1. Joshua McShane says

    Atheism is inherently different from religion. What annoys me is when atheists organize/carry themselves in a way that makes them resemble organized religion. When they blast people with their views at the slightest provocation, form large groups with the goal of creating converts, heavily criticize even moderate religious people, et cetera that they start looking like “fundamentalist Christians.”And I think that’s where the “omg atheism is just like another religion” argument comes from. It’s not that atheism is similar to religion, just that some atheists act the same way toward their views as religious people do, so people perceive them as similar.

  2. LS says

    I spent many years as an agnostic, and only recently began to self identify as an atheist. And not even because I changed my mind about theism–simply because of subtle shifts in the commonly accepted meanings of the terms.That said, there is a titanic difference between being unwilling to make metaphysical assertions, and grouping everyone who is willing to make metaphysical assertions into a big pile labeled “dogmatic buffoons.”That’s who this comic is speaking to.

  3. Azkyroth says

    Apparently some people are so insular and self-focused that the only thing they can find that’s objectionable about fundamentalist Christians is that they voice their opinions with emphasis.

  4. Tash says

    Personally I have felt that a lot of this is the American culture of being pretty emphatic about anything, religion plays such a huge part of life, whether you are religious or not that people who are non religious feel they have to shout just as loud to get heard.Over here, it is still considered impolite to question people about religion and on the whole, people who mention a diety too much are referred to as a ‘God botherer’ and it is considered a bit embarrassing to be publically religious. However, I have read threads on boards where a pretty moderate Christian discussion would be going on which would soon be flamed by a ‘Atheism 4evah’ type who will tell said moderate Christians that they were ‘fools’ believers in fairies, possible murders, misogynists, obvious racists etc etc etc…all these people were doing was talking about theology and boring stuff, they weren’t talking about how women should get back in the kitchen or killing abortion doctors. I am sorry but if s/he was out to win hearts and minds it was a colosal fail.I am not an atheist myself but I am not a person of the book and I tend to side with atheists/secularists against the religious right, but when the atheists invade the space of religious folk and insult them just for the act of believing, that is when I start to feel like a believer.

  5. says

    I’ve been an atheist for 8 years. I had been so active in conservative Christian circles that it was necessary to come out at once. But I have refrained from anything remotely militant for this reason, I value friendship, people, relationships far more than I value what my friends and family believe.When I was a Christian, I felt my world must necessarily be divided into “them” and “us.” I resented that my whole life. Since coming out as a quiet atheist I have met hundreds of incredible people of all stripes…and some of them believe some far out things! I have more, and truer friends than I’ve had my whole life & I have no intention of losing any over ideology again.That being said, I value my new insight, discovery and knowledge as my own life. I have no desire to return to any “faith” any more than to be blind in both eyes! And I enjoy the intellectual comeraderie of those who see likewise. So I am becoming cautiously involved in the freethinking circles, to network and make more likeminded friends.But I will never, never, go to war on “the other side.” They, too, are my friends, my family, my favorite people. My goal, in becoming more active, is to keep our mutual humanity front and formost. I think if all ideologies would do the same, they would proseletize in a much more humane fashion…and also be more honest when it comes to changing or forsaking their own views.Sorry for the long post. My second goal is brevity.

  6. says

    Maybe I was a bit unfair in my earlier comments about Atheism, I live in Sweden where a secular alliance isn’t really needed. We have other problems with stupidity, mostly having to do with Social darwinism, which is pretty much Darwins teaching being misunderstood and used as an excuse to care about nothing except cynicism. You people seem to think that Atheism in it’s nature can’t be corrupted the same way religion can. I’ve got news for you. If Atheism becomes as big as Christianity greedy people will find, and indeed have found, a way to corrupt society using it. Religion does not kill people, nor does Atheism. People kill people. Changing from one rigid thought system to another will not change that. And while most Atheists here might not be rigid of thought, I can guarantee that any majority of converts or born into to Atheism will be just as rigid in Atheism as they would in religion.If you want to change the world, start teaching that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer and that learning is fun.

  7. says

    Well put.Genocide and other evils are frequently blamed on Christianity, Islam, or Atheism. It escapes notice that throughout history, this was the modus operandi of waging war on your enemy, with or without an ideological drum to beat. Ideology, though a frequent excuse, is really a mask for a deeper issues of national hubris and human intolerance. Both are as deeply embedded in human nature as religious tendancies. All three seem to be byproducts of human and social evolution, rooted in the need to survive, but taken to extremes.Hopefully the 21st century will see a more rational & humane approach to human diversity. Westerners, after all, have pretty much stopped fighting each other since the world wars. Hopefully this will spread to the world community. Hopefully rational freethinkers will lead the um…charge!

  8. says

    Oh my god, I get this all the time. It all depends on your definition of religion. No, Atheism is not a religion, even if we all gather in large groups, read the same books, blogs, and listen to the same podcasts. No, Atheism isn’t a religion if we start attacking moderate Christians. No, Atheism isn’t a religion if we start handing out pamphlets or going door-to-door.Because, in my book anyway, all that stuff is just a bit of a nuisance. Preaching is a little annoying. Having your beliefs criticized is a little annoying. But religion is much, much more than just annoying.Atheism would start being a religion (in my eyes) if we started indoctrinating children with an feeling of inherent worthlessness, then filling their heads with unfalsifiable, unverifiable, ridiculously anti-scientific claims that are the only “cure” for their worthlessness.You can only equate Atheism with religion if you have an unfortunately shallow understanding of how horrific religion can really be.</caustic tirade>Also, you left out the alt-text :)>>”Alt-text: ‘But you’re using that same tactic to try to feel superior to me, too!’ ‘Sorry, that accusation expires after one use per conversation.’

  9. says

    I’ve heard both Christians and Atheists make that same statement. It is an odd sort of common ground that really has nothing to do with the discussion at hand, but an avoidance of even acknowledging the issue exists.

  10. says

    Westerners, after all, have pretty much stopped fighting each other since the world wars.

    Right. Now we only bomb non-Westerners. Look how far we’ve come. [/sarcasm]

  11. says

    I’ve yet to see any of those people outside of the weird world of blog comments and internet forums. Atheists have not come to my door to proselytize, I’ve certainly never met an atheist who blasted anyone with their views at the slightest provocation in person. Everyone does that on the internet, it’s part of the whole internet culture, but in person? No.

  12. says

    Such people have nothing to do with religion or atheism, they are called trolls, and any forum or blog comment section has the potential to draw them. They rarely care about the ideas they are spouting, or believe them, or even really know anything about them. Their only goal is to fire people up and start a fight. They like the attention they get, even if it is negative attention, they simply want to be replied to. Hence the ancient and wise internet rule: Don’t Feed the Trolls. Again, I’ve never seen that kind of behavior by atheists in the real world, if it happens it is a very rare exception.

  13. says

    Only partly true. Not without provocation. If my neighbor has a dog that crosses into my yard and attacks my children, and he refuses to control his dog, I will use all legal means necessary to see that his dog is controlled for him. If the law refuses to control his dog, *I* will control his dog, and the owner if necessary.That being said, no U.S. president has irked me more than Dubya, the gun-toting, shoot-from-the-hip-and-ask-questions-later Texan with a personal agenda for Sadaam. He scoffed at the international restraints available to our country, and the entire West, and went after the wrong dog…one who was already locked up in a Kennel for previous forays.Unfortunately, the man, and the ideologists that supported him, have a lot to learn about hubris. I doubt W could even pronounce it, let alone define it.My h0pe still is that the rational members of my country, and those across the pond will *help* the entire West adopt more appropriate foreign policies by maintaining human dignity above nationalism and ideology. That is, after all, what the U.S. Founding Fathers, despite their own hypocrisies, hoped to establish in the New World.

  14. says

    I think that it is fantastic that the people you have met in your everyday life are open-minded enough to not “thump” you with atheism. I, sadly, have not had the same experience. The worst part, for me, is that it usually done by people I normally consider to be really open-minded. And it’s done in such a casual way that I almost can’t believe that what they said is what I heard.For instance, comments such as “your invisible, mythical sky-people” or “Everyone has the right to believe what they want. Just because you’re wrong doesn’t change that.” These kinds of statements – whether made by an atheist, a Christian, a Wiccan or any other religion – are all just as offensive and “thumping”. What religion you are – or aren’t! – makes no difference. The problem is the assumption that you are right, they are wrong, and you have to let them KNOW that whether with proselytizing or snide comments or superior, false statements such as “<false sympathy=”” voice=””>Whatever makes you feel better, dear.</false>”

  15. says

    I just wanted to ask you a question as I am reading your reply. It seems to me that the implication in your comment is that, while you still love and value your friends and family that are theists you also equate believing with being “blind in both eyes” and insinuate that your friends who are atheists give you “intellectual comeraderie” and are “freethinking”. Am I reading this correctly?I guess what I see there is what I’ve seen from quite a few different atheists that I know: the quiet disdain for anyone who would have a religion. If that is not the intent, or if I am reading into your comment something that is simply not there, then I apologize. But if that is not the case, then this is what I think the comic and the sentiment behind it is also talking about – not just the blatant proselytizing, but also the quiet and firmly held belief by some atheists that theists are very much wrong and that needs to be stated as often as possible.

  16. says

    Strangely, this is exactly what I think the comic is addressing – this type of comment. I also feel a bit offended that you are supposing that all “religions” do these things. Or are they not “religions” if they don’t, as you claim atheism isn’t?I was raised Christian and I was never made to feel “worthless” by my parents or my church. I was taught a system of beliefs and a way to tell right from wrong based on their ethics. I was taught love and understanding and acceptance. Now, I know that not everyone has such a nice experience in Christianity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.I chose to become Wiccan when I was 12 not because I hated Christianity but just because it didn’t fit me. It has not only made me feel very worthy and given me a measure of self-confidence, but it has also taught me (or, rather, I have taught myself through my growth as a solo practitioner) a good deal about personal responsibility and how to accept the consequences of my actions or inactions.I have had friends that were Catholic, Mormon, Christian, Wiccan, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic and Jewish. Some of them followed their religion and were better for it. Some had horror stories from childhood or early adolescence about their religions that made my heart ache for their pain. I have known people who have endured hardship and persecution for what they believe from their peers and I have known people who have been uplifted by their religion to becoming better people, people I am very proud to call friends.Humans can be cruel, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof). Humans can als0 be kind. That should have nothing to do with your belief structure, IMO. What you believe, you should feel in your heart and (if you believe in one) soul to be what is true and right. It should make you feel right with your place in the world and it should encourage you to be the best person you can be while you are here on Earth. As long as it does that, who am I to gainsay it? And also, sir, who are you?

