on atheism, but if they do – that should be your first clue that you’re doing something wrong.

  212. 212
    consciousness razor

    dogfightwithdogma, #210:

    I think it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of the commenters on and followers of this blog are already humanists and freethinkers.

    I agree. I have a few relatively-minor issues with certain forms of humanism, but that’s a discussion for another day. As I suggested, I do think people should be humanists and freethinkers, which is not to imply some (or a majority or all of us) aren’t already humanists and freethinkers.

    They just prefer to put the atheist label in front of all the others.

    I’m not sure if that’s accurate, depending on what you mean by “in front of all the others.” As a matter of priorities (perhaps not personal identification), I think some would at least initially put the others first, since they think (rightly or wrongly) that atheism has fewer implications for their outlook on life than humanism or freethought, or that the latter at least have more “direct” or “obvious” ethical and epistemological components. That is rather explicitly the sort of thing they’re about, while for atheism it seems to require derivation of some sort if it can be done at all. (It’s about “non-belief in gods,” they say, perhaps only about that.) However, if such a derivation is a logical entailment of atheism, then being implicit rather than explicit makes no substantial difference: it’s only a matter of what people will immediately understand from the very beginning just by describing the concept, instead of what their understanding will be after a little more careful thought. After doing all that, after comparing what the entire picture looks like for each concept (humanism, freethought, atheism; and since I never claimed these must be sufficient, what about others like progressivism?), to the extent they can reasonably be separated as distinct from one another, I honestly have no idea how people might prioritize one or the other. I don’t know how I personally would do it, either. And I’m not sure what exactly the point of such an exercise would be — the point might need to be discovered in the process.

    I have no quarrel with this. I think it is just a matter of preference.

    As should be clear, I don’t think it is just a matter of preference. And that’s okay.

  213. 213
    dogfightwithdogma

    burgundy @116

    Making it harder for poor people to support their families won’t make people less religious; in fact it’s more likely to make them dependent on religious communities.

    abewoelk @109

    When he died, he left my mother with seven small children and no real job skills. She then proceeded to take money that we needed for food, even though it meant not having supper one night a week, to pay tuition at a Christian school so that her children could get a Christian education.

    There is research to support the comment made by burgundy. So, abewoelk, ask yourself why the nations of western Europe are much more secular and have lower rates of poverty and social dysfunction than does the United States. They and the United States all adhere to democratic principles and some form of capitalism. The social safety net that European nations provide has provided a great deal more certainty for people in those countries. As a consequence, religion has less of a grip on their minds and their lives. There does seem to be a connection between economic uncertainty and the influence of religion in a society. Greater emphasis on providing a more egalitarian society that places high value on social and economic justice does appear to lessen the influence of religion. This is all discussed in a piece written in 2007 by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, both sociological researchers, and published on the Edge website (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/paul07/paul07_index.html). Entitled “Why the Gods are not Winning”, the two researchers state the following:

    The result is plain to see. Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity. They all go material.

    So, abewoelk, it would seem that an atheist interested in at least minimizing the influence of religion, and thus the poor decisions it leads people in poverty to make, such as in the case of your mother, would support social and economic justice and work to advance both.

  214. 214
    erik333

    @207 Bicarbonate

    …and then if you come to a draw, to something undecidable, there comes a point where you have to take an axiomatic stance: Well, this is what I believe is right and good and fair. And I’ll stick with this until proof of the contrary.

    Why on earth would you “have to” do that? If you don’t know, you should account for not knowing – not pretend you do know.

  215. 215
    consciousness razor

    erik333, #211:

    Atheism gets you exactly this far – you can deny the soundness of any argument that uses god’s existence as a premise. Which is different from showing that the conclusions of said arguments are wrong, all you’ve done is to show it was a bad argument.

