I understand a fantasy art convention, at last »« I keep telling you, you’re a big fish

@JamieKilstein, why must you make me feel bad for being an atheist?

Remember way back in the distant past, say around 2005, 2008, or thereabouts, when we could look at atheism with some pride and hope for the future? And then all the assbutts started waggling their sexism and racism and announcing that atheism just meant you didn’t believe in god, nothing more, and they didn’t have to be better human beings because it all meant nothing anyway? If you didn’t, Jamie Kilstein is going to rub our noses in it.

What I wish for most is that someday atheism can mean something positive again.

Comments

  1. proudofcoincidence says

    Why would you expect that answering yes or no on one question would lead anyone to form any other conclusions. You know very well in genetics that having a single gene sequence for something doesn’t mean that anything else will necessarily pan out. So why do you have this fantasy that people who answer a simple binary question will share other conclusions with you. Atheists are some of the most illogical people I know. I can point to many examples of myself being illogical. I can point to examples of you being illogical. Answering no to that question doesn’t have to cause anything to happen. We have more atheists now so there are more diverse atheists and they include lots of stupid people. That is what happens when things get more popular. Complaining about some memory of atheist glory days which is probably only real in your head makes you sound like that person who was a fan of the band back when no one knew who they were and you were like super loyal and had their patch on your jacket and their logo on your notebook but got sour when other people who didn’t put in the time the way you did became fans. Complain about all the bandwagon fans you want but those days that only exist in your head aren’t coming back and that is a good thing. It is a sign that what used to be your niche is popular and I think that was the whole goal in the first place.

  2. HappyNat says

    Just because you believe in the scientific method, doesn’t mean your not an asshole.

    QFT

    Well done, Jamie.

  3. HappyNat says

    proudofcoincidence,

    Being illogical in some areas is quite different than being a flaming racist, sexist, asshat. If we pride ourselves on our thinking process, responding to someone who says we said something sexist and hurtful saying “OMG feminist witchhunt!!!1!” is not a proper response.

  4. Konradius says

    Um, you might make it more clear in the introduction that Jamie is one of the good guys….
    Without seeing the video you might conclude otherwise, and some people have better reasons to not view the video than being too lazy (like being deaf, not having flash or whatever)

  5. iiandyiiii says

    I’m not sure if I understand part of what PZ is saying with regards to what atheists believe. On some online message forums, I’ve responded to a “Why do all atheists believe xyz” type of post with something like “not all atheists believe that — the only thing all atheists have in common is a lack of belief in a god or gods”. Am I wrong here?

  6. says

    Not really, no. A shallow belief that all atheism implies is that you don’t believe in gods is fairly common, and does not preclude being a world-class asshole, unfortunately.

  7. Sastra says

    iiandyii #7 wrote:

    I’m not sure if I understand part of what PZ is saying with regards to what atheists believe.

    The dictionary definition of atheism is a fine way to begin at the very beginning. It allows secular humanists to distance themselves from the philosophy of Stalin, for example. But the atheist “movement” has to be a movement towards something. Nobody who identifies as an atheist can just rest and stop there: even those who choose to do so are taking a stance against taking any stances (which is silly.)

    Atheism doesn’t necessitate being in favor of human rights, or feminism, or science, or anything fine or noble. It doesn’t even necessitate lining up arguments against the existence of God. But if atheists who “come out” don’t do anything else, it does seem a bit pointless. We are all atheists not from whim, but from principles which lead to other principles and so on.

    At least that’s my take.

  8. see_the_galaxy says

    “Conservatism” in any form poisons everything. The whole point is to demoralize us.

  9. sirbedevere says

    That was very good. I’d never heard of Jamie Kilstein before but I hope he’s the beginning of a trend. I’d post a supportive comment on his YouTube channel but, well, you know… YouTube comments.

  10. Rey Fox says

    I’d post a supportive comment on his YouTube channel but, well, you know… YouTube comments.

    You don’t want to improve them by any amount?

  11. kevinkirkpatrick says

    I’ll second what Konradius said – PZ, from a presentation perspective, this comes across as if the video contents are a reason to give up hope, rather than being a video that points out reasons to give up hope. Yeah, I guess “ultimately” it’s a pedantic distinction, but if I’d gone by context alone, and not taken time to watch the video, I’d have walked away from this blog post thinking that Jamie Kilstein was yet one more atheist vlogger not worth watching.