  17. says

    Thank-you Amilianna for your insightful and thoughtful reply. And yes, that would be true…to a point.Anyone, myself included, who holds strong beliefs will have strong opinions of opposing beliefs. It does not necessarily follow that one disdains those who hold them. But it takes a better man than I to excercise complete magnanimity.I truly felt that blinders had been removed from my own eyes when I left Christianity. The deconversion came with a tremendous amount of research, soul-searching, letting go of things held dear, a few very harsh and bitter condemnations from family and friends, and no small amount of frustration and anger at myself for not having questioned my faith more deeply 20 years previous.Roll that into a small paper and I can be a fire-cracker ready to blow when someone, even kindly, suggests I will return to the faith someday. I feel as that they are asking me to put out my eyes, relive the pain of deconversion, and accept “by faith” something I know not to be true in fact. It is an inevitable chasm that does separate me to some extent from friends and family. There can be no comeraderie on *this* particular point.That does not mean there can be no humanity, friendsip, or intellectual stimulation. As a Christian I argued strongly against other Christians for mocking or dismissing other viewpoints. But over the years, I allowed my strict ideology to separate me from the rest of humanity. I am finding now, the same dangers from the other side.I have held a quiet atheism to this point, and have made innumerable friends. I do wish to be more vocal about my beliefs, to “evangelize” if you will what I hold to be marvelous discoveries. But I will have to scrutinize carefully, honestly the emotional baggage I drag into the debate…and my choice of words…if I want to avoid alienating good people.Thanks again for the insight and reply!

  18. LS says

    At first I was like “Ooo, a question! I like it when people ask questions.”But then was totally “Aw, that was just an assertion PHRASED as a question.”

  19. says

    It is, in fact, a question about my own implied assertion. It is an important question to ask, and answer, thoughtfully, if either side is to have any meaningful discussion.One-sided discussions are merely mental masturbation. I can do that on my own!

  20. says

    I don’t mean to seem unnecessarily contrarian or offensive, but Christianity is all about making people feel worthless. Its central belief — that Jesus died for your sins — is focused specifically on your, and everyone’s, inherent worthlessness. I’ll follow in Christopher Hitchens’ wake by saying that, if you don’t believe Jesus needed to die to make you worthy of heaven, you aren’t Christian.I don’t want to come off as harshly judgmental or offensive, but that’s what Christianity is. That’s the definition of Christianity. Without the worthlessness Jesus saved you from, it’s just a bunch of lovey-dovey “love your neighbor” stuff and an improper use of the word “Christian.” It’s like a New Testament fanfiction instead of Christianity.I know this might sound like I’m saying “you weren’t a true Christian,” and I kinda am, but I don’t mean it that way. There are a lot of moderate or liberal Christian groups that are very kind, accepting, self-valuing people… they just have to ignore the majority of the Bible in the process.But other than that, I’m with you on everything except:

    [What you believe] should make you feel right with your place in the world and it should encourage you to be the best person you can be while you are here on Earth. As long as it does that, who am I to gainsay it? And also, sir, who are you?

    For me, I place a higher value on the truthfulness of something than on its comfortableness. I would rather believe something true, no matter how depressing, than believe something false, no matter how pleasant. And I think most people are the same way. Humans can be both cruel and kind, it’s true. But they are also much, much more. There is an inspirational beauty to humankind that leaves me in awestruck wonder. But the thing that is the most beautiful and the most inspiring about humans isn’t their capacity for kindness but their capacity for understanding. We can learn and comprehend our world with such profound mastery that we’re able to create airplanes, computers, iPhones, Mars rovers… we can cure diseases, whether by medicines or psychiatry… we can predict and calculate the positions of planets with mathematics…And all of these achievements actually make life more enjoyable, not less.So who am I to gainsay a comforting idea, whether it’s true or not? I’m a person who sees progress and achievement as a direct result of people leaving their comfort zones, of having their ideas challenged, of challenging the ideas of others. I’m a dreamer, who imagines a future where our socio-political systems are the best suited for the human mind, where life is truly the best it can be, where happiness is available for everyone in such quantities that no one would be left wanting. Or, more simply, where life is perfect.I think truth is more important than comfort, because, in the end, truth is comfort. And what better way to discover truth than by arguing?

  21. Thomas W says

    At the risk of “heresy” in an atheist forum, Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion”, by title alone (not to mention what I’ve heard about the contents, though I haven’t read it myself) provide sufficient basis for intolerant fundamentalist atheism.I’m not sure I feel superior, but I’ve known or read works by intolerant, antagonistic Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. The shame is they seem to think they’re going to convince somebody of their views by taking that approach.

  22. says

    Well, it may help that I’m not making public statements about my religion since I don’t have one. The thing I always wonder about when people say atheists have been mean to them is who brought it up in the first place? Atheist aren’t often to be found striking up random conversations and trying to convince people of atheism. I wouldn’t claim that if a conversation was about religion, or if a person was making a point of their religion that an atheist might not end up being a bit snide, but I am saying that it is highly unusual to find atheist randomly saying: “Have you found the truth that there is no god yet?” On the other hand, I have been approached by random strangers wanting to know if I’ve been saved, I’ve had Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on my door to bother me with their proselytizing, I’ve seen preachers set up on campus to shout out to the passersby how they are going to burn in hell. I’m sorry, but that sort of behavior simply does not exist among atheists to my knowledge. Anything is possible, but short of British sketch comedy, I simply can’t imagine an atheist doing that.

  23. says

    A person writing a book in which they lay out the case for what they believe is a far cry from fundamentalism as far as I’m concerned. It’s also a far cry from knocking on someone’s door or otherwise approaching random people to convert them personally. Honestly, how many Christians would even know this book exists if they weren’t being told about how evil it is by some religious leader?Ultimately, not being fundamentalist doesn’t mean you have to shut up entirely.

  24. says

    Frequently the topic of conversation was something else entirely where religion was mentioned. It’s often a news piece, or something widespread. This has included the creationism in schools argument, abortion, marriage rights, health care and a dozen other subjects. We begin with a basic conversation, one in which we often agree, and somehow it ends in them making snide remarks about religion in general.Think about that for a second: here we are, hearing about the possibility that Creationism would be taught in a science class. Me and my friends all feel that this is ridiculous – I point out not the least of which because, who’s version of Creation are they going to teach? I get a snide comment about it all being bullshit anyway, so it wouldn’t matter which fairy tale they chose to use. That’s offensive, and completely unnecessary as I wasn’t “preaching” at them or disagreeing with them at all! I was merely pointing out how right their argument was even FOR theists because of the inability to cover all of the various forms of theism even if they WERE going to teach that subject!Look at that from any of a dozen subjects and you’ll see how occasionally religion might be mentioned (especially as I’m in the States and a lot of our political discussions factor religion in at some point) and then you’ll see all the places for the casual snide remark and superior attitudes from atheists towards theists of any stripe – whether or not said theist agrees with them or not.

  25. says

    Thanks for the reply – what you are saying makes a lot of sense and, strangely, I think it illuminates the problems that I also have had and discussed in other replies to this topic.I think that many of us who did not grow up in our current belief-structure came to said reasoning through at least a moderate amount of grief. Breaking away from family, friends and your own conditioning is a difficult thing to even contemplate let alone go through with. Therefore all of us who have experience this trial-by-fire, as it were, are the more secure in our own beliefs but at the same time are also more wary of other people who might attack them.I think that you are right that we all must walk that fine line between being firm in our own beliefs and sticking up for them while at the same time not attacking those around us for their own hard-won beliefs. I think that likely we all will stray on that line to one side or the other multiple times – we’re only human! – but I can hope that the next time I stray there’s someone understanding like you to gently correct me back to the path.

  26. says

    I think that your version of Christianity is at essence right while at the same time leading you to a conclusion that is not necessarily true. Granted, I have known many Christians who come to the same conclusions and use their religion to make themselves and others feel worthless, but I did not take it that way.Jesus died for your sins. You say that you had to be worthless in order to need that. I say – if you were worthless, why would anyone bother? As I was growing up, the Christianity that I experienced was about the inherent WORTH of self. Yes, you are flawed (all humans are!). Yes, you’ll make mistakes and screw up. But NONE of that means you are worthless. If you were worthless, why would God (the Christian God) have sent his only son to die for you? As a matter of fact in our society as a whole the phrase “I would die for you” is used as the utmost expression of worthiness and devotion.So, you may feel that I, and others who were raised as I was, were “bad Christians” because we chose to look at the sacrifice of a human life as an expression of WORTH, but I feel that that is your opinion and not a statement of fact that all Christians must adhere to.I do notice that you focused entirely on my childhood religious experience, however, and not at all on the fact that I am currently Wiccan. Is Wicca not a religion, according to you, because it doesn’t promote worthlessness? Or am I somehow not a “good” Wiccan because I somehow misinterpreted the intent? Is the very fact that it is a religion suppose to carry with it a feeling of worthlessness and suppression of the self?I also think that you misunderstood my final point. I did not, in fact, say that your beliefs should make you feel “comfortable”. I said it should make you feel /right/. These are two different things, in my book. Feeling right has nothing to do with happiness, sadness or being comfortable. Feeling right means, to me at least, that the universe makes sense to you. That you truly feel that things are working as they should. Whether your believe that a God is responsible for that or that it’s all Scientific laws, or even if you believe that a God created the Scientific laws that now work everything, it’s irrelevant. Rightness is… not easily defined, but easily recognized. It’s almost like hearing a note plucked on an out-of-tune guitar, and then hearing the same note after the string has been tuned. You /know/ that there’s something wrong with the first, and you /know/ the rightness of the second.For you, being a seeker of truth is obviously what gives you that feeling of rightness. However, challenging other people to think is not the same as shouting them down. Lumping all religions together into this perceived notion of yours and then saying that anyone who disagrees was doing it wrong is not what I would expect from someone seeking truth. Ironically, it seems like you have actually made a great case for Atheism to be lumped in with religions because your qualifier for it’s exclusion doesn’t apply and you yourself have stated that there are many similarities to Atheism and other religions in their meetings and practices.

  27. says

    If that constitutes snide remark about religion, given the context of the conversation, then there’s not much hope of anyone having a conversation without offending someone. The argument “whose version would they teach” is a useful one. It’s also a reasonable response to say, “who cares, they’re all bullshit anyway”. That’s stating an opinion highly related to the discussion at hand. Are atheists required to just shut up and stay in the closet?

  28. says

    >>”I say – if you were worthless, why would anyone bother?“God bothered because of His infinite compassion, mercy, etc., etc. and we must continually worship and thank God for that infinite compassion, mercy, etc. I’m not taking one sect and saying “this is all of Christianity”; I’m acknowledging what the New Testament is all about.>>”Yes, you are flawed (all humans are!). Yes, you’ll make mistakes and screw up.“Yes, we make mistakes, but we are not flawed. I cannot stress this enough. If something is flawed, it implies that there is some grand perfection that we fall short of, which simply isn’t the case.”Perfect” means something different to everyone, and even changes based on situation. Therefore “flawed” is the same way. We are all different, we are all better suited to some tasks than others, but we are not “flawed.” Different, unique, but not flawed.Religion is a difficult thing to define. I would love to say “a belief system is a religion if it indoctrinates babies with demonstrably false things,” but I can’t. People love simple rules of thumb and succinct definitions, and “religion” isn’t one of them. It’s a complex system of rituals and beliefs, and there’s no black-and-white way of defining it, really.How many rituals, how many beliefs, and how many practitioners does a group need before it graduates to religion? It’s almost impossible to say. And, whenever, anyone brings up the “Atheism is a religion” subject, they typically don’t do so to be factually accurate, but to attach the stigma of religion to Atheism.What I mean is, people don’t say “Atheism is a religion” like they would say “Canaries are yellow.” Religion, as a word, has a distasteful nature to most non-religious people, and it’s the distaste, not the definition, that they want to apply to Atheism, and this is why I felt compelled to bring up childhood indoctrination and self-worthlessness. If people are equating Atheism to religion to show distaste for Atheism, I want to make it clear that no, religion is still generally much, much more distasteful.I confess, I left Wicca out because, well, I don’t know a thing about it. I’ve heard the word before… but my only experience with Wicca was that my mom would use it and Satanism interchangeably, lol, which only makes me less of an authority on it.But anyway, I wasn’t leaving it out because I thought it “wasn’t a legit religion”; I was leaving it out because I’m definitely not knowledgeable about it at all. Jen should make an Intro to Wicca thread and you could teach us :D>>”I did not, in fact, say that your beliefs should make you feel “comfortable”. I said it should make you feel /right/.“I see the distinction, but I still don’t see how that makes me wrong. Either way, your preference isn’t on the factual accuracy of a belief, but on the way it feels.It’s true, truth very much gives me that feeling of rightness, but I don’t believe true things because I want that feeling of rightness; I get that feeling of rightness because I believe true things. Of course, it’s impossible for me to try and convince anyone that they should prefer truth to good-feeling ideas, and it would be dishonest of me to do so. After all, from a philosophical sense, there are no obligations or requirements in life at all. We don’t have to do anything. I cannot say “you should think this way.” But what I can say is “If your goal is X, you should think this way.” And then it all boils down to what people’s goals are.>>”Lumping all religions together into this perceived notion of yours and then saying that anyone who disagrees was doing it wrong is not what I would expect from someone seeking truth.”You’re totally right, and I apologize. I still contend, however, that the central belief of Christianity is one of self-worthlessness because of our sinful, “flawed” nature. But yes, there are groups that we’d call religions that don’t believe this.>>” Ironically, it seems like you have actually made a great case for Atheism to be lumped in with religions because… you yourself have stated that there are many similarities to Atheism and other religions in their meetings and practices.”In the same sense that book clubs or family get-togethers are religions. Socializing is definitely a characteristic of religion, but it’s not exclusive to it.

  29. says

    The fact that you can’t tell the difference between a remark validating ALL versions and a remark specifically saying that the person you are talking to believes in something that is “bullshit” is possibly a huge stumbling block in this conversation.I am in no way saying that atheists should “shut up and stay in the closet”. I think that there is a huge difference between stating YOUR beliefs and trampling all over someone else’s. If we were having the discussion about teaching creationism in school and you said “I disagree with it because I don’t believe in creationism, there’s no proof for it and actually quite a lot that points in the opposite direction and as an atheist I find being forced to learn any religion in a public school personally offensive.” that is a far cry, in my opinion, from saying “all religions are equally full of shit fairy tales that people tell themselves so they can feel better.” In the first, you would be stating your opinion and personal bias without casting any disparagement on anyone else or their personal beliefs. In the second, you would very obviously be doing so. How can you say that these things are the same and that if you aren’t allowed to be disparaging towards other people it’s the same as being told to shut up?

  30. says

    I would like to start out by saying that I’m quite enjoying this exchange at this point. Engaging in intellectual debate is, IMO, the best way for personal growth. :)So, on being “flawed”. Yes, I do think humans are flawed. We each have our own flaws, they are all unique, but there isn’t one person I have ever met that would say they are perfect – and I don’t think that that has anything to do with religion so much as the human condition. It’s what pushes us to learn, to seek, to try. It’s what compels us to look deeper into ourselves and seek out a better future than the one we would have otherwise. Being flawed, ironically, is one of the best things about us as a species. Or perhaps more accurately it is the ability to recognize ourselves as flawed and attempt self-improvement. If we did not have this ability, then I don’t think we’d have the same drive, the same fire and passion to *do* something.Being flawed does not necessarily mean there is some grand perfection that is the same for all of us. Being flawed can mean that there is a personal perfection that we are still working to achieve. I believe this is the case for myself and for everyone else – and it’s one of the reasons that I feel about religion the way I do. We are all striving to find the path that will lead us closer to what we feel we should be – whether that “perfection” is to be more compassionate, or to know more, or whatever it is that we personally strive for.In regards to defining religion: why can’t religion simply be defined as a structure of beliefs that define how you live your life? Obviously you have some personal issue with religion – and I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say with Christianity specifically, maybe due to an upbringing – and that has left you making bitter and hurtful remarks, such as the implication that religions “indoctrinates babies with demonstrably false things”. Yet, strangely, most of what I’ve seen as negativity associated with the mere word “religion” comes out of Atheists circles who do not want to be associated with the word. You say that when someone says that Atheism is a religion they do it to attach the stigma, but if I say “My religion is X” there’s no stigma, so where’s the problem coming from? You yourself admit that the stigma is to non-religious people. So, really, if a religious person calls Atheism a religion, they are probably not meaning it offensively. It is only when a fellow Atheist does it that it would be a problem, and that is something that I think is tied in with a lot of personal grudges rather than anything inherent in the word “religion”.Wicca is pretty easy to condense down. And it harm none, do what ye will is the only precept that I’ve seen to be agreed upon by any large group of Wiccans. We tend to follow our own paths, whether they be as strict and dogmatic as Catholicism, steeped in traditions and rituals, or whether they be free form and, well, hippie-like with a lot of crystals and mentally imagining outcomes. Yet still we all come back to that precept. It means different things to different people but at it’s root we can all agree that it means to take personal responsibility for your actions and the consequences they cause – trying to minimize the harmful consequences as much as possible.I am a mother of 2 little girls. I am raising them in my faith not because I want to indoctrinate them (in fact, we often discuss other religions and the ways that other faiths see things in what I hope is an open fashion from my end) but because I find my faith enriches my life. I live my faith every day in a dozen little ways and my children see that and we talk about it. They ask me what happens when you die and I’ve told them about reincarnation, Heaven and the idea that nothing happens, you simply die and that’s the end. We tried to get into Nirvana and the consciousness of One, but even my 7 year old was having a bit of trouble with that one. If my children come to me and ask to go to church, or for me to get them books on whatever religion or on Atheism, I will and I’ll do my best to help them understand it. I do not see how merely raising my children in something that I believe to be right is “indoctrinating” or in any way bad, but perhaps I’m blinded in that issue due to personal issues (a flaw that I sometimes have, in specific regards to parenting).I think in regards to the true/right argument the problem that we’re having is that you are stating that religion would automatically have you discard something which can be proven for something that can’t. I don’t think this is necessarily true. Sure, some people and some religions might discard things which science has proven because it contradicts their religions. But for one, not all religions do that and second people that are that convinced are not going to be swayed by your arguments. They may even have some valid logic to back up their reasoning, which you could listen to and then broaden your own outlook. I had a friend in High School who was a Nihilist. Wrapping your head around the concept that nothing exists because nothing can be proven because all experience is subjective… I admit, it made my brain leak out my ears a bit. But it was interesting and it did help me to better think about why I believe the way I do or why I trust in science and other facets of life.But all of that aside, many philosophical, psychological and faith-based concepts have no way to prove OR disprove them. You can take the tack then that you would rather not believe and be proven wrong and that’s a valid argument. But to say that those who chose to believe in the hopes that there is a God (or Gods), that we have a soul, that there is an afterlife or whichever other part of religion you don’t believe in are categorically wrong when there IS no proof one way or the other? I just can’t see the sense in that.That is where the true/rightness comes in. I can’t know if there is a God or Gods or nothing what-so-ever. I don’t know if when we die there is or is not an afterlife. But I choose to believe in it. I also believe that science will one day prove these things to be true – we just haven’t gotten there yet. And, really, haven’t most of our greatest scientific leaps come from someone believing something to be true, to be out there, bigger than what they had been taught to be true – and then going out to seek it? I also admit that one day science may prove me wrong. That’s almost the point of faith, is the not knowing. If you /know/ something to be true, it doesn’t count as faith any more. So I’ll just have faith and wait for the day when I can replace it with whichever fact comes to the surface.

  31. says

    Reading your posts, you seem to have a better sense of the line than I, so I tip the hat! I think you summed it up nicely so I’ll leave it at that. Cheers!

  32. Thomas W says

    I will have to look at the book. Though as I originally said, the title is enough to turn off many people. I’ve read some of Dr. Dawkins’s other work though and he generally goes on at least one rant against religion.

  33. Jim says

    Well that’s his whole point. (Bear in mind most of this debate takes place on the internet, and bears the hallmarks of all debates about anything on the internet)Certain atheists are compared to religious fundamentalists because of the similar tone of “I’m right and you’re wrong, so wrong in fact that you’re delusional.” And Thomas is right on the money.In my view, the God Question is one of the, if not the biggest of the “big questions” that every thinking person will contemplate. And it is an issue on which intelligent, rational, well meaning people can (and do) disagree. So when our good friend Richard Dawkins waltzes into the room and boldly declares that not only is everyone else wrong, but also wrong in the head, you can imagine my reaction.

  34. says

    I didn’t intend to get into a long drawn out argument here, but I have to say that you seem to be shifting the goalposts a bit. What I originally commented on was the notion that atheists “blast people with their views at the slightest provocation, form large groups with the goal of creating converts, heavily criticize even moderate religious people, et cetera”. Atheists are a tiny percentage of the population, and only a tiny number of them, and I mean really tiny if any, are “blasting people with their views at the slightest provocation”. Or really any of the rest of that. I suppose there may be some groups dedicate to converting people, but as I understand it most of the large groups are about allowing atheists to meet up with other atheists so they don’t feel so alone and can come out of the closet. Your counter example was about a personal conversation on a religion related topic, and it was creationism specifically called bullshit. Now you’re expanding on your explanation to make it sound even worse. Saying all brands of creationism are bullshit so it doesn’t matter which you choose follows naturally from your earlier statement in the conversation. Did the person in question know your religion and that they might be offending you? I’m sorry you found it offensive, but lets compare the behavior of fundamentalist religious people with these so called fundamentalist atheists (and I won’t even get into all the ways that atheism simply isn’t fundamentalist or religious outside of the issues that have been raised). Fundamentalists tell atheists in mass broadcasts and in person with total strangers that we are going to go to hell and burn for all eternity, that we are evil, that we are sinners, and that we are not real Americans. They knock on the doors of complete strangers at random to tell us this and to try to convince us to follow their religion. Fundamentalists lie and distort science to try to convince people that their beliefs are true. Atheists on the other hand, in rare cases, tell people in a personal conversation that all creationism is just bullshit and fairy tales. They do this based on a lack of evidence for, and lots of evidence against, every creation myth ever told. Some of them have blogs, aimed at like minded people so they can commiserate and, yes, make fun of some religious people. Strangely, lots of religious people seem to read these blogs just to get pissed off. I for one don’t go near religious blogs, but that’s because I’m not a troll. A handful of atheists are lucky enough to be published, and they choose to carefully lay out logical and evidence based arguments against religion in general. Sorry, but none of that remotely compares. Atheists are nothing like fundamentalist religious people.

  35. says

    He clarifies at the beginning of his book that, when he says “delusion,” he simply means “believing something false as though it were true.” Dawkins meant “delusional” in the colloquial, not medical sense.Also, I hold infinite respect for someone who would write off an argument solely because of its tone.

  36. says

    Hey, I’ve been loving this conversation just as much :)… so it is with great pain that I say this (literally). It’s quite possible that I broke my right arm yesterday, lol… so typing is incredibly difficult and painful.Just wanted to let you know, so it doesn’t seem like I just left you hanging. :)

  37. says

    I am offended that you are insinuating that I’m a troll because I read this blog. I find a lot of insight here into many areas such as feminism and political issues that I enjoy reading. I also enjoy having an intelligent debate in regards to things that I don’t necessarily agree with. As a matter of fact, if the only reason you are here is for entries in regards to Atheism I would suggest that perhaps you are missing a great portion of the information and opinions contained here.In addition, if we take the conjecture that this blog is an Atheist blog merely because it is written by one, and you don’t read religious blogs – the idea that you would not read anything written by anyone with religion I would find to be rather narrow-minded. Just because someone has religion they can’t possibly offer any insights on any other topics?You seem to feel that Atheists would never thump their beliefs the way that religious people do, and that’s obviously your experience. However, as a religious person of a religion that is not mainstream, I have experienced thumping from both the mainstream religions and Atheists. And I will say that by and large the more offensive thumping has come from Atheists. Most of the people of other religions that come up and ask me about religion, or if I’d like to hear bout theirs, are polite. When I decline – or when I say yes, but only if they are willing to also hear about mine (you’d be surprised how many are up for an intellectual debate on the subject!) – they smile and wish me well before walking on. The Atheists that I have met who have thumped me have by and large acted superior and snide and often when called on it have reacted similarly to you – they deny that what they are saying is offensive and then try to turn it back on me.But, again, that’s just my experience. My original point in replying to your first comment was to point out that, while you claim to not have experienced this type of behavior outside of forums and the internet, I have experienced it in real life so it obviously exists. Yet it seems to me that no matter the example of this behavior existing, if it’s an Atheist doing it then it isn’t the same as a religious person doing it. And for that, I can say nothing to sway your opinion.

  38. Jim says

    I’m not writing off an argument because of the tone, and I did not wish to imply that either. My point was that when an atheist makes an argument with a harsh, absolutist, and mean-spirited tone (though that sounds more like Harris and Hitchens), it bears a striking resemblance to televangelists who denigrate large portions of society and then ask for money. And I think the comparison is legitimate.

  39. says

    I in no way intended to imply that you were a troll. I suppose it could easily have been interpreted that way, I’m sorry.If anyone has ever actually had an atheist who didn’t know them knock on their door and try to convert them, I’d be interested to hear it. Or even if an atheist they didn’t know approached them at random to try to convert them.Your comment about being received better by other believers is informative though. It makes me realize part of the problem here. All religious belief has in common that it is ultimately taken on faith, while atheism is a lack of such faith. There is a difference in approach that prevents people of faith and atheists from understanding each other. Because atheism is a rejection of religion, usually based on logic and evidence, an atheist merely stating her beliefs can be insulting to a religious person. Religious people on the other hand can talk about faith in positive terms: “I believe X”. Even though you believe Y, it does not insult you for someone else to believe X, and you respect the faith on which their statement is founded. Atheists (well, most of them anyway) reject faith as a basis for believing something outright. So atheists have a problem at the outset with faith being given a dominant role. Atheists tend to be skeptics also, which means that ideas are open to attack and should be defensible. This is a difficult position when the defense for an idea is faith. That faith makes an attack on the idea into an attack on the person, which atheists rarely intend (unless you’re Ken Ham). Meanwhile we see fundamentalists as attacking people, because for all the “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric, being told you are evil, a sinner, going to hell, etc. is personal, it’s not about ideas anymore. Now if an atheist personally calls you stupid for believing, then that person is what we call a jerk, but not necessarily fundamentalist. Wow, I think I managed to leave out all potential snark.

  40. Thomas W says

    Ok, I got “The God Delusion”. Have only read the introduction and first chapter so far. At this point, Dawkins suggests, inter alia, that religious belief is a psychiatric disease and that religious people are closed minded and irrational. He highlights the evils done in the name of religion (wars, persecution, etc) without mentioning the good. Atheism is apparently the free thinking, open minded, good alternative. No mention of the evils done by and in the name of atheism (e.g. communist or anarchist violence) though I imagine when Dawkins speaks of “atheism” he means his particular version of non-belief in God. He says he doesn’t intend to offend anybody while stating that religious believers are irrational and narrow minded, along with implying that anybody not convinced of the truth of atheism after reading his book is mentally impaired or hopelessly brainwashed by their religious upbringing.So far it sounds like an anti-religious rant and the one sided dogmatic presentation is fully compatible with “fundamentalist”.

  41. says

    He addresses the so-called evils done in the name of atheism, and he does acknowledge the good that religion has done (while appropriately noting that all that good can just as easily be done secularly).

  42. says

    I as an atheist can feel superior to everyone else because sure, maybe you’re annoyed, but I am pursuing the truth. Your annoyance is petty compared to my lofty ideals.

  43. chittumissimo says

    There are definitely atheists in the public sphere who blast any religion whenever possible. Bill Maher, for as much as I admire him in many other ways, is one of the worst offenders. Religious prosthelitizing and coersion has a history that runs long and deep with a lot of war, death and pain lying in its wake. It is precisely because of this that only relatively recently in most societies that people have even been able to state publicly without fear of automatic retribution that they don’t believe in gods, deities or spirits. But an atheist approaching his position as infallible, for whatever scientific evidence they might provide is just as wrong as a religious seeking to coerce belief from a non-believer. Both can be fundamentalists from the definition of fundamentalism as, “…rigid adherence to those principles, and often intolerance of other views…” Atheism, just as all belief systems, still has the possibility of turning dangerous in the hands of power: witness “communist” movements and governments of the 20th century. And just for full disclosure, I’m not an atheist. But I’m not sure what I would qualify as…somewhere in between Quaker, Buddhist, Deist, and Wiccan yet somehow still not able to shake my affection for my Sunday-morning-Catholic upbringing and Jesus as an amazingly inspired individual. It works for me…today. By the way, love your blog, Jen. Thanks.

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