Skepticon: the rifts are full of lava!


James Croft reviews Skepticon, and the Deep Rifts it exposes.

Skepticon 11 couldn’t have been more different. This year, of all the main presenters, there wasn’t a single white man – in their place, instead, a queer and colorful array of social justice warriors, exploring topics like intersectionality, race and racism, and secular ritual. The participants, too, were notably more diverse, with more women and genderqueer people than I have even seen at a skeptics event.

This is a marked shift in a relatively short time: something has happened to organized secularism, such that its priorities and population have rapidly changed. Today, there is a deepening rift between two wings of the movement, and the changes in Skepticon demonstrate this perfectly. The new rift in the secular community, it seems to me, parallels one deepening in the culture at large: it is between those who are on board with contemporary social justice culture, and those who are not.

In the community of skeptics, this rift is filled with lava: there is an incredibly intense animosity between those on different sides, and the divide seems impossible to cross. I think I know why this is. The USA, being deeply religious and deeply wedded to certain forms of woo, tends to dislike those who reject religion and supernaturalism. Thus people who value the fact that their beliefs are the result of rational scrutiny are treated as if they are wrong or even immoral, driving them to find community with like-minded skeptics. (I have observed that in the countries and regions where religion and supernaturalism are strongest, so is organized skepticism – one drives people to the other.)

This community is to them a safe space. For the mainly cishet white men who originally found their home in organized skepticism, it was a place where they could feel valued, welcomed, and smart despite holding views which were not always esteemed in wider society. There they could say what was really on their mind. They could rail against the stupidity of creationism and the dangers of dogmatism. They could relax, and be themselves, and be celebrated for being themselves. It was a place to celebrate skepticism qua skepticism, without the disapproval they experienced in the wider world. Safe spaces are intoxicating and beloved: sometimes they are the only place where those people can live into the fullness of themselves.

Yet organized skepticism was never safe for everybody. Those spaces, while affirming skeptics qua skeptics, consistently failed to address the issues which make wider society unwelcoming to everyone who isn’t a cis straight white man. Skeptic events had problems with sexual harassment. They invited mainly cishet white male speakers. They focused on issues which were of interest and importance to cishet white males (as well as a small selection of other issues where the connection with religion was particularly clear). Thus the movement was mainly a playground for white cishet men.

Yeah, I’ve noticed. I can’t take credit for noticing, though, because I was stunned by the abrupt emergence of the split in the community — I remember blithely assuming that of course atheists and skeptics would find common cause with oppressed minorities everywhere and gladly welcome them into the fold (they were already there!), because they were constantly preaching about how the godless were discriminated against. I was shocked at the vehement anger that greeted my early suggestion that there was more to atheism than not believing in a god, and it took a couple of years for what Croft summarizes here to sink in, while that community and I were mutually alienating ourselves.

It’s clear with hindsight that there was a cishet white male skepticism, and a whole ‘nother branch of diverse skepticism, and I was a traitor to the former. Man, that lava burned when crossing it.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened with a minority group. Often one oppressed group is unable to make the connection between their own oppression and those of others. Particularly when the oppression is a comparatively lesser one, and in most other respects the group is accepted as part of the mainstream culture. The LGBT community, for instance, has had problems with being inclusive for ethnic minorities (and the LGB community has often had problems with trans people. Hell, even bi people are sometimes erased). Though I can’t recall quite such a degree of acrimony and such institutional division as this.

    I think it’s not just about all the straight, white men in skepticism feeling that their playground has been taken away from them. A parallel dynamic from the LGBT movement is perhaps instructive. Since at least the 60s, and probably before, there has been a split among LGBT people between those who think the way forward is integration into mainstream society and those who think it is standing up for a better alternative in the fact of mainstream society. The one side would say the goal is to get everyone to treat LGBT people the same as straight people, with marriage equality, non-discrimination laws and so forth, so that gay and trans people can live the same boring, workaday existences as everyone else and the social system is not meaningfully disrupted, but just includes more people under its norms and expectations. The other side would say that the problem is the oppressive, conformitarian system itself, which is the font and engine of discrimination, and to end the discrimination the system needs a radical shake up – dethroning the “traditional” (i.e. 1950s) marriage and nuclear family, established gender roles, capitalistic regimentation of social production and so forth.

    In the gay community it tended to be the white, cisgender men (hey, that’s me!) who most gravitated to the first model of struggle. Almost certainly because they system was set up for them in every other way, and they just wanted it set up for them in that way too. To such people the world was working more or less as it should, and the fact there was this peculiar attitude towards their sexual preferences was a wrinkle to work out. The system wasn’t broken, it just had one faulty part – change that, and it’s all hunky-dory again. But to most other people (and some of the white cisgender men) it wasn’t one faulty part – the whole machine was built to produce these inequalities and unfair outcomes. The homophobia and transphobia wasn’t a bug in the system, it was a feature running as the system intended.

    I think this is a big part of what we’re seeing with organized US skepticism. The straight, white, cis men group sees the struggle as one to allow them to participate in every way in US society as it is now, while the other side sees the solution as a radical reform of society to remove the deeply problematic elements it has always had.

  2. PaulBC says

    So to put it crudely, some of the visceral anger comes down to “I want to be respected by the people who count, not surrounded by *****s”. Bigots gonna bigot even if they are “skeptical” of some particular set of dogma.

  3. PaulBC says

    I keep reading “cishet” as sis-SHAY. I am assuming it’s wrong, but I can’t help it. And no, I do not shop at “tar-ZHAY”.

  4. hemidactylus says

    There seems to be a schism brought into skepticism or movement atheism by the split between those with leftward and rightward value systems. Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re a liberal or further left than that. Cases in point: George Will and Ayn Rand. So people who fit the dictionary definition of lacking belief may not cotton to more progressive causes that other nonbelievers hold to. I have found in my experience some overlap between Randroidish nonbelievers and ACLU membership. Weird.

    Also I am not sure members of the LGBT+ community would automatically drift leftward, except perhaps realization that the family values cluster of the rightward leaners are opposed to their acceptance and equal rights. Andrew Sullivan and Caitlyn Jenner come to mind as people who tend to lean rightward in their value system. It will probably be a cold day in hell before the GOP drops its themes of family values and Religious Right biases, but I see that Barry Goldwater and Darth Cheney are examples of Republicans who have sorta accepted that some LGB issues matter. So I suppose the best option for LGBT+ people is to partner up with a more leftward section of the populace, despite their own fiscal or foreign policy leanings.

    Hmmm: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Log_Cabin_Republicans

  5. kestrel says

    I like cartomancer’s points in #1, about differing goals and one being a change in society: I felt that way myself, that the entire social structure has to change radically and I was so happy to think that the skeptic movement would be a way forward to that goal. To my bitter disappointment it has not worked out that way. Instead there are cishet white men that are making sure to mimic the exact same social structure which I personally find so problematic. Kind of like realizing that what you need is a whole new house, and having someone say “I’ve solved the problem!” and what they have done is gotten some new curtains.

  6. PaulBC says

    cartomancer@1 Sounds a lot like Mayor Pete.