  12. says

    I try not to get hung up on definitions; I prefer to concentrate on the substance of a thing, and worry later about whether there’s some neat short term we can use to sum it up conveniently. So:

    1) You can be a strict Dictionary Atheist — in which case you’ve said nothing very interesting about yourself, nor whether you can think your way out of a wet paper bag, nor whether we have anything much in common, nor whether you’re a decent human being with whom I might care to associate. And it doesn’t seem an adequate basis around which to form a movement. There’s nothing in there that, in itself, even calls for criticizing religion. “Atheist” defined that way is pretty much an example of Vonnegut’s concept of the “granfalloon” — a group that isn’t really a group.

    OR

    2) You can commit yourself to being something — exercising critical thought, working for secularism (which includes secularism for religious people, too), generally trying to make the world a better place (which means, among other things, better for women and PoC and the poor and the Third World, and et al, and if at least *thinking* about those issues is beneath your dignity then fuck you). So call it Atheism Plus or Secular Humanism or whatever you want, but do it.

  13. aziraphale says

    Kilstein is good, but I don’t like PZ at #8. Calling people who don’t share all your political/social beliefs “shallow atheists” is one step away from a No True Atheist fallacy. We all know there are good and bad theists, why not admit the same for atheists?

  14. says

    aziraphale #16

    Calling people who don’t share all your political/social beliefs “shallow atheists” is one step away from a No True Atheist fallacy.

    That’s not what PZ said. “A shallow belief that all atheism implies is that you don’t believe in gods” does not imply that anyone must reach the same conclusions that PZ does. It implies that a disbelief in gods is bound to have some kind kind of knock-on effect, which will lead to some sort of conclusions.

  15. Brian O says

    Yes, it does feel like the atheist dream is dying, but look at how fortunate you are, Professor Myers, that you have a much clearer vision than so many other high profile unbelievers: That Darwin’s ideas are a “universal acid” that can conceivably solve all our dilemmas (Dennett), America’s imperialist wars as an Armageddon-like confrontation with Muslims (Harris), or try to defend Richard Dawkins’ latest effort on Twitter, or {insert dubious claim made by Steven Pinker in the past 20 years}, or read an Ayn Rand novel etc. etc. etc.. You are blessed my son. (You are also still alive, unlike Mr. Hitchens).

  16. Anri says

    aziraphale @ 16:

    Kilstein is good, but I don’t like PZ at #8. Calling people who don’t share all your political/social beliefs “shallow atheists” is one step away from a No True Atheist fallacy. We all know there are good and bad theists, why not admit the same for atheists?

    What PZ has been saying (as far as I can tell) is that there are plenty of ways to be an atheist. Some of these ways don’t start with or lead to sound thinking, and others do, and that there’s a difference.
    His point – and it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to get it – is that atheists for whom their atheism doesn’t inform any other parts of their lives don’t really have anything to say about atheism. In other words, if someone’s atheism isn’t interesting enough for them to explore further, there’s certainly no reason for anyone else to be interested in doing so.

  17. brucegee1962 says

    @7:

    On some online message forums, I’ve responded to a “Why do all atheists believe xyz” type of post with something like “not all atheists believe that — the only thing all atheists have in common is a lack of belief in a god or gods”.

    I think a more thorough explanation might be, “Politically, atheists tend to range from extreme liberalism to extreme libertarianism (but not really the Tea Party wing of the GOP so much, because that’s been taken over entirely by the Goddists). In recent years, the two wings have come to loathe one another even more than they dislike religion.”

  18. geekysteve says

    I think a lot has to do with HOW you become an Atheist.

    If you understand “cause and effect” (and lack thereof) then it becomes clear that magic doesn’t work. Ideally, you apply the same critical thinking skills to the rest of your life and can figure out how the world and society really work instead of how you wish (or are afraid) it works. If so, you are probably going to become a secular humanist.

    OTOH, if you simply imitate some arbitrary authority figure or friend, or are perhaps just “rebelling” against your parents, etc., then you are no more likely to base your other decisions on reason and logic.

    Rather than promoting atheism, we really should focus on getting everyone to use evidence and logic for all of their decisions. I’ve been an atheist for over 50 years, but by itself, atheism is meaningless.

  19. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Jamie is awesome, although at times during this podcast I’m getting a leeeetle too much accomodationalism. But still I agree, I’d take a moderate/liberal [anyreligion] over some of the asses we have in our house.

    … And then all the assbutts started …

    This little nugget just jumped out to me. I lol’d so hard because I remember where I heard it first. Oh Supernatural, you never fail to amuse me.

  20. says

    @21:

    I think a lot has to do with HOW you become an Atheist….
    ….Rather than promoting atheism, we really should focus on getting everyone to use evidence and logic for all of their decisions. I’ve been an atheist for over 50 years, but by itself, atheism is meaningless.

    This. My atheism is the result of a long (too long, but that’s another story) process of thought and reflection, in which I eventually came to see that the critical tools I was applying to peripheral issues like creationism and faith healing should also be applied to the core claims of religion itself — and with the same result. So in a sense, the minimal definition of atheism fits me, in that I jettisoned the god-belief but otherwise carried on as before. However, I now find myself involved in this movement engaged in the active criticism of religion, promoting positive values like secularism and reason and (to some extent, and not without internal squabbling) human rights for disadvantaged groups, and that is obviously one hell of a lot more than sitting on my ass not-believing-in-God.

  21. says

    Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, also wants you to feel bad, very bad, about being an atheist. He even wants you to feel bad about being a christian who supports separation of church and state.

    “The American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war,” Jindal will say at the Simi Valley, Calif., event. “It threatens the fabric of our communities, the health of our public square and the endurance of our constitutional governance.”

    “This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power,” he adds, according to the prepared remarks. “It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith into a land where faith is silenced, privatized and circumscribed.”

    Quote is from a Politico article detailing the speech Jindal planned to give at the Reagan presidential library.

    Predictable conservative rhetoric pre-election time, I think. All of the religious people are supposed to feel persecuted, then they are supposed to rise up and go to “war” to protect religious liberty. There is no war, and they’ve got plenty of freedom, but that’s a boring set of facts.

    PZ is not just seedy and ramshackle; he’s also grim, relentless and somehow “elite”.

  22. zenlike says

    “It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, ”

    Hey Jindal, if you are the fucking governor of your state, you are the elite. So much for the party having to become less stupid.

  23. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    I <3 Jamie.

    Citizen Radio is a great way to start your day.

    They have some awesome T-shirts available too.

  24. stevem says

    re @2:

    Why would you expect that answering yes or no on one question would lead anyone to form any other conclusions.

    Who are you asking? Too many people think they know exactly what a person is thinking as soon as they answer “No” to “Do you believe in God?”.

    […] Atheists are some of the most illogical people I know.

    Let me fix that for you: “some Atheists I know are of the most illogical people.” Atheists certainly, can be illogical. But is the superlative really accurate?

    I can point to many examples of myself being illogical. I can point to examples of you being illogical. Answering no to that question doesn’t have to cause anything to happen. We have more atheists now so there are more diverse atheists and they include lots of stupid people. That is what happens when things get more popular. Complaining about some memory of atheist glory days which is probably only real in your head makes you sound like that person who was a fan of the band back when no one knew who they were and you were like super loyal and had their patch on your jacket and their logo on your notebook but got sour when other people who didn’t put in the time the way you did became fans. Complain about all the bandwagon fans you want but those days that only exist in your head aren’t coming back and that is a good thing. It is a sign that what used to be your niche is popular and I think that was the whole goal in the first place.

    So, duh. Are you saying PZ should lament the current state, *only*, of atheism? That things were just as bad in the past, that it is just a fantasy that things were ever better, so don’t try to regain the past, it was just a fantasy, so stop trying? I know I’m reading too much into your screed, but I read it as just a call for “surrender”, “stop trying”, etc.
    Moving on… ATHEISM is *not* a belief (system). It is a simple statement of what one does NOT believe. What Theists seem to never understand is that *not believing* God exists is not the same as “believing God does not exist.” Too often I hear the response to “I am an atheist” to be “You can’t know God does not exist!!!” They never hear the counter-response of, “<sigh>I don’t know that God DOES exist.” [and that is NOT Agnosticism, though many label it as such] Not meaning to derail or tangent the discussion… I just think it is important to say that so many people assign a whole slew of beliefs to anybody who declares to be an atheist, and that is the WRONG we are trying to fight. “Atheism” does not define what one believes or one’s morality or ethics, it simply says what one does NOT believe. One thing Atheism does say, is “There is no book of rules, figure out how to be good without a book telling you how. Think! Prayer does nothing, *do* something.” Remember: Atheism =/= (Not Believing in Anything), that is Nihilism. Atheism is very simple: “Do *not* believe in God”. Decide for yourself what to actually believe in.
    — so on and so on. Atheism isn’t a label of “totally good”. No one ever claimed it was. Atheism is just one aspect of the final “goodness” of a person. Theists can be “good” also, the important thing is that atheism=/=evil. “Good” is based on everything you DO; beliefs don’t matter, actions matter.

  25. PitS says

    Did I read #27 correctly? Did Jindal say that he thought ‘privatizing’ something is bad? If that gets out to his base he might be in trouble.

  26. consciousness razor says

    Moving on… ATHEISM is *not* a belief (system). It is a simple statement of what one does NOT believe.

    Lacking a belief doesn’t entail that you disbelieve it. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the idea of a deity at all. That would definitely mean you lack a belief in god and make you an atheist by this account. You could even be incapable of having it for a variety of reasons: being a rock, for example, means you do NOT believe in a god, because rocks can’t have any beliefs. But let’s think this through: are you actually that person who’s never heard of a god, despite commenting here about it? Are you a rock? Are rocks atheists?

    If you are aware of some idea of a god, what exactly do you believe about it? That believers are wrong (so you do believe there’s no god)? That they simply don’t know if it exists (so what do you mean by “know”)? That it’s an incoherent or meaningless idea (so how did you come to that conclusion)?

    What Theists seem to never understand is that *not believing* God exists is not the same as “believing God does not exist.”

    Uh, well I’m an atheist. I believe gods don’t exist. (Not just the one named “God” either!) Do you have another term you’d prefer to use for that?

    Too often I hear the response to “I am an atheist” to be “You can’t know God does not exist!!!”

    Maybe you should respond by telling them why you do know that. To start with, there’s evidence that (1) minds require brains or else a physical substrate like a computer, and that (2) physical laws are not violated at all by any god or demon or spirit or soul doing anything. If you think that “knowing” something requires more than having an abundance of evidence for it, what the hell is “knowing” supposed to mean? Justified true belief?

    “Atheism” does not define what one believes or one’s morality or ethics, it simply says what one does NOT believe.

    I have no idea what you’re trying to say. It’s certainly an important, defining starting point about many other beliefs. For example, if you don’t believe in an afterlife, or that a god delivers justice when things go wrong, or that a god has given people (or whatever) some special place in the world or given specific people some special blessing, or that a god has ordained some races or sexes to be subordinate to others, or that any intentional meaningful aspect of the universe doesn’t derive from physical bodies like brains or computers, etc., … then in so many ways, you must have certain beliefs and not others, or else you aren’t consistently being an atheist. Of course I’m not saying that there are no inconsistent, illogical atheists; but as it defines who you are, what you do, how you think, it entails that you should have some beliefs and not others.

  27. stevem says

    re 33:

    What are you doing, playing games with my syntax and vocabulary? I understand, I am not a good writer. Atheism = ((A-) + (-theism)) = “Without”+”Belief in God”. It refers to being without a belief.

    I won’t even try to address your attempt at digression, through “believe” vs “know”, etc, etc. That is just playing games with words. I thought it is clear that “I don’t believe in GOD” = “I don’t know God exists” Are you always going to deliberately misunderstand that phrase? You don’t seem to get the distinction between “not knowing whether God exists” vs “knowing God does *not* exist”. And knowing OF gods is very different from knowing God exists. Having knowledge *about* gods is not the same as having knowledge *of* gods.

    …but as it defines who you are, what you do, how you think, it entails that you should have some beliefs and not others.

    There. That is the point I was arguing against, with all those phrases you claim to misinterpret. While atheism is one part of who one is, it is not a total definition of who one is, and neither does it *require* one to fill in the blanks. Atheism is a non-philosophy (i.e. aphilosophy ;-) ); just a name for a single aspect of one’s Philosophy.

    Uh, well I’m an atheist. I believe gods don’t exist. (Not just the one named “God” either!) Do you have another term you’d prefer to use for that?

    Rather than try to stick some other prefixes onto “-theism”, I think the usual answer is, “naturalism”, that only Nature exists and can account for everything, that gods don’t exist, only Nature exists. [duh duh dum]”

    Do you *know* gods don’t exist, or do you just *believe* they don’t? [I can play that game too]

  28. says

    I know AND believe that gods do not exist.

    Deal with it. If you disagree, present evidence for the existence of gods and I’ll consider it.

    Pretty fucking easy.

    This pedantic hair-splitting it annoying and pointless.

  29. consciousness razor says

    What are you doing, playing games with my syntax and vocabulary?

    Asking you questions and disagreeing with what you said.

    I understand, I am not a good writer.

    I didn’t criticize your writing. It seems to me like you’ve fairly clearly communicated what your views are. I just think they’re misguided. If you think I’m confused about something you said, clarifying that would of course be very helpful.

    Atheism = ((A-) + (-theism)) = “Without”+”Belief in God”. It refers to being without a belief.

    Don’t give me its etymology. I want to understand what atheists and atheism are in the real world, according to real people who have correct beliefs about them.

    Playing your game, of pseudo-addition with bits of words, is not very fun or interesting or useful.

    While atheism is one part of who one is, it is not a total definition of who one is

    Okay. It’s a partial definition. I would agree to that. Does that mean we’re on the same page now?

    I did not say it is the totality of everything that you are. You can read my comment again to confirm that.

    and neither does it *require* one to fill in the blanks.

    Yes it does, at the risk of inconsistency, just like believing any other true statement “requires” it. It’s not as if you “must” do it according to some physical law, so that you have no choice but to have consistent beliefs, but I already made that distinction clear in my earlier comment.

    Why would atheism be any different? If that’s actually your view, what is supposed to make it different from everything else?

    Rather than try to stick some other prefixes onto “-theism”, I think the usual answer is, “naturalism”, that only Nature exists and can account for everything, that gods don’t exist, only Nature exists. [duh duh dum]”

    Naturalism is opposed to supernaturalism. The difference between it and atheism is that it casts a wider net, so to speak. Not only are there no gods, but there aren’t any “minor” supernatural beings like ghosts and wizards and superheroes and so forth. Naturalism means that if something has a mind or has any mental or intentional or purposeful properties at all (like the Force in SW, for example), then that thing has material underpinnings. Gods are included in that, but so are many other things.

    But saying something like “everything that exists is natural” or “nature accounts for everything” is just vacuous bullshit, until you clarify what the hell that’s supposed mean. If there were a supernatural god, it wouldn’t be natural, and neither would wizards with magical powers, nor would an ordinary person with an immaterial soul.

    If there were such things, naturalism would be false. I would have a false belief. It’s possibly either true or false. If I came to know it’s false, I would then change my belief to what I think is the truth. If you’re not somewhere very close to this line of thought, then what kind of whacky beliefs do you have about this shit?

    Do you *know* gods don’t exist, or do you just *believe* they don’t? [I can play that game too]

    I know, and I explained why. If this is a game, then I’m playing the one where I say what I think and try to offer reasons in support of it. Is it possible that I’m wrong? Sure, it is. I don’t believe things that I believe are false, so it goes without saying that I know it when I believe it’s true and have good reasons to justify that the belief is true.

    If you’re looking for absolute metaphysical certainty whenever you use the word “know,” you’re raising the bar unreasonably high. There are very few things you could say you “know,” and I’m confident that (if that’s your view) you’re not consistent about it anyway. But generally, not taking the theists’ bait and making all of their assumptions for them tends to be a good idea — try it out some time.

  30. stevem says

    re 36:

    OKAY! I concede, Yes we are on the same page, I don’t want to get all “pedantic”. I think I must have been quibbling over: specific vs general definitions of specific words. OK, You’re an atheist, I’m an atheist, we both agree, that to be so entails delivering a lot more than just the simple “no” to a single question. Let’s leave it that. We basically agree, let’s not quibble.

  31. ChasCPeterson says

    Darwin’s ideas are a “universal acid” that can conceivably solve all our dilemmas (Dennett)

    That’s very vague (which specific dilemmas are ‘ours’, and do you mean all of ‘us’ or all the dilemmas?), but it strikes me as misleading any way it’s parsed. Dennet’s acid metaphor applies to cutting through supernaturalist bullshit, not “solving dilemmas” (after all, acid dissolves stuff).

  32. proudofcoincidence says

    #19 You say that PZ is saying that there are different ways to become an Atheist. Fair enough but Those ways are causes and atheism is the effect when those causes are applied to god hypothesis. Why would he or you expect the effect to be a cause of something. Wouldn’t it make more sense to identify the kind of thinking that was the cause and give that a name and build off that instead?

  33. Anri says

    proudofcoincidence @ 29:

    Well, because as I said, there’s not just one way of thinking that leads to being an atheist. I don’t doubt that there are people why are Hollywood Atheists (TV Tropes yay!) – that is, they are angry at god due to some trauma and therefore refuse to believe. They’re still atheists (sorta).
    As noted, there are things that can’t believe, because they can’t believe anything. Rocks are atheists, but only in the most trivial sense. More importantly, we are all born atheists – we have to be taught about god or come up with the idea on our own. Point being, that’s literally no thought about god resulting in atheism.

    As far as identifying the kind of thought we want to support, to giving it a name and trying to build off of that… well, the site’s called Freethought Blogs. Not Atheist Blogs.