    No, being unsound means a premise is false, thus the conclusion doesn’t follow. That is to say that it is the wrong conclusion to make, given what we know, which is not to say it must be false. Such a conclusion isn’t assumed to be correct after a bad argument is made: whatever doubt might be left concerning its truth-value, it does not get that benefit, because that would likewise be fallacious. Conclusions which would follow from the existence of gods are no different from any other in that respect. That we cannot categorically disprove all gods, once and for all, is the only thing you have to work with here. That is not much.

  216. 216
    dogfightwithdogma

    Sally Strange @139:

    And… pardon me, I’m not a philosopher, but I thought utilitarianism was a subset of morality.

    Exactly right. Abewoelk’s ignorance is glaringly apparent in the fact that the comment’s abewoelk has posted show a nearly complete lack of understanding of the very set of ethics abewoelk claims by self-describing as a utilitarian.

  217. 217
    SallyStrange

    Consciousness razor #215:

    No, being unsound means a premise is false, thus the conclusion doesn’t follow. That is to say that it is the wrong conclusion to make, given what we know, which is not to say it must be false.

    Not to mention, it’s not at all unusual for religious folks to reach what I’d regard as correct conclusions (“We should feed the hungry”) based on false premises (“Jesus said it was a good idea”).

    It’s nice that they reach a good conclusion, but the inherent uncertainty of relying on a fantasy to justify the conclusion leaves their secular allies constantly wondering whether Jesus or Yahweh or whichever god it is might change his mind about feeding the hungry at any moment.

  218. 218
    SallyStrange

    dogfightwithdogma #216 – Thanks, I thought as much.

  219. 219
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @erik333:

    I’m asserting that those are the “values” that PZ and other intended to communicate when writing phrases like “atheism’s underlying values”.

    Obviously I know that these things don’t flow from atheism but rather the other way round. People have been asking what are the values of atheism we’re talking about. I’m providing an answer I think is accurate.

    Those conclusions in no way hinge on atheism, but if they do – that should be your first clue that you’re doing something wrong.

    Yeah, I spent quite a bit of time talking about these things leading to atheism for quite a number of people. It’s bizarre that you would feel the need to tell me this when this is very explicitly contained within my previous comment. I’m not doing it wrong. You’re reading me badly.

  220. 220
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    For those without the time to track SallyStrange’s 218 back to dogfightwithdogma’s 216 back to SallyStrange’s 139 back to the unnumbered referent that happens to be abewoelk’s 130 statement to Nerd, here’s the crucial phrase from abewoelk that I missed the first time around but now find exceedingly hilarious:

    morality has nothing to do with it. I’m a utilitarian, remember?

    Sigh.

    How is it that the Vulcan immigrants to earth manage to accomplish Venlinahr without graduating grammar school? Seriously, did the Vulcan High Council take a lesson from the Golgafrinchans? I do hope that Vulcan built up a good supply of antibiotics before they sent away their telephone sanitizers.

  221. 221
    erik333

    @215 consciousness razor

    It’s unclear to me where we start disagreeing… We both seem to agree such an argument did not show what it attempted to show. We both seem to agree that that fact alone (argument unsound) isn’t enough to make a determination either way on the conclusion (say, e.g. the opinion that murder is immoral*) of the argument.

    If the only way you can make an argument against murdering your neighbor because he’s slow in mowing his lawn (even to convince yourself) is by assuming no gods exist, I think you’re doing something wrong. If, on the other hand, you can make such an argument, then atheism is irrelevant**.

    *moral dilemmas (etc.) disclaimer
    **unless you accept divine command theory as a resolution to Euthyphro

  222. 222
    dogfightwithdogma

    Sally Strange @202:

    One can be honest, rigorous, and still wrong.

    Agreed. And this is the reason that I am in nearly complete disagreement with my friend Dr. Price. I think him wrong on nearly every one of the political, social and economic issues I have discussed with him. But I do not question the intellectual soundness of his arguments for atheism.