    Nothing against him personally, but the media gushing over him is annoying, mainly the whole “He’s sooo smart” (swoon, swoon) deal. Many people are as accomplished as Buttigieg but it doesn’t mean they’re going to make a great president. And I think his appeal is almost entirely customized to affluent white liberals.

    Note: in November 2020 I will vote for the viable candidate who isn’t Trump. I doubt it will be Buttigieg, but if so, he’s got my vote.

  7. thirdmill says

    I don’t see that much wrong with people who have only one thing in common — in this case skepticism — coming together on that one thing while at the same time recognizing that they have little reason to want to spend time together otherwise. If the issue is creationism or school prayer, I’m happy to make common cause with libertarian atheists even though I find their libertarianism otherwise distasteful. (I say “otherwise” because separation of church and state is in fact a tenet of libertarianism)

    And I think the divide between the two secularist camps really comes down to what is the tail and what is the dog. If you see secularism as one (relatively small) part of working for greater social change, then your perception is going to be radically different than if you see religion as being a problem to be fixed in a society that’s otherwise generally OK. And that, I think, is the real chasm.

  8. PaulBC says

    thirdmill@9

    If you see secularism as one (relatively small) part of working for greater social change, then your perception is going to be radically different than if you see religion as being a problem to be fixed in a society that’s otherwise generally OK. And that, I think, is the real chasm.

    Seems reasonable, and I know which side I’m on. I don’t see “being wrong about stuff” as a major problem, and I’m happy to associate with people of any religious belief or lack thereof if they seem interested in improving the human condition, which is currently an on-going atrocity, as it has been through most of history.

    If a middle-class American like myself tells me that things are “generally OK” except he (probably he) wishes he didn’t have to associate with the icky religious believers, all I can think is “What a selfish shit you are.”

    I also don’t find the argument compelling that the worst wars always stem from religion, though I have heard people attempt to make it. Some wars are over resources, some are tribal in nature, some are driven by a belief in military might for its own sake, and that list is not intended to be exhaustive.

    People are going to engage in injustice, whether direct violence or simply depriving others of opportunity and resources whether they believe in religion or not. It can be a factor in specific cases, but it’s not a useful “single bullet” theory.

    To use an analogy, It’s like saying cancers are caused by sex hormones. You can point to particular tumor types that are enabled by particular hormones, and even demonstrate that removing the hormone in that case reduces the cancer. You can even make a living as a clinician specializing in this. But it does not mean that you understand the cause of cancer.

  9. jpmonroe8 says

    Does anybody know what attendance was like? I’ve been unable to find even a photo of the event, excepting a handful on the Facebook page. None of those photos featured pictures of the audience. Most of the photos are subsets of the dozen or so speakers. I sent a message asking, though that was very recently and I haven’t given them any reasonable interval to get back to me.

    Nobody has updated the Wiki for the last few years r.e. attendance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skepticon

    Most of their stuff is out of date, their social media posts have almost zero engagement, and they have almost no presence on event business websites, e.g. EventBrite. If an event is supposed to have any significance, it should at least attract enough interest to temp hire a web person or someone vaguely familiar with WordPress.

    I’m really not sure why we would celebrate that there are no white cishet speakers at a pathetically dwindling conference in a majority cishet white country. I’m not really sure why it’s a good thing that the conference circuit has been hemorrhaging attendees for years. These things cost money to pull off.

    There is lava in the rifts alright. But you did not cross them. You poured it in. (I was there, lurking.) Inflating small issues into catastrophic enormities and dismissing or cursing anyone who thought they were small was… Well, it didn’t have a lot to do with growing a secular movement.

    I support LGBT rights and I follow a handful of writers on the topic, but subdividing the tiny fraction of people who are convinced atheists along the lines of, say, pronoun usage is, up to diminishing religious interference in all of our lives, ridiculous. If you want to diminish religious bigotry – a necessary first step to attitudes regarding LGBT rights, if that’s the main thing – you don’t skip over 20 steps and argue that gender itself is a patriarchal invention, or whatever other alien concept you want to sell to a swing voter. The winning arguments skeptics have, and that people outside of skeptical circles advance much more effectively, is that Looney Tunes extremists shouldn’t be dictating textbooks in public schools or threatening critics. We have better arguments. They don’t require completely reversing a political philosophy.

    We had success. I grew up in an area where I was the only atheist I knew for years. People aren’t shocked by my existence anymore. That’s a good thing. It means a lot to me. So it hurts to see the occasional news that people like Matt Dillahunty are also not good enough anymore.

  10. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    Seems reasonable, and I know which side I’m on. I don’t see “being wrong about stuff” as a major problem, and I’m happy to associate with people of any religious belief or lack thereof if they seem interested in improving the human condition, which is currently an on-going atrocity, as it has been through most of history.

    If they’re “wrong about stuff,” that is the kind of thing that can cause problems. Some of the stuff they’re wrong about may be those things which they believe will improve the human condition (and those which will not).
    What cartomancer described in #1 (and Croft, to some extent) was basically a distinction between people who think more or less radical changes are required. I think that’s reasonably accurate, but there’s still a need for some definite content in that, to spell out what that means in a bit more detail, since we can evidently reach very different conclusions about what exactly that content is.
    I don’t think being wrong about bigfoot will ever amount to one of those deep, lava-filled rifts – just a relatively small and manageable rift which probably won’t matter too much. That’s really only a guess, but I think it’s true.
    However, religions are another story. Some religious people (although not all take their religions so seriously) have strikingly different views about the entire structure of reality, who and what we are, why we are supposedly here, how moral/political reasoning works or what it’s about or what the point of being good is, and a bunch of other presumably important topics, which may affect their other attitudes and behaviors significantly.
    This isn’t like bigfoot: the consequences aren’t merely that somebody spends too much of their free time watching crappy cable TV shows about bigfoot, ancient aliens, or whatever it may be. Instead, false beliefs like that (under the umbrella of religion) have a pretty strong tendency to affect the fundamental ways a person will think about genuinely important and substantial real-world issues.
    So, I would say a more radical perspective (which most here would endorse, at least before the details are sorted out) is that religion shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves, that it would be a mistake to put atheism/naturalism and secularism off to the side in order to focus on some other set of issues. (That is not saying we shouldn’t also focus on those other things, but that this should be part of the focus too, even if it doesn’t all seem very closely related or interconnected.)
    If on the other hand we’re talking about some generic brand of skepticism (not atheism, naturalism or secularism), which covers all sorts of stuff like bigfoot, conspiracy theories about the moon landing, etc., then maybe in some cases it does pay to be a little less radical. Sure, those people are wrong about it, but it may not matter so much that they happen to be wrong about it … or maybe sometimes it does, I don’t know. We just have to be honest when asking about how much it matters, which is something people don’t tend to do very well, when it doesn’t seem to affect them very much. (Are they privileged? Ignorant? Bored? Obsessed with another topic? Distracted? Confused? Something else? All of the above? It’s hard to say.)

  11. mvdwege says

    jpmonroe@11:

    I support LGBT rights

    So far, so good…

    but

    Ah. You could wait for it. The infamous “A, but B” dismount, which of course always means “Not-A but too cowardly to admit it”.

