Episode 93: No Atheists Allowed


While on tour promoting his new book the Magic of Reality Richard Dawkins found himself banned from a book signing at a Detroit area country club after the owner learned that Dawkins was an atheist. Dawkins called the last-minute cancellation of the event an act of “sheer bigotry” but some insist that a privately owned business has the right to refuse service to atheists. Jennifer Beahan, the assistant director for the Center For Inquiry Michigan, joins us on the show to explain how the law does not allow discrimination against the non-religious and why CFI-MI will be filing a lawsuit against the club. Meanwhile the American Cancer Society has also banned  the atheist charity Foundation Beyond Belief from joining their “relay for life” even though the foundation was planning to raise over half a million dollars for the event. Also on this episode: Richard Dawkins explains why he will not debate apologist William Lane Craig; The connection between intuitive thinking styles and religious belief is explored on this weeks “God Thinks Like You” segment and we examine the “Outsider Test for Faith” proposed by John Loftus in The Christian Delusion.

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Comments

  1. KenJa says

    Jennifer Beahan was great. She put up with the guy humour and quips (which I enjoy just the same) quite well and was like one of the gang. I hope she makes more appearances. Very entertaining and enlightening episode!

  2. Abdul Alhazred says

    Sure they have the right to exclude atheists from their club. They are nevertheless bigots for doing so. It is not one or the other.

    “Being a bigot” is not illegal.

    Being the guest of honor at a book signing is not a “public accomodation” like (for example) being served in a restaurant.

  3. says

    Abdul,

    CFI’s lawyers sure seem to think its a public accommodation. It was a banquet and a book signing in facilities that list themselves as “open to the public.”

  4. curtcameron says

    Abdul, if it’s a business that serves the public, then it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion. It’s the same law that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race. Sure, private clubs can discriminate, but as soon as they open their doors for business, they’re subject to civil rights laws.

  5. gesres says

    I really, really don’t like calling discrimination against atheists (or homosexuals) bigotry. It smacks of calling someone a Nazi and lends itself to the “No, I’m not, YOU are” sort of childishness. Better, I think, to advance reasonable arguments why we shouldn’t be treated in such a fashion and let others apply the labels.

  6. Lee Harrison says

    I really, really don’t like calling discrimination against atheists (or homosexuals) bigotry.

    You don’t think calling out bigotry, and labeling it as such, is important? I wonder what you think the word ‘bigot’ means.

  7. gesres says

    You don’t think calling out bigotry, and labeling it as such, is important?

    No; it’s about as effective as calling you a “prick” and expecting you to stop making smart-ass replies to comments. ;-) One rarely produces a change in behavior by calling people names. There is usually a mutually exclusive choice between feeling self-righteous and being persuasive.

  8. Justin Schieber says

    Hmm, i can’t help but wonder if this ‘ah, fuck it’ approach does away with moral discourse completely. If we can’t praise certain attitudes and condemn others, how can one possibly hope to improve their community.

  9. Rev.Enki says

    Re: no mean names for bigots.

    It strikes me as more than a little bit odd to see someone calling for a ridiculously politically correct approach toward a bigot. Perhaps we need another word for it, maybe “denominationally disabled.” I imagine someone can do better.

    Anyway, it’s likely that one of the guy’s best friends is an atheist. It’s not that *he’s* a bigot. It’s just that he doesn’t want to upset the good folk of his country club by letting in people of certain “philosophies” and such, especially since schools of philosophy are totally not protected classes. Unless they’re fucking Pythagoreans, the bastards. Also, he’d totally cancel on any religious group too if they were going to throw goat blood on the bar or something, so it’s not like he isn’t fair about it.

  10. gesres says

    If we can’t praise certain attitudes and condemn others, how can one possibly hope to improve their community.

    Straw man. Refraining from calling someone a Nazi (or bigot) means that you can’t praise or criticize attitudes? Please.

    Name-calling is a lazy man’s way out of a discussion; it’s an effort to piggy back onto an issue already settled, without performing the difficult task of constructing persuasive arguments. In this case, we’re trying to liken the hostility towards atheists as being just like that towards racial minorities.

    In actuality, this is something that we need to prove, rather than assume. There are some types of discrimination against classes of people that would be perfectly justified, such as refusing to allow a convicted child molester baby-sit your children. The argument that we have to make is that atheists don’t fall into this sort of category.

  11. Justin Schieber says

    @Gesres, good point. I was lazy in not making that distinction. I had originally read it as a refusal to supply any condemnation at all because of its ineffectiveness. This would have obviously been something to be concerned about.

  12. Lee Harrison says

    Name-calling is a lazy man’s way out of a discussion; it’s an effort to piggy back onto an issue already settled, without performing the difficult task of constructing persuasive arguments.

    You’re talking as if applying an appropriate label and supplying the arguments to justify it are somehow mutually exclusive. If all a person were to do was label and leave, then yes: that would be lazy. I don’t see anywhere in any comment on the post, the post itself (or hear anywhere in the podcast) that anyone was suggesting this would be okay.

    And what ‘settled’ issue does the word ‘bigot’ piggyback onto? Racism? Nazism? You seem to have your own fairly narrow definition of the word which is why I was wondering what you thought the word meant.

    In this case, we’re trying to liken the hostility towards atheists as being just like that towards racial minorities.

    Erm.. no, no I’m not. Parallels with racial minorities don’t actually cross my mind when I’m talking atheism. I think you’re projecting as a result of your definition of the word ‘bigot’. I just don’t see that ‘bigotry’ only applies to racism. Incidentally, your child molester analogy actually helps to make the case for a racist-parallel. In other circumstances, would you have considered writing: “The argument that Mexicans have to make is that they don’t fall into this sort of category.” There are plenty of racists left in the world who wouldn’t want a Mexican watching their children.

    The issue here is when people assume an individual has a negative quality (is a child molester) because of a broader cultural assumption about the group that the individual belongs to (damned evil atheists/damned dirty Mexicans/damned ‘insert bullshit-stereotype-inherited-from-grandparents here’. That’s bigotry, whether racially motivated or ideologically motivated.

    One rarely produces a change in behavior by calling people names.

    Debatable, especially if the name is one already charged with culturally understood meaning. For example, if enough people call you a racist in response to certain behaviours I’d bet a lot that those behaviours will come out in public less and less often over time. But that aside, your comment seems to me to be assuming (again) that name calling is all that’s going on.

  13. Jesse Toler says

    Sorry folks, but atheists are not a “protected class” so the public accomodation argument will not work. Dawkins is rude, crude and unpolished. He is on the defensive and failing.

  14. curtcameron says

    This just in from the most Christian of all Posts, William Lane Craig has responded to Dawkins’ claim that Craig defended genocide:

    Christian Apologist Responds to Atheist Richard Dawkins Old Testament ‘Genocide’ Claim

    How does Craig defend himself? By saying the same offensive crap again:

    I would say that God has the right to give and take life as He sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead … than being raised in this Canaanite culture.

  15. says

    gesres,

    Why do you think that it’s the atheists responsibility to prove that they are not a threat or that discrimination against them isn’t justified?

    Calling people out on poor behavior, while it should be the only tactic, is an important tactic. A lot of time, people don’t realize how bigoted or hurtful some actions are until they are pointed out.

    FSM

  16. says

    Hi guys! I just finished listening to Counter-Apologetics, and maybe I missed something, but I thought you passed over the most obvious retort to Plantinga’s comment. He answers the Outsider Test by saying, “Yeah, well if you were born in [religious country], you wouldn’t be an atheist, you’d be [religion].” But we WERE born in a religious country, into religious families, and atheism actually did pass the Outsider Test for us! As you said, he’s missing the point that the OTF is meant to level the playing field and use one methodology for all truth claims. (Personally I became an atheist when I realized I had no good reason to employ one standard of evidence to urban legends and a different standard to the the god question.)

    Thanks for the wonderful podcast. I was very sad when I caught up on all the back episodes, because now I have to wait two weeks to listen to more RD. Keep up the great work!

  17. Aquaria says

    Name-calling is a lazy man’s way out of a discussion; it’s an effort to piggy back onto an issue already settled, without performing the difficult task of constructing persuasive arguments.

    Citation, or STFU.

    Calling sexists sexists, homophobes homophobes and racists racists can help make clear what sexists, homophobes and racists are, dumbass.

    In this case, we’re trying to liken the hostility towards atheists as being just like that towards racial minorities.

    Because it is the same hostility, you cabbage with legs. How many atheists have to be murdered, assaulted, firebombed, harassed, have windows in their cars and house broken, or lose their jobs before it’s not the same kind of hostility that minorities get?

    Did you read the post on Pharyngula from the atheist who is so terrified of being known as an atheist in Mississippi that he feels like he has to pass himself as a Christian, going to church every week like everyone else? That he does it so nobody will know his horrible secret?

    You know, I remember when it was considered a bad thing that black people felt like they had to pass themselves off as white if they were light-skinned enough to get away with it. It was a sign of how bad society was, that they felt like they had to lie, to have a normal life. And there’s an atheist, who lives in a society so toxic that he feels like he has to lie, to live a normal life.

    It’s considered BIGOTED when black people have to feel that way, but not when atheists do? Seriously? When a certain group of people are treated like racial minorities have been and are, just how the FSM are they different?

    You’re a sniveling, arrogant moron who thinks that you’re so superior for being “above it all” and following some kind of sniveling whiner rules. Well, nothing gets done from your lofty sniveling airy tower. It gets done in the trenches, with blood sweat and tears. And yes, some rough language comes into play sometimes–and sometimes, it has to.

    Deal with it.

  18. says

    Since we have joined freethought blogs there has been a noticeable drop in civility within our comments section. Sure we had some bad moments at blogger but for the most part people avoided excessive name calling and ad hominem. I believe that one of the things that sets RD apart is our commitment to a calm fair-minded discussion of these sensitive topics. I would ask that people here try to honor that commitment in their own comments. If you happen to really enjoy self-righteous rants on how stupid the people who disagree with you are there is always Pharyngula :)

  19. Charles in San Diego says

    Jeremy: I appreciate your comment @19. There has been a little too much heat in this thread given the amount of light generated.

    I support DoubtCast’s right to set and maintain the tone on its own blog, including the comments threads.

    That said, I still love the rough and tumble of the Pharyngula comment threads.

    Love the ‘cast, keep it up!

    -Charles in San Diego

  20. gesres says

    Calling people out on poor behavior, while it should be the only tactic, is an important tactic.

    If you will carefully read my comments, I never said otherwise. But I did say that throwing around the word “bigot” is useless and a rather unsophisticated defense of our position. It’s a word intended to inflame the passion of those in our in-group, rather than encourage empathy by those in the out-groups. Whether the word is accurate or not is irrelevant.

    Overall, I adore Richard Dawkins, but I don’t approve of this particular tactic of his. I agree with Jeremy’s comment above that ReasonableDoubts isn’t really a name-calling organization, unlike, say, Pharyngula, and that’s one of its core virtues. I’m sure that all of us in moments of frustration will apply some negative labels to people we disagree with, but I think it’s important to realize it’s an error, rather than a strategy.

  21. Lee Harrison says

    There are a lot of assumptions here, gesres. You’ve assumed that the word bigot is ‘thrown around’ instead of accurately applied. You’ve assumed that it’s useless. You’ve assumed an intent behind the accusation (to ‘inflame passion’) that I, for one, have never felt. You’ve also assumed that applying the label ‘bigot’ is born out of frustration.

    Incidentally, you also haven’t actually answered any of the objections to your position.

    I also agree with Jeremy, and i think that the wording and attitude of Aquaria’s comment was a gross over-reaction to a small perceived slight. But when you remove the invective and insults and dig down into the meat and meaning – she was entirely correct in every particular. Using the insult as an excuse to not engage is no less reprehensible for a reasonable adult than the insult itself.

  22. Horatio says

    Off topic but something I just watched and I thought I’d share with you: The Story of Marjoe… you can watch it on documentaryheaven.com. He was a child preacher in the 40’s and 50’s but this documentary was made in the early 70’s when he went on one last revival tour but with a film crew. Behind the scenes he talks about his lack of faith and of all the tricks he and other preachers use. It’s really a fascinating documentary.

  23. gesres says

    You’ve assumed that the word bigot is ‘thrown around’ instead of accurately applied.

    No, I didn’t. I explicitly said in post 21 that the accuracy is irrelevant. How effective is it to call your wife a “bitch” when having an argument, even when the label is accurate? My understanding is that this is not normally a productive argumentation strategy, although your own experience may be different.

    I can’t argue with you about your own mental state when using words, but I submit that the words have the effect I described and most people know it on an intuitive level. It wouldn’t surprise me if Glenn Beck denied he was trying to inflame his audiences with his word choices, and I’m even willing to grant that he might be telling the truth, at least on a conscious level. But all of us from an early age learn how to manipulate others with words and we do it as instinctively as we breathe.

    Years ago, I was amused at the insight in the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The basic premise is that in adulthood, people go awry when they lose sight of the basic principles of human behavior that we are taught as children. Now, the author didn’t mention not calling people names, but that is something that we do teach children at an early age, so adults clearly see the folly of such behavior when witnessing it others.

  24. says

    My usual response, when Christians accuse me of being angry with god, is to accuse them of being angry with the unicorn who gored their father.

    Usually, I have to wait for a bit of wheels to turn.

  25. says

    I’m a regular listener of your very helpful, informative podcast, and a member of a monthly group of Secular Humanist Unitarian Universalists. How’s that for cognitive dissonance? The “chicken atheists have come home to roost”! Indeed.

    This lively group is composed primarily of retirees, and at 53 (and far from retirement in this dreadful economy), I’m one of the youngest. The group has continued to grow over the course of the 3 years I’ve been attending and I find it a source of great, yes, say it–“comfort”–to be amongst like-minded folks close by my suburban quarter acre of metro Philadelphia.

    Ironically, just across the street from this particular UU church is a very large catholic church, situated a few doors down from a women’s health clinic that performs abortion. Not surprisingly, it is the object of routine, rosary-clutching anti-choice activist protests. I smilingly think of the proximity and absurd juxtaposition of these three institutions as the Bermuda Triangle of South Jersey.

    A few months ago I designed a set of “Not Prayer Cards” which were inspired by a very secular-sounding prayer, written by a contemporary Lutheran minister who spent a lot of his career in South Korea.

    Having been to many a Catholic funeral, via my husband’s side of the family, I’ve encountered prayer/mass cards many times and was thus inspired to create something for us non-believers to have as material, cultural “devotion”, so to speak.

    Please check them out here:
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/67814879/trinity-of-not-prayer-cards

  26. says

    Hi folks,
    Most interesting section in this podcast (to me anyway) was the bit on how religious believers tend to *think*. I have noticed this too, and it is striking. Methodical vs intuitive.

    In general, I like to break it up between “verbal” thinking and “visual” thinking (other terms may exist) – NOT to be confused with learning styles.

    Verbal thinking lends itself to the sort of higher-order stuff and categorisation that endlessly fascinates analytic philosophers and theologians. You can twist words to do whatever you want, so these punters will never make progress.

    Scientists (at least the good ones!) are *visual* thinkers, in that they analyse what stuff is doing in the real world as systems, rather than grammatical constructs.

    I’ve blogged on this sort of thing before: http://answersingenes.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-sort-of-thinker-are-you-visual-or.html – comments welcome.

    I do think that a greater appreciation of this might help us identify ways of helping verbal thinkers step outside their fallacious comfort zones…

  27. Viv says

    I love how Justin mentioned how atheist particularly on the web can be so dominating and hateful.

    One reason I turned away from religion was because I saw how it people can use it as a vehicle for their hate and anger. We all know those religious types right – especially perhaps in our local communities.
    But then I realised that atheism can be used in exactly the same way. I liked how you brought that up because really, we should be able to criticise our own side as well as the other.

    And I also like the part about the thinking styles. It makes so much sense. And especially the bit when Luke said ‘I wouldn’t say that when we were believers that we were stupid, but we just hadn’t developed that thinking style yet’. Do you think conservative politicians think like that as well?

  28. westcoaster says

    The Wyndgate-gate story reminded me of a human rights case going on in my home province of British Columbia. A gay couple made a reservation at a b&b in Grand Forks, BC. A few minutes later, they received a call from the b&b asking them if they were a couple. When they replied yes, they were informed that their reservation was cancelled. They took it to the BC human rights council, where it is now under review. The commenters in news stories about the case make the same kinds of arguments that you hear about the Wyndgate, that it is privately owned, that the owners have a right to turn down anyone they want etc. Those reasons won’t stand up here in BC anymore than the will in the US and for the same reason: even though the business is privately owned, the service was offered to the public.

    I have a simple mental test that I use in such cases. I just replace the word gay or atheist or whatever the case may be with black or Jewish. As in, “the b&b cancelled the reservation when they found out the couple was black”. Or, “the Wyndgate cancelled the reservation when they found out the speaker was Jewish”. It it seems wrong to do something on the basis of race, then it is also wrong to so on for other reasons like sexual orientation or religion, or lack thereof.

  29. Jebediah Farnsworth says

    Thank you for a great show once again! RD is consistently excellent, informative, and fun, and I always look forward to new episodes.

    I am having a bit of trouble locating the graph in the Pew Forum religious switching study. I’ve found several, but I would love to see this particular chart. Is there a link to that?

  30. skephtic says

    Study citations:

    I really enjoy RD, and the RD extras. I’m especially interested in the psychology studies that are referenced. I’m wondering if your write ups for the podcasts could include some references to the studies mentioned? It would be really helpful so I can avoid the “friend of a friend” anecdotal references to some study I heard about on a podcast. :)

    As to civility, I have to say that as much as I enjoy PZ’s witty and insightful posts I’m not so much a fan of the cargo cult emulation of his style that only manages to copy the invective and not the humor and substance. I hope there is a way for the various FTB blogs to benefit from the association while keeping their own sense of community and standards of discourse.

  31. says

    i found that if you go to the American Cancer Society link, you can contact them. I asked them why they don’t accept a $500,000 donation from the Foundation Beyond Belief. I suggest you all follow suit; just look for the feedback link at the bottom of their page.

  32. JVC says

    About the counter-apologetics segment:

    The RD crew thought that the second premise of the outsider’s test for faith (that a person’s religious beliefs are largely a function of their parents’ beliefs) was unnecessary to reach his conclusion.

    I think the premise is necessary to reach a related conclusion: that people did not initially reach their religious beliefs from an outsider’s perspective.

    If you believe that the outsider’s test for faith is a valid methodology for evaluating religious beliefs (established with the other premises), and you accept that you did not reach your religious beliefs using that methodology, then it follows that you should reevaluate your beliefs.

    Liked the episode, keep them coming!

  33. GPC says

    I agree with JVC. The only reason most people hold a particular belief is because their parents held it and indoctrinated them from infancy. The only reason their parents hold those beliefs is because their parents held that belief and indoctrinated them from infancy. And it goes on and on over the generations. Most believers never arrived at their beliefs themselves. It was something that was forced on them. It’s important to point that out.

  34. BinJabreel says

    @Gesres:

    The fact that you draw an equivalence between calling an angry woman a “bitch”- a gendered insult meant to denigrate females (and feminine men)- and calling someone who acts on a deep seated prejudice against a disenfranchised group a ‘bigot’ is really telling. Calling your wife a bitch because she doesn’t agree with you, and calling a bigot a bigot for being bigoted, are not even remotely the same.

    A better example would be refraining from calling a female dog a bitch, because- though it is using the word correctly- it’s still loaded down with cultural baggage.

  35. charleswallace says

    Regarding the ongoing freak-out on this blog about words, names, and labels:

    Our common language has the pleasant property of subtlety. Let us understand it as an almost infinite garden. One can wander in the garden of English and pluck many different fruits, some from this tree, some from that tree, and gather together fruits that appear the same.
    Discernment and understanding, however, come once one compares the origin and provenance of the fruit in question with all the other fruits which seem alike.

    In other words . . . (!)

    please stop arguing about words and get into the ideas you really care about.

    -Charles in San Diego

  36. Jack says

    So what?

    If God doesn’t exist, then we’re just animals with no purpose…

    People can be as racist or homophobic or sexist as they want to be.

    It doesn’t matter. It’s just animals being animals.

    Good Lord, the atheist are a bunch of laughable hypocrites.

  37. GPC says

    As I was listening to this podcast again, a comment in the Christian Post article jumped out at me. The one about populations shrinking drastically and violently. I assume by drastically the writer was referring to birth rates. In Western Europe, largely atheistic countries generally have higher birth rates than Christian ones. An article did a comparison and found for example that Malta, which has a 75% church attendance rate has a birth rate of 1.52. France has a church attendance rate of 12% but a birth rate of 1.97. The immigrant and nonimmigrant birth rates are about the same, so it isn’t immigration that is driving up the bith rate. With the exception of Ireland, all the largely nonbelieving countries had higher birth rates than the Christian countries. Rather than throwing out the myth that atheists are too hedonistic to have kids, Christians need to ask why they are having so few children compared to nonbelievers in Western Europe.
    http://gobangla.hubpages.com/hub/Is-Secularization-Responsible-for-Lower-Birth-Rates

    As for violently, a lot of communists were theists. Not all of them bought completely into Marxism (which promoted atheism). There were plenty of Christian and Jewish communists. The Khmer Rouge actually rejected Marxism and incorporated some aspects of Buddhism into their own doctrine. The atheist/communist connection is very simplistic.

  38. GPC says

    Jack,

    I would say the fact that this life is so short and the only one is a reason to make it better for everyone. If a god exists, why bother making life good here for anyone. Be racist and homophobic, burn alleged witches, whatever you want because supposedly all of these victims of religious hatred will go on to a better next life. Right?

  39. charleswallace says

    Jeremy: Thanks for the props. Love the show. Don’t let the bastards get you (or your podcast) down.

    –Waiting eagerly for RD#94,

    Charles in San Diego (just West of Ocotillo Wells)

  40. says

    Re: Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith. One issue I have with the argument is that every test needs to be evaluated, but who grades the test? The arguments for the OTF that I see Loftus make are typically to take the test at all, but then what? Suppose I agree to evaluate my own religion as an outsider? I see three basic results:

    1. I agree that my own religion can’t withstand scrutiny and thus reject all religions equally. I become agnostic.

    2. I reaffirm my own faith on the grounds that my religion truly is superior to all others.

    3. I switch from one religion to another because the other religion withstands my scrutiny better.

    It appears to me that Loftus et. al. would argue that if I take his test and respond with anything other than option 1, then I must not have taken the test right. Loftus seems to argue that either I will renounce all religion, or else I somehow faked the test results. This is the inherent problem in any self-administered, self-evaluated test–how do I keep from subjectively skewing the test results?

    Another issue is that it seems odd to ask someone to evaluate their own religion with the unbiased critical thinking you used to reject all the other religions when so many people did not in fact evaluate other religions with unbiased critical thinking. Most people adopt their religion with the same care and thought that they used to adopt their primary language.

  41. says

    Tommy; Your blog indicates you are interested in free thought, so I’m not sure what you are questioning here. Here are my thoughts; I think we agree on what the implications are of making choice #1 are. If people honestly took the test and choose #2 in large numbers, I would say the test is not able to tell us much. It might tell us that people are born into the religion that is most logical for them, but there are other variables that the result wouldn’t be revealing; are people afraid of the consequences of changing, is actual intimidation being done, is ample information available, is misinformation being used? Without saying those things are happening or not, we can say we would need a different test to demonstrate them.

    I think #3 was addressed with the data about switching. Especially in modern cultures where many religions are freely available. OTF does address why people aren’t switching from Buddhism to Christianity or Lutheran to Hindu in larger numbers, or you are back to the problems with #2, except now it could be that people are being intimidated INTO the switch or misinformed etc.

    Your questions about Loftus and critical thinking seem to answer themselves. You point out that it is a problem to get people to evaluate their own religion, Loftus is saying the lack of switching going on is evidence of that. We can’t evaluate everyone’s thinking, but we do have quite a bit of data from people who have switched to agnosticism or atheism and we can evaluate them. Likewise we can look at cases where there was a lot of switching going on, like when Muslims swept across Northern Africa, can you make a case that those people were critically deciding to take on the religion of their conquerors?

  42. says

    Lausten, you make good points; perhaps I haven’t thought it through thoroughly.

    It still feels so subjective to me. If we begin with the premise that there is one superior religious position (agnostic, Xian or otherwise) on the grounds that that one position most closely aligns with reality, then a successful OTF would be where the test-taker switches from his current position to the superior one. But anyone who already feels that they hold that superior position will judge others accordingly. As an analogy, when a math teacher grades test scores, any student that doesn’t answer in accordance with what the teacher already feels is the correct answer will be marked down.

    When I hear Loftus plead with a Christian to set aside his biases and take the OTF with neutral skepticism, I get the same feeling when a believer pleads with me to “search my heart” or “read the Bible with an open mind” or “sincerely ask God to reveal himself.” The notion is that if I’ll just do that one thing, THEN I’ll finally get it.

    Of course, if I respond by saying, “Okay, I prayed for enlightenment and God didn’t respond; is that evidence for the lack of his existence?” the believer doesn’t pat me on the head for conducting a fair and impartial evaluation. She concludes that I must not have prayed right.

  43. JVC says

    Tommy: I would add a #4 to your list.

    4. They conclude that their religious beliefs don’t pass the OTF, but decide to keep them anyway. Because of their reconsideration, however, they are more tolerant of people who don’t share their beliefs.

  44. says

    Tommy;
    I know what you are talking about. I have done that in my own evaluation, and experienced it with others. In my blog, I refer to it as “built in cruelty” or “the cost of believing” http://winter60.blogspot.com/2011/09/pagans-and-heretics-iv.html. I think this problem is worse when talking with more liberal educated believers because they know crazy believer talk when they see it and they try to avoid it.

    Logical, scientific discussion, if done poorly, can also be cruel and condescending, but it doesn’t have to be. In a discussion of belief, cruelty is required. At some point, the believer has to get to the point where they say “you didn’t do it right”, implying there is something wrong with you. With a more scientific method, you should be discussing methods, quality of data, re-examining the hypothesis, etc. I assume Loftus does want everyone to draw the same conclusion he did, so it can be difficult to draw that out of the conversation.

  45. gvlgeologist says

    This may be a bit late (I notice that the last comment is from 3 days ago), but:

    I just phoned ACS as a long time donor and told them of my concerns about this. The woman that I spoke with says that in fact the entire national relay for life team program has been phased out, and she denied that Freethought was being singled out. She said that she would email me additional material about this, but that she wasn’t sure when the information would reach me. I will forward it here when I get it.

    I find this profoundly disturbing. I have been a donor to ACS as long as I have been able to. My mother, step father, and a number of friends and other relatives have died from cancer, and am happy to say that a number of friends have survived this disease. However, if it turns out that ACS really is biased to the point of refusing A HALF MILLION DOLLARS from atheists, I will no longer be able to support them.

  46. InsipidGeologist says

    Speaking of John Loftus… & civility in comments…

    Looks like he doesn’t take too kindly to criticism.

    I was reading this lovely review of one of his books, and John Loftus himself jumped on the comments and literally abused the reviewer

    https://livinglifewithoutanet.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/book-review-why-i-became-an-atheist-by-john-loftus/

    This is John Loftus (seems no doubt about the reality of who it is) to the reviewer:

    “There are plenty of arguments in my book, dickwad. To have an argument one does not have to state all of the premises, dipshit. Some are implied, crack head. Even the conclusion can be implied, bonehead… Carry on with your stupidity… You are pathetic”

    After reading this & confirming it is obviously him, I’ve little respect left for the man. And it looks like he did that hoping that no one would see it, as he says, “in the lonely part of the internet”.

  47. andyglew says

    Jesse Toler says:
    October 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm
    Sorry folks, but atheists are not a “protected class”

    But I see elsewhere, in a harassment class: “Even atheists and agnostics are covered under this protected group … Religion”.

    I understand that there is a difference between protected class and group, federal and state law, employment and pubic accomodation. IANAL

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