    Also, neither Dawkins nor Hitchens is a particularly good example of honesty or intellectual rigor, due to the compartmentalized way they apply/applied their rigor and honesty.

    Point taken. Can we agree that better examples are PZ and Jerry Coyne?

  223. 223
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    erik333 @214

    Maybe what I’m trying to say is not very clear or confused or maybe you’re reading in something that is not there.

    In the words you quote what I’m talking about is making a hypothesis and going with that. Does that suit you better?

    For instance, “human equality is a good thing” as a hypothesis, a heuristic, a rule of thumb.

  224. 224
    consciousness razor

    erik333, #221:

    It’s unclear to me where we start disagreeing… We both seem to agree such an argument did not show what it attempted to show. We both seem to agree that that fact alone (argument unsound) isn’t enough to make a determination either way on the conclusion (say, e.g. the opinion that murder is immoral*) of the argument.

    We are never in a situation where we can only consider one argument in isolation. I have no idea what you think follows from it not being “enough to make a determination,” and I don’t see how that could be relevant to any of this about the nature of atheism. Yes, additional facts enter into it, besides the non-existence of gods. Thus atheism is not “sufficient” or “not enough” for the conclusion. But no one has claimed the non-existence of gods single-handedly resolves all such conclusions (or all conclusions period, if that’s it, but I just don’t get what the idea here is supposed to be). Must we believe there is effectively only one fact (gods aren’t real) to claim that atheism has wider implications? I don’t think so.

    I should add that “murder is immoral” is not merely an opinion. It is the truth. Murder actually is immoral. As for your disclaimer about any conceivable moral dilemma, those (if they were valid) would change the nature of the act so that it should not be considered “murder.” It would no longer be a proposition about the morality of murder, but about the morality of some other act.

    If the only way you can make an argument against murdering your neighbor because he’s slow in mowing his lawn (even to convince yourself) is by assuming no gods exist, I think you’re doing something wrong. If, on the other hand, you can make such an argument, then atheism is irrelevant**.
    [...]
    **unless you accept divine command theory as a resolution to Euthyphro

    Indeed, divine commands would not be a good justification. That does not imply, however, that the existence of a god is morally irrelevant. The existence or non-existence of a god, aside from its supposed attributes as commanding our morality or being the source of it, is a fact. All facts can be relevant to moral decisions.

    For example: is it a fact that this person actually did kill his neighbor for mowing his lawn too slowly? Now another example, about the same scenario: is it a fact that a god is responsible for causing this to happen? Gods are, after all, said to do all sorts of things, not simply issue commands to people to do them. If they do none of it, if their intentions and actions are nowhere to be found in reality, then that tells us quite a bit about how the world is. And how the world is makes an enormous difference in deciding what we ought to think and ought to act, as a consequence of these facts. I’ve spelled out quite a bit of how this plays out in people’s minds above (#74 for example), without any reference to a concept of divine commandments (although that’s another belief that we should dispense with anyway, because it’s a bad justification). But this is why atheism has numerous implications: it’s about reality and so must be connected with numerous things in it, including how we think and act about those things. It is not just some abstraction in some people’s heads which is isolated from everything else. It is a fact claim. And no other fact claim works that way, so it would take a whole lot of special-pleading about god claims to convince me otherwise.

    p.s. — I seem to remember now that an “erik” was arguing with me before about some of this, in an earlier thread about “dictionary atheism” and so forth (a couple weeks ago, I guess). I haven’t looked for the thread, but I’d like to know if you’re the same person. If so, sorry for my poor memory, but hello again.

  225. 225
    consciousness razor

    dogfightwithdogma, #222:

    Can we agree that better examples are PZ and Jerry Coyne?

    Coyne’s not the most rigorous thinker either, a lot of the time. In the context of biology and some related scientific subjects, he’s good I think. Outside of that, not so much. Of course, the same could be (and has been) said of PZ to some extent at least. It may be a question of how confident they are when they step outside their area of expertise.

  226. 226
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Dictionary atheism also doesn’t include going on blogs to defend dictionary atheism; ergo, the second you do that you have ceased to become a True Atheist™.

    Checkmate.

  227. 227
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @wowbagger: perfect.

  228. 228
    Ing

    No one is going to be an ideal example of a rigorous thinker because people are inherently lazy and will often fall back into lax thinking in various areas

    That said some are more lax than others.

    That also said I would exhalt someone who showed rigor in the area of ethics over science or theology

  229. 229
    Ing

    And as a follow up to Abe’s nonsense: Utilitarian ethics is seriously making me reconsider the benefit of some degree of religion (i.e. the Golden Lie) in response to the behavoir and culture of the Atheist Movement.

  230. 230
    robster

    An earlier commenter suggested nuking the Vatican. Perhaps not but what about selling it? After its been auctioned off, the generated wealth could be returned to those it’s been stolen from under false pretence over the centuries. That would see a vast improvement in wealth distribution. There’d be job losses in the silly hat industry, the red bootie industry and the bling robe industry and the bakeries that whip up the edible jesus crackers and the wineries responsible for the tasty jesus blood merlot will suffer a downturn, on the whole it would a positive move. Perhaps the authorities could get the two surviving popes and immerse them into clear plastic blocks to preserve them and then make pope Frank and the other one the first and second prizes in a raffle, raise lots of funds for redistribution and right a handful of the wrongs perpetrated by the evil, fraudulent catholic church.

  231. 231
    dogfightwithdogma

    Consciousness Razor @225:

    Then I give up. Who is acceptable?

  232. 232
    consciousness razor

    dogfightwithdogma:

    Then I give up. Who is acceptable?

    I wasn’t suggesting any of them don’t have good reasons for being atheists. I agree with you to that extent. (Of course, I’ll admit I myself have made some questionable claims at times, about atheism or religion or what have you. And they all have as well.)

    However, I wouldn’t agree that an atheist Republican is generally “intellectually honest and rigorous,” because there is no honest and rigorous form of Republicanism. (That’s a big “R” to refer to the party obviously, since small-r republicanism is an entirely different beast.) Price would be no exception, sadly, though I hadn’t even known this before you brought it up. I’m sure he can be otherwise honest and rigorous, because people are very capable of compartmentalizing, or being indifferent or insensitive or ignorant of many different subjects, even while they treat some subjects appropriately. And this should have no bearing on how we evaluate his arguments for atheism, just as you said.

  233. 233
    oursally

    >…can we at least bulldoze Jerusalem?

    Nah, the Romans tried that and it just made it worse in the long run…

  234. 234
    oursally

    And actually Rome has been flattened too, several times in the last millenia, and it didn’t help either. Hmm, destroying buildings doesn’t seem to accomplish much.
    Enlightenment is what helps, lots and lots of it, and maybe my giving money to Wikipedia is really making the world better (however you may feel about Wiki).

  235. 235
    everbleed

    robster #230

    Exactly. Let The Donald buy it and call it ‘Trump! The Vatican’.

    I’m down with the Pope raffle. But how about scanning the little fuckers and re-imagining them in Liquid Metal. Put them on pedestals and feed a velvet-roped line of believers, and the simply curious, to “behold the wonder”. The faithful could touch them, for a price. Plus… it’s not so gross.

    It’ll be the new Disneyland. Walt would be proud.

    Until some Jihadist blows it up.

  236. 236
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    consciousness razor @112:
    You mentioned there being a shortage of empathy in the world. I agree. I think being unable to (or unwilling?) to empathize with others leads people to agree with drone strikes, the creation of anti-LGBT laws, or in abewoelk’s case a disdain for the poor. How do you teach empathy? Or heck, can you?

  237. 237
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @grayhame

    I really don’t understand how atheism is a political movement.

    Atheism has implications which (should) affect your morality. Your morality affects your politics.

Comments have been disabled.