    If you ‘support’ LGBT rights, but only if those working to get them enacted agree to do it on your terms, you don’t support LGBT rights. You are, given your conditional, still assuming a position of superiority.

  12. PaulBC says

    OK, so the movement welcomes cryptozoologists, but not Christians. Sorry, if I’m misrepresenting what you said (I hope I am!).

    My view is that any social justice movement is a movement for all, not only an elite. How do you warmly welcome someone who prays a rosary daily (as my grandmother did) or has a Guadalupe sticker on their car, treasures a statue of Ganesh, is saving up to make a trip to Mecca, dutifully puts on a dastar to go out, etc. I mean, it is not enough (in my view) to say “We’re the smart ones and we’ll tolerate your silliness (maybe) if you follow our lead.”

    The point is that justice comes from caring about people. People believe a lot of things that can’t all be true. If I care about people, I don’t see how I can demand that the vast majority of them turn their back on what clearly matters to them.

    I do have a criteria of harmlessness. When a belief causes harm, it must be countered. E.g., female genital mutilation. But the root problem is not having the wrong beliefs but by acting in ways that violate others’ rights.

  13. jpmonroe8 says

    mvdwege@13

    No, it wasn’t a “but I don’t support them really.” The rest of the post is a cursory explanation of that. Which you ignored. You stopped at “but”.

    You could legitimately argue that secular causes are best addressed by subdividing the little fraction of the population which consistently cares about them. You could argue that secular causes may not be better served in this way, but that some other cause has a higher priority. And that would be fine. That would be a real position.

    I didn’t demand that anybody do anything whatsoever for LGBT people r.e. the secular movement. That was you people. That was this blog. Nobody else asserted terms and won.

  14. PaulBC says

    I think that from a social justice perspective, it is the job of atheists to provide a safe space to those who want to free themselves from the dogma they grew up with, and even encouraging them to do so.

    But what I often see is a kind of oneupmanship and a snobbery against “irrationality” that would if taken at face value exclude most of the global population outside the US and Europe. If someone finds value in a spiritual practice, I consider that to be their “pursuit of happiness.” It is not for me to tell them they’re doing it wrong. (Again, if they are not harming others.)

  15. hemidactylus says

    @12 consciousness razor

    Focusing narrowly on one aspect of your reply, bigfoot or other cryptozooids may not be a problem. It would be cool if Nessie were more than camera framing and an actual plesiosaur. I am partial to Mongolian death worms myself, but dropbears are cool too. But I draw the line at ancient aliens. First off it pollutes cable tv. Even Vice is on the bandwagon. The ancient aliens are a gateway drug to Illuminati thinking and conspiracy theories about “Reptoids” and eventually the Protocols forgery rears its ugly head if people get sucked down too far the Youtube rabbithole.

  16. PaulBC says

    Maybe what I’m interested in is something like a John 13:35 for atheism “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (hahahahahaha; yeah, I know but it’s in there)

    I don’t go out of my way to offend religious people, but I’m not going to give lip service to their beliefs, even if culturally normative, just to fit in. I try to be polite and friendly, e.g. when JWs come to the door but make it clear that I am not a believer. I have found them to be polite in return. Simply living a life of unabashed skepticism should go a long way in sending a message that you don’t have to be a believer. Can atheists lead by example?

  17. PaulBC says

    hemidactylus@17

    “Reptoids”

    I don’t really believe we are ruled by lizard men in cheap rubber human masks, but I think as a theory it is has far greater simplicity and explanatory power than most alternatives offered by mainstream media pundits.

  18. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    OK, so the movement welcomes cryptozoologists, but not Christians. Sorry, if I’m misrepresenting what you said (I hope I am!).

    I obviously didn’t say anything about welcoming anybody. Apology accepted.

    How do you warmly welcome someone who prays a rosary daily (as my grandmother did) or has a Guadalupe sticker on their car, treasures a statue of Ganesh, is saving up to make a trip to Mecca, dutifully puts on a dastar to go out, etc. [?? … inserting that because it’s a question]

    Warmly welcome them into what? I didn’t have the option of welcoming my grandmother, who also carried a rosary everywhere, into my family, for example. It’s also not about welcoming someone into the human race, in which we all should care about each other, like you suggest later.
    Was she part of a social justice movement of some kind, or did she have any intention of being part of one? No, she was devoutly Catholic (parts of it rabidly anti-justice) and that never changed throughout her life. Was she personally a decent human being, in almost every way I can imagine? Yes. Should we treat people like her fairly and humanely, as we should any other person, even those who are terrible in almost every way I can imagine? Yes, obviously.
    So what is your question? If it’s not that I should welcome them over to have a few beers and chat, then what is it about? If they have views that are anti-justice, they do not need to be welcomed in my group that is pro-justice. Isn’t that kind of obvious? What I certainly wasn’t thinking about is having prayer beads or stickers or statues, going on a trip somewhere, or wearing a certain type of clothing. Because there is no obvious reason why that shit would matter at all.

    The point is that justice comes from caring about people. People believe a lot of things that can’t all be true. If I care about people, I don’t see how I can demand that the vast majority of them turn their back on what clearly matters to them.

    Where did you get the word “demand”? If there’s a political aspect to this project, since it’s about justice (it’s not only meant to be educational or whatever), then we do have things that matter to us as well, and we should stand up for them. That’s why we should be taken just as seriously as them: because we’re equal.

    I do have a criteria of harmlessness. When a belief causes harm, it must be countered. E.g., female genital mutilation. But the root problem is not having the wrong beliefs but by acting in ways that violate others’ rights.

    And once that action has been done and the harm is out there, you can look at it and ask why it happened. Some would say a belief is a propensity to act. That is the “root” thing, if you’re thinking of this stuff causally, as in this earlier belief causes that later effect. If the root is supposed to be about “what should we care more about?” that’s a different type of question. But it’s not wrong to ask “how can we effectively address the things we care about it, given what we know about how these things happen?”

    hemidactylus :

    The ancient aliens are a gateway drug to Illuminati thinking and conspiracy theories about “Reptoids” and eventually the Protocols forgery rears its ugly head if people get sucked down too far the Youtube rabbithole.

    Some of the best drugs are gateway drugs.

  19. hemidactylus says

    I’m probably thwarted by Hanlon’s razor, but I do have a reverse conspiracy take on why this stuff is pushed to the masses. Cui bono?

    The Illuminati thing goes back to speculation about the French revolution and crossed the Atlantic to cast aspersions toward Jefferson and others. In reality the bugbears were secretive freethinkers themselves who were too smitten by the esoteric. Nowadays rightward and leftward extremes converge on some of the same conspiratorial tropes. It’s been a ready made package ripe for tweaking.

    But I wonder if it stokes the flames of fear and paranoia for this stuff to be so widespread and either deliberately put out there to distract people from real concerns or it’s a non-benign product of market forces. The marketplace of ideas has no cordon sanitaire.

    Maybe I’m just pissed there’s banal crap on the so-called Science and History channels as they pander to the lowest common denominator. It can’t serve any justifiable public purpose for cable networks to do this.

  20. jpmonroe8 says

    Skepticon got back to me on Facebook and said that they had 300 attendees, down ~20 from last year. That’s about the size of a year in my old high school, or about the size of the weekly prayers by the flag they held. But then, I’m just taking their word for it. They say that there are photos, but:

    “There aren’t any full-audience shots because of red lanyards, which attendees can choose to wear if they need to not be photographed for various reasons”

    I looked for a few Skepticon videos where comments weren’t disabled. I went through several, but they’re all associated with defunct organizations and webpages. Most of the view counts are in the hundreds, but I found a few that broke a thousand.
    Here’s one:

    There are lots of great comments, by which I mean, there are comments, some of which are great, such as:

    @ThaRealIsis1
    1 year ago
    Good points but not great speaking abilities. Still support my sister though.

    Excellent. Now get on your desktop view and check the left panel of this site to see who is still active and not begging for money.

    At least the rest of the thread is on-topic.

    “I don’t really believe we are ruled by lizard men in cheap rubber human masks, but I think as a theory it is has far greater simplicity and explanatory power than most alternatives offered by mainstream media pundits.”

    Well nevermind.

  21. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@20

    I’m not sure how much we’re disagreeing about (not denying that we are disagreeing on something big). My main concern is whether atheism/skepticism as a movement is in danger of being elitist. I am a great admirer of old school skeptics such as Isaac Asimov, Martin Gardner, and Carl Sagan but they still strike me as mostly being of interest to nerds like myself. (I’ll leave off on “New Atheists” because I’m not sure how much they add to the discussion.) (And note I say “nerd” not “smart person” because you will find people who clearly have strong intellects but engage in motivated reasoning–take someone like Antonin Scalia, not someone I admire, but I’ll take it on face value that he was smart)

    In fact, if I joined a “club” to focus on skepticism, I would expect religion to be kept out of it, because it runs directly counter to critical thinking. This would also be a perfectly fine club for people who wanted to question dogma and hone critical thinking skills. I’d support it enthusiastically.

    But I don’t really see an ethical motivation to the above. I am pretty sure people are mostly content to go through their lives either without much critical thinking at all or else they apply it in a very focused way to their livelihood. I’m not here to judge them. So I see more to be gained in the way of social justice by not tying it to atheism, and I see social justice as a more important goal than teaching critical thinking skills, though we can certainly use a lot more of the latter.

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    The new rift in the secular community…

    “new”?!? Where has Comrade Croft been in the last eight years (since Elevatorgate)? Do they have any vacancies?

  23. says

    Can I respectfully — and with some knowledge of history that doesn’t require specialist study — suggest that a split in the skeptic community is to be expected, because it happens every time there’s a movement against tyranny (whether political or otherwise)? (N.B. Almost by definition, “theocracy” involves and includes tyranny.) A few examples from history that don’t require much, if any, research:

    The First American War of Secession (1770s-80s), when for example pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions banded together against the greater evil of overtly nonrepresentative government, and won
    The French Revolution inspired by the preceding item… and developing in a completely different but nonetheless predicatable schismatic progression
    The Second American War of Secession (1861-65), when for example pro-slavery and (the very, very small minority of) states-rights-true-believers banded together against the allegedly greater evil up north, and lost
    The so-called Russian Revolution (1916-23), with all of the schisms and politics that make Game of Thrones seem simplistic and relatively peaceful
    The “decolonialization” of South Asia (1945-53, plus the 1970s issues with “East Pakistan” and “West Pakistan”), with all of the bizarre mixtures of tribalism and religious bigotry overlaid on classism and general foolishness

    And that’s just a simple list of easy-to-thumbnail examples; trying to get Americans to understand, say, the aftermath of the Treaty of Ghent, and the 1840s in Central Europe, isn’t just generally difficult, it’s impossible due to language barriers if nothing else!

    This is inevitably what happens when there’s some progress being made against the purported greater evil: There’s too much energy (and too much self-interest in cynically jockeying for anticipated post-revolutionary authority) left over for too-often violent disagreement about lesser evils that can swallow up the fight against the greater evil. Just look at the schism between the NAACP and SBLC following the death of Dr King, which set civil rights progress back at least a decade (and continues to undermine it to this day).

  24. consciousness razor says

    I’m not sure how much we’re disagreeing about (not denying that we are disagreeing on something big). My main concern is whether atheism/skepticism as a movement is in danger of being elitist.

    Well, look, I was trying explain why it’s a good idea to disentangle atheism[1] and skepticism. Those cover a whole lot of different territory, they’re not interchangeable, and that’s without including secularism which is also usually an important part of this conversation.
    You’ve expressed your concerns in terms of the nerd club mentality of organized/public skepticism. No? And I was basically saying we could more or less dispense with that without much harm, because that sort of stuff tends to be less important morally and politically.[2] That clearly doesn’t say we shouldn’t be very critical of religions (exactly what you mentioned in #12, hence my disagreement), because those things do tend to be more important morally and politically. So, if you’re going to put something off to the side in favor of “things that matter a lot,” I think you could stand to make a much better choice.

    But I don’t really see an ethical motivation to the above. I am pretty sure people are mostly content to go through their lives either without much critical thinking at all or else they apply it in a very focused way to their livelihood. I’m not here to judge them.

    You’re not here for anything, and I don’t know why you’re talking about judging anybody. If you want justice, you need to understand the kind of world we live in and think clearly about it, so that you can make it better or more just. If someone thinks the world is substantially different from the way it really is, their choices are not likely to be good ones which have the intended effects.
    You were definitely aiming for good behaviors, if you were aiming for anything here, so you should (morally) do something about that, or else you’re being irresponsible. Even such people are “mostly content.”
    Whether there’s judgement and condemnation and punishment, whether you think they deserve whatever someone is dishing out, etc., is not a part of this. It’s not that complicated: you just want people to behave better. And there shouldn’t be any question that their behavior is tied how they are thinking. Right?

    [1] I would prefer to talk about it in terms of naturalism. Atheism a subset of that, because gods are only one type of supernatural thing which is supposed to exist according to religious believers. But I realize people have a habit of reaching for the term “atheism” instead.
    [2] Sometimes, things aren’t very easy to categorize. Some people might think evolution clearly fits into the “atheism/naturalism” box, as well as the “secularism” box, because the main opponents are generally ardent creationists with a political agenda, not just random people who are ignorant of the science. Nevertheless, I’ve seen that slide into being about showing people how smart you are or how wrong they are, about very arcane technical details which probably make very little difference in the big scheme of things. I would guess that most youtube videos about it, and maybe most of the talks/debates Dawkins participated in, fit into the latter category. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to call this “skepticism” or if it’s more like “SIWOTI syndrome.” And it’s not always so clear that it’s elitism.

  25. says

    From Croft’s post I linked to @ #29:

    Of course there is another side to this: disillusionment let’s you see what’s real, and it’s only when we see what’s real that we can effect true change. Disillusionment is a precursor to liberation.

    At long last, I think I won the debate. ;)

  26. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@26

    My initial comments were mainly addressed at thirdmill@9’s question of which is the tail and which is the dog, and I was asserting my personal preference. In fact, there is room in the world for organizations dedicated to social justice as well as ones dedicated to skepticism. If I had to choose between the two, I would say the former is more important.

  27. consciousness razor says

    Whatever apparent solace faith offers comes at the expense of our relationships, our knowledge, our capacity to act effectively, and our human development.

    Very nicely put, SC. As usual.

    First, comparatively speaking, when HCH people talk about confronting oppression, it seems clear that they’re placing themselves towards the charitable-service rather than the radical-social-change end of the spectrum.

    And again. A hit, a very palpable hit.

    This isn’t particularly relevant to this discussion except in that whatever complications arise for them are likely to be distinct from those encountered by people engaged in very different forms of activism.

    Well, it’s also relevant that many won’t think of volunteering at a soup kitchen (for example) as a distinctly “political” action. It’s thought of as something you may do or give, more or less purely in your personal life. You can at least imagine someone thinking that our politics are just fine, even though it gives rise to this situation…. And they may still want to feel good about being “charitable” (if they can afford to do so, and if they feel like it). I’ve known more than one charitable Republican, and it doesn’t really seem to be that uncommon, as strange as it may be.
    In contrast, protesting the way we treat immigrants, how our entire justice system works, and so forth — demanding that these practices end and voting accordingly, etc. — is the sort of thing that counts as “political.” That is apparently going over the line for some people. Not to say Croft is one of them (he’s pretty progressive I think), but there is definitely some tension between what people think the problems are and what would be a satisfactory way to address them.

  28. says

    consciousness razor @ #32:

    Very nicely put, SC. As usual.

    Aw. :) By the way, I was listening to a symphony this week and in awe but knowing how much richer it could be still if I had even a whiff of your knowledge.

    In contrast, protesting the way we treat immigrants, how our entire justice system works, and so forth — demanding that these practices end and voting accordingly, etc. — is the sort of thing that counts as “political.” That is apparently going over the line for some people. Not to say Croft is one of them (he’s pretty progressive I think), but there is definitely some tension between what people think the problems are and what would be a satisfactory way to address them.

    What’s amazing is that in the link @ #29 (and noted in #30) is that Croft describes his movement from what I described in that post to where he is now, which is really impressive.

  29. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@31

    Whether there’s judgement and condemnation and punishment, whether you think they deserve whatever someone is dishing out, etc., is not a part of this. It’s not that complicated: you just want people to behave better. And there shouldn’t be any question that their behavior is tied how they are thinking. Right?

    This is not really my point at all. At some level, I don’t really care how people choose to behave or how they reach that choice. In many cases, people can treat each other like shit and it’s none of my business. I do believe that there should be laws in place to protect the most vulnerable from the worst kind of behavior. That’s a political cause I support, and I see atheism/skepticism/naturalism at best tangentially related to this goal.

    But on the subject of behavior, I want people to be kind to each other. I don’t particularly want them tricked or propagandized into acting a certain way, though some element of persuasive expression is usually necessary to enact social change. So I care how they reach their behavior, but it does not have to be entirely philosophically rigorous, and probably won’t be even if they think it is. I believe it should be a consequence of individual thought, but I don’t think people have to think too hard or too deeply to get there. If they want to think deeply, that’s up to them (and I endorse it) but it’s besides the point.

    A stronger claim I would make is that if you start with the axiomatic belief that people should be treated with respect and caring, then it is not a great stretch even for a religious believer to root out the beliefs that go against this. If someone looks miserable as the result of your application of your religious beliefs, most likely, they really are miserable and you should reexamine that belief, assuming you value compassion. The more typical response from religion is to rationalize it away, i.e. to apply strenuous motivated reasoning counter to an obvious conclusion.

  30. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@32

    I’ve known more than one charitable Republican, and it doesn’t really seem to be that uncommon, as strange as it may be.

    Well, it’s not really strange at all, and it’s the flip-side of opposing social spending. The problem of calling it “charity” is that it explicitly rules out the idea that we are all entitled to food because the alternative of death by starvation should not be acceptable to anyone with an ounce of compassion. But if the continued existence of the poor is seen as an opportunity to display virtue, then obviously some people are going to use it as such. (I mean, not Donald Trump, but how about Mitt Romney?) Being a conservative Christian doesn’t mean you are lazy, just driven by a very different set of values, and often very heavily focused on the deserving/undeserving distinction.

  31. DanDare says

    The “lava” is a sort of hyper vigilance about “right thinking”.
    The problem is social justice, as I currently understand it, is neither instinctive or obvious. It requires learning and examining and a lot of reflection. People make floundering steps while trying to work towards being better thinkers on the issues.
    I have made tones of mistakes when trying to work out how we should be and how community should be organised. I have been instantly dogpiled and humiliated several times, usually about something not related to the discussion at hand but apparent in my remarks. I’m fortunate in that, although I am thin skinned and can freighten off easily, I also have developed skills in reflection and allowing myself to see when I am wrong even when I don’t want to.
    How can we disarm the instant burn of the lava so it doesn’t pull people away when they misstep? This is a question of pedagogy in some degree. Alternately how do we train our colleagues and allies to be more fire proof while still recognising the errors in thinking that got them thete?

  32. consciousness razor says

    SC: Yeah, I think Croft basically gets it now. Most of what’s called “depression” for me is I guess about waking up too early, when I was still a kid. But of course you can never go back to sleep after that. I was pretty harsh on Croft back then, about as angry/frustrated as he appears to be now, but I really hope he’s got some support.

  33. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    At some level, I don’t really care how people choose to behave or how they reach that choice. In many cases, people can treat each other like shit and it’s none of my business.

    How do you reconcile that with your thought that “justice comes from caring about people”?
    What is your business?
    Is justice not coming from you, since you don’t really care, although it may come from somebody else who does?
    I’m sure a lot of people are in support of somebody else dealing with the world’s problems, but I don’t think one can form a coherent movement around that idea.

    I do believe that there should be laws in place to protect the most vulnerable from the worst kind of behavior.

    Why only “the most” vulnerable and “the worst” kind? That doesn’t sound like nearly enough laws to me. Should non-vulnerable people be protected from the worst kind of behavior? Should somewhat-vulnerable people be protected from kinds of behavior that aren’t the worst but are still pretty bad?
    I’d like to assume you believe things like that too. But I’ve learned not to assume that sort of thing about anyone anymore.

  34. says

    SC: Yeah, I think Croft basically gets it now. Most of what’s called “depression” for me is I guess about waking up too early, when I was still a kid.

    That’s tough. I’m so sorry.

    I was pretty harsh on Croft back then, about as angry/frustrated as he appears to be now, but I really hope he’s got some support.

    Same.

  35. PaulBC says

    SC@28

    I may go back and read the whole thing. I have a couple of impressions. First, I agree it’s overstating the case that HCH has the same goals as some atheist alternative. But does that rule out a coalition on common issues? I think politics is usually (and not always) more effective when there is broad support.

    By the way, I would never claim that religious belief provides a solid basis for social justice, only that it pulls in more people, and you need people. People are inherently flawed vessels and you need to make compromises.

    I got to this point and I disagree:

    People don’t develop their own idiosyncratic faithy notions about gods and politics. They form their faith-beliefs based on what they’re told by religious and political authorities.

    In fact, American religion today is extremely idiosyncratic and syncretist. I think people develop a lot of “faithy” notions that would amount to heresy if religions actually bother to police it now. I grew up Catholic and know many Catholics who get fundamental elements of doctrine wrong (like the transubstantiation). Granted a lot may be received knowledge, but it is likely to come through folk channels (friends, family, community) rather than some approved hierarchy. Pop culture and self-help books are another source. Church “authority” falls far behind and even many religious leaders seem to lack a clear understanding of doctrine.

    My main feeling is that none of that will ever be eliminated from most people’s worldview and it’s better to work with the grain than go against it.

  36. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@39

    Short answer: laws are a blunt instrument and often do more harm than good. I will not try to refine my original statement further, though I did not rule out the existence of additional laws. I was setting a floor.

    As for people treating each other like shit. If both are in a reasonable position to do something about it, it is really an individual matter.

  37. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@39

    I’d be curious if rather than stating what you think I mean, you would explain how you would address justice and conflicting rights from, presumably, a different standpoint on the relationship between a naturalist worldview and social justice.

  38. consciousness razor says

    SC, #41:
    Shostakovich is great. I think I like his fifth symphony the most. He found a way to have an ironic (and dark) sense of humor about it all, but yes, his life and works are pretty depressing.
    Something very different: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov – the Vienna philharmonic in the best performance of it I’ve ever heard, and it’s fun to watch, right there on youtube. It always makes me feel a little better.

  39. John Morales says

    PaulBC @34:

    A stronger claim I would make is that if you start with the axiomatic belief that people should be treated with respect and caring, then [blah]

    And if everyone automatically loved every one else, the world would be just wonderful.

    Also, if you would, why don’t you? Because you haven’t.

    (Note that, technically, a “should” cannot be an axiom because it’s an inference)

  40. PaulBC says

    Going back to consciousness razor@26

    If someone thinks the world is substantially different from the way it really is, their choices are not likely to be good ones which have the intended effects.

    This might be the key disagreement. I don’t think religious people are fundamentally wrong about the world insofar as the world refers to the human social construct we inhabit. Many are certainly wrong about origins, belief in vital forces and spirits, existence of an afterlife, etc., but they probably understand other human beings and human needs about as well as I do. Many understand them far better.

    So in fact, I do not see myself as having any particular advantage in making judgments on issues of human concern any more than I would imagine myself better at music or at making a souffle that doesn’t fall. Some people may just have a good intuitive grasp of things.

    On the subject of the afterlife, that is one that’s fraught with trouble because it has been used so often to defer justice. Even John Lennon only said to “imagine” there’s no heaven. I can work with believing Christians provided that for the sake of agreed outcomes, we drop the “pie in the sky” part from the analysis whatever they believe to be the case.

  41. Rob Grigjanis says

    SC @28: Oh, the irony.You, Sokal and lots of other atheists pull off this neat, and highly dishonest, little trick of equating “faith” with “blind acceptance of the doctrines espoused by some organized religion”. You proceed from there to point out what’s wrong with that. Well, duh. From Sokal’s “What is science and why should we care?”, which you linked;

    “Faith” is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. “Faith” is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence.

    Jesus Fucking Christ, talk about lazy. If you accept that “faith” means nothing more than unquestioningly accepting what it says in some scripture, or some bozo’s interpretation of it, then yeah. But if you haven’t met, or read about, people who are deists or theists but don’t feel bound by unquestioning dogma, you must have led a very sheltered life.

    Point being, “faith” is a shitload more complicated than the simplistic little definition used by you and Sokal to support your neat little arguments.

    Regarding the incompatibility of religion and science: I’ve come across too many atheists who rattle on about science without having a fucking clue what they’re talking about. The incompatibility is between science and idiots, not science and faith.

  42. PaulBC says

    John Morale@46

    And if everyone automatically loved every one else, the world would be just wonderful.

    Maybe not, but would you argue that if we all had a deep and rigorous grasp of the nature of existence, that the world would be just wonderful, or more specifically that we would all treat each other in mutually agreeable ways?

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have said “idiots”. Let’s say “clueless twits”.

  44. John Morales says

    @49: Nope, PaulBC. Counter-factual hypotheticals may, at best, illustrate principles.

    Me, my grasp of the nature of existence is much as my dog’s: it exists, I exist, make the best of it.

    Anyway, for me, respect and caring are earned or given, but not to be automatically expected.
    And best when it is reciprocated — you might desire to care and respect someone who does not care nor respect you, but I most surely do not. And you can’t make me.

    (If everyone were a saint, things would be wonderful)

  45. hemidactylus says

    @48-Rob

    Gonna pop some corn and a can of Vernor’s and spectate as you seem to explore that other rift between accommodationists (some as faitheists?) and militant firebrands. I oscillate a bit between those poles.

  46. says

    consciousness razor:

    He found a way to have an ironic (and dark) sense of humor about it all, but yes, his life and works are pretty depressing.
    Something very different: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov – the Vienna philharmonic in the best performance of it I’ve ever heard, and it’s fun to watch, right there on youtube. It always makes me feel a little better.

    I’m listening to the Shostakovich again, and what astonishes me – aside from its beauty – is that every moment seems to simultaneously speak to hopelessness and hope, or at least hopelessness and survival (which is hope in a way). It’s so wonderful.

    Thanks for the R-K link. I’ll definitely listen.

  47. consciousness razor says

    I’d be curious if rather than stating what you think I mean, you would explain how you would address justice and conflicting rights from, presumably, a different standpoint on the relationship between a naturalist worldview and social justice.

    I don’t know what you mean by “conflicting rights,” but I don’t think any person’s rights legitimately conflict with any other person’s. We all just have them. Maybe you mean “interests,” because those things do sometimes conflict. But who ever said the idea (the political one, about justice) was to arbitrate everybody’s interests?
    You want me to explain something. I’ve already said that I think we should be very critical of religions. If some religious person can’t take the heat, and that’s why they won’t cooperate with me on other social justice issues which are (at least plausibly) unrelated to their religion, they were apparently not very committed to social justice. I can keep trying to convince them to do the right thing, but ultimately it’s not up to me. For that reason, I wouldn’t be the one to blame in a situation like that. So don’t talk to me about it. Talk to them.
    Churches have dealt with things like this a lot, as you may know – if you just want to fill up the pews with warm bodies, to make it appear as if there’s more support than there really is, that’s not going to work. (It may be effective in some sense, but in the way that a scam or a lie is effective. That had better not be what we’re after here.) So if you count it as a loss, when such people aren’t in the pews anymore, you’re not doing a very honest or reasonable kind of accounting.
    What exactly would be the value in having this movement filled up with a very broad base of congenital compromisers, who aren’t actually on board with most of what it stands for? The population at large is something we already need to compromise with as a movement … if that were how politics actually works (not with, say, a wealthy person’s money lubricating practically every deal that ever happens). So why have that “debate” internally as well? Wouldn’t “we” have that debate with actual opponents in the broader population anyway, whether or not “we” have it with ourselves? If that kind of strategy is supposed to accomplish something, I honestly do not understand what that is supposed to be.

  48. says

    Rob Grigjanis:

    (I’ve largely been posting in the Political Madness thread, so I honestly hadn’t realized what a douche you’d become until the past few days. What the hell?)

    SC @28: Oh, the irony.You, Sokal and lots of other atheists pull off this neat, and highly dishonest, little trick of equating “faith” with “blind acceptance of the doctrines espoused by some organized religion”.

    Point being, “faith” is a shitload more complicated than the simplistic little definition used by you and Sokal to support your neat little arguments.

    From my post:

    I oppose the holding of beliefs that people don’t have a good reason to believe – faith in any form. I don’t have to worry about isolating the “supernatural” elements of religious beliefs specifically. The defining feature of a religious belief is that it’s held despite (and often because of) the fact that it can’t be defended.

    That’s my definition of faith (and essentially Bertrand Russell’s, I believe). You’re either confused or disingenuous. As I said in that post, my definition of faith extends beyond religious faith, but organized religion values and promotes faith.

    Regarding the incompatibility of religion and science: I’ve come across too many atheists who rattle on about science without having a fucking clue what they’re talking about. The incompatibility is between science and idiots, not science and faith.

    No, it’s between science and faith.

  49. consciousness razor says

    I don’t think religious people are fundamentally wrong about the world insofar as the world refers to the human social construct we inhabit. Many are certainly wrong about origins, belief in vital forces and spirits, existence of an afterlife, etc., but they probably understand other human beings and human needs about as well as I do. Many understand them far better.

    Well, I don’t think people who believe in the Easter bunny are fundamentally wrong about it insofar as “Easter bunny” refers to the fact that the square root of 49 is 7.
    Unfortunately, they don’t refer to those things. And guess what? We don’t live in a social construct. We live in the physical world. So that’s what we actually have to deal with, like it or not.

  50. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@54

    Yes, “conflicting interests” is probably a better formulation. You were the one who said I wanted people to behave in a certain way. I don’t think I really said that but maybe I was unclear. There are people in the world who are really in a miserable state, whether out of poverty, oppression, bigotry, presence in a war zone, or any number of other things. My only “want” is for this situation to improve, whether through laws, economic restructuring, technology, social change (not an exhaustive list). I wasn’t being prescriptive, nor am I very interested in judging actions by anything other than outcome.

    If some religious person can’t take the heat, and that’s why they won’t cooperate with me on other social justice issues which are (at least plausibly) unrelated to their religion, they were apparently not very committed to social justice.

    What does it mean to “take the heat”? Say a religious person Mr. A joins the (fictitious) Atheists for Social Justice, attends meetings, pays dues, helps out with their causes, does not proselytize but acknowledges being a member of some religion.

    Two scenarios:
    (a) Atheists (being such) openly discuss the non-existence of God, non-existence of an afterlife, quote Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky”, use the term sky-daddy, etc. (I could go on)
    (b) In addition to (a), they habitually say: Mr. A, you are a stupid person for believing in your religion. What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be in this organization. We are atheists.

    First off, both are within their legal rights (and both unlikely to happen as such outside a Jack Chick comic). I would argue that in the case of (a) Mr. A really ought to suck it up if he’s serious. He knew he was joining an atheist club, and might do some good on shared goals. In the case of (b) I would expect him to quit and wouldn’t blame him for it. Nobody deserves that shit.

    So, it’s a silly scenario anyway, but it’s not that different from what I would experience going to any church as an atheist or actually any church that isn’t one I grew up with. I will hear a lot of things I disagree with. Some might even strike me as so contrary as to be offensive, but again, I knew I was attending a church. On the other hand, if I thought people were going to harass me personally, then I would not go there in the first place.

  51. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor

    Unfortunately, they don’t refer to those things. And guess what? We don’t live in a social construct. We live in the physical world. So that’s what we actually have to deal with, like it or not.

    We live in a social construct embedded in a physical world. I completely agree that this construct is fully determined by the physical world it’s in, but that doesn’t mean that anyone (even atheists) find it useful most of the time to apply physics to reach conclusions about human motivations and conditions.

    Being an atheist confers no more of an obvious advantage in making ethical choices than it does in driving a race car. Both are systems embedded in a physical universe that are always understood by abstracting away many underlying details and relying on a theory customized to the subsystem (human society or race cars).

  52. hemidactylus says

    @56- consciousness razor

    Actually we live in physical reality yet have to contend with social constructions all the time in our human niches. I abide loosely by the Durkheim-Searle socifact terminology. Gold and paper exist as brute facts and objects. They can be made into artifacts. Actually paper is a product of manufacture from natural sources. The gold standard and paper money decoupled as fiat currency are both social constructs. Going Baudrillardian for a sec, a car has utility as transportation and quickly depreciating exchange value, but also signifies concern for the ecology (hybrid) or status (BMW). So yes social construction abounds.

  53. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor

    But to be specific. (a) Do you believe atheists on the whole reach better ethical decisions than theists because of their atheist foundations? (b) Do you believe atheists are on the whole better race car drivers than theists?

    If your answers are different, explain how you reach this conclusion.

  54. says

    (a) Atheists (being such) openly discuss the non-existence of God, non-existence of an afterlife, quote Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky”, use the term sky-daddy, etc. (I could go on)

    Pie in the sky:

    The phrase is originally from the song “The Preacher and the Slave” (1911) by Swedish-American labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill (1879–1915), which he wrote as a parody of the Salvation Army hymn “In the Sweet By-and-By” (published 1868). The song criticizes the Salvation Army for focusing on people’s salvation rather than on their material needs:[1]

    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

    Don’t you dare fucking mock those humanist lyrics.

  55. Rob Grigjanis says

    SC @55:

    I’ve largely been posting in the Political Madness thread, so I honestly hadn’t realized what a douche you’d become until the past few days.

    Oh dear, what gave me away in the last few days?

    I oppose the holding of beliefs that people don’t have a good reason to believe – faith in any form

    So do I. And I’ve seen as much of that among atheists as among theists. Cases in point; Richard Carrier, Sam Harris, others too numerous to mention, and their legions of faithful followers. Ain’t nothing special about religion except its current ascendancy in many places. Take it away, and you still have a surfeit of fools. And I doubt the proportion would differ much.

  56. PaulBC says

    SC Yikes. Who said I was mocking Joe Hill?

    It’s one of better shorthands for the false promise of eternal reward. Am supposed to need special permission to reference it?

  57. hemidactylus says

    @ 60- PaulBC

    I’d hardly consider abiding by Sam Harris’s highly polemic Moral Landscape a step up from theism, but with theists one could ask if they are under sway of command morality or if they make eternal reward their ultimate carrot.

    I find WD Ross’s prima facie duties as useful grounding from a secular standpoint.

  58. says

    Rob Grigjanis:

    Oh dear, what gave me away in the last few days?

    Your comments here.

    So do I. And I’ve seen as much of that among atheists as among theists….

    This is not a substantive response.

  59. says

    PaulBC:

    SC Yikes. Who said I was mocking Joe Hill?

    It’s one of better shorthands for the false promise of eternal reward. Am supposed to need special permission to reference it?

    It’s very clear what you’re doing here:

    What does it mean to “take the heat”? Say a religious person Mr. A joins the (fictitious) Atheists for Social Justice, attends meetings, pays dues, helps out with their causes, does not proselytize but acknowledges being a member of some religion.

    Two scenarios:
    (a) Atheists (being such) openly discuss the non-existence of God, non-existence of an afterlife, quote Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky”, use the term sky-daddy, etc. (I could go on)

    You knew exactly what you were saying and implying – stop the bullshit.

  60. Rob Grigjanis says

    SC @65: My comments here were far too impulsive and ill-thought, and made before a proper reading of your posts. I apologize.

    I still like Chris Hedges.

  61. PaulBC says

    SC Your choice if you think I’m being disingenuous. Care to elaborate on what you think I’m doing?

    I grew up in a leftwing Catholic family in the 70s with a steady diet of IWW references and protest song lyrics. I am not mocking anything about Joe Hill.

  62. consciousness razor says

    Do you believe atheists on the whole reach better ethical decisions than theists because of their atheist foundations?

    I think naturalism is true. It has potential, and a religious foundation doesn’t.

    Do you believe atheists are on the whole better race car drivers than theists?

    No.
    There is no reason to believe anything like that. There are good reasons to believe naturalism is true. That’s why they’re not the same answer, although as you can see, I said nothing about what “atheists on the whole” do, since the point is not to characterize groups of people. And the name of the game isn’t about being indifferent to the truth. So I haven’t done that and don’t plan on it.

  63. says

    PaulBC, given your earlier (#47)

    I can work with believing Christians provided that for the sake of agreed outcomes, we drop the “pie in the sky” part from the analysis whatever they believe to be the case.

    I have no idea what to make of your approach.

  64. PaulBC says

    SC@71

    Really? Sorry if I’m unclear. Is this proposal bizarre or even unconventional?

    A social justice movement should not distinguish between atheists and theists in its membership.

    I’d probably best leave it at that, but at the risk of clouding things up, some more comments.

    First off, consciousness razor@70. I respect your not wanting to make a sweeping statement, but your earlier comment suggested you believe theists, who “[think] the world is substantially different from the way it really is” are at a significant disadvantage with respect to… well, maybe I misunderstand, but I thought it was respect to social justice.

    I think it is really only a disadvantage in cases where the differences are salient. E.g., a belief in vitalism is going to make you a very bad biologist. But a scenario like “Why is the little girl crying?” (a) “She is hungry.” (b) “She has lost her teddy bear.” may be resolved correctly or not by different people, but not particularly based on whether or not they are theist or atheist. It would require some combination of observational skills, knowledge of social customs, and maybe even some empathy.

    Second, from a more positive, less hypothetical stance, I strongly believe that social justice is advanced by solidarity with the global population. The global population is more religious than not. It is hard to feel solidarity with people you don’t respect. So I feel it is problematic to base a social justice movement using atheism as a defining principle. Though clearly, atheists and free thought should be a driving force of the movement–and even, the reason I think Joe Hill is relevant–the point that justice can’t wait for the afterlife.

    SC: seriously, is my view so incoherent as to be incomprehensible? It has served me pretty well for decades though other things have changed (including my view towards religion). I think is it also not novel at all.

  65. horaspeher says

    The rift shocked me as well, not so much because I expected solidarity on the grounds of oppression, but because misogyny and queerphobia were so inherent in religion. Those were explicit criticisms in many atheist texts back in the day. So I was quite shocked when the straight white male cis atheists decided it was a nice tradition to keep.

  66. consciousness razor says

    your earlier comment suggested you believe theists, who “[think] the world is substantially different from the way it really is” are at a significant disadvantage with respect to… well, maybe I misunderstand, but I thought it was respect to social justice.

    Or with respect to basically anything. This is not that complicated, but I’m going to put it very generally, so you won’t get caught up in the details of a specific example.
    If a person believes X is true and in fact it’s false (that means false in the real world W, not in a made-up “social construct”) then they are more likely to take an action A, on the basis of their belief that X is true, which is not consistent with W where X is false.
    What happens in W after A, and how will we know? Did that action accomplish what they wanted or not (in W, not in their minds)?
    Was it really a good idea or not, and could you reliably tell whether it is, besides finding out certain things about W?
    Nothing indicates that A is a choice they should (or would) have made, given relevant information about W. Because of X, which caused A, they are at best ill-prepared to deal with W+ that happens after A. And they may very well have made a choice with negative consequences for themselves or others. Because X is false.
    Happily, we don’t need X. We’re better off without it, and that is an option.
    I think this is fairly clear. So now you tell me what your thinking on this matter is like. Maybe it’s basically the same, and you didn’t realize it. Then we’re done here.
    Or you might think morality (or justice) is somehow part of this other realm, separate from the world. It sounds bizarre, but that’s the sort of thing you hear every now and then, even though nobody gives anything close to a convincing argument for it. Am I supposed to buy into something like that? If I should, you’ll need to explain it to me. And be sure to tell me what the price is, because I can’t afford much.
    Or maybe you think something else. I don’t know why you would think something else, but you could try to explain that too.

    Second, from a more positive, less hypothetical stance, I strongly believe that social justice is advanced by solidarity with the global population. The global population is more religious than not. It is hard to feel solidarity with people you don’t respect.

    Maybe that is hard, but I’m not going around disrespecting religious people. I think they’re wrong about issues that matter, and a respectful way to act in that kind of situation is expressing this to them and trying to explain why that’s what I think.

  67. consciousness razor says

    SC:
    I said Croft gets it, but another article has me wondering all over again. He gets … something, I think.
    I’d like to give him a pass, but I would not count this, in which he “salutes” Mayor Pete for his brave, brave efforts to “[use] the language of Christianity to describe the moral foundations of his political worldview,” as one of the things Croft gets.
    It’s just laughable to talk as if there were a “contradiction” or “religious hypocrisy among conservatives,” when they spew their brand of Christianity all over the place. How hard can it be to understand that this is Christianity to them? That’s just their brand. And it definitely isn’t the meek and mild Sunday School version of hippie Jesusism that you only wish they practiced.

  68. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@75

    I think this is fairly clear. So now you tell me what your thinking on this matter is like. Maybe it’s basically the same, and you didn’t realize it. Then we’re done here.

    My thinking: we all misjudge reality for a whole variety of reasons: poor observations, faulty memory, false beliefs that were received as neutral facts (e.g. common beliefs about animal behavior that don’t turn out to be true). So all our decision-making is noisy. In many instances, the noise introduced by religious belief is not significant compared to the noise introduced by other faulty reasoning. It’s not hypothetical. I work with people who practice different religions. While I don’t agree with them on that, I trust their judgment more than my own in the areas they know better than me.

    Therefore, except in specific questions connected to religious belief, I treat the judgment of religious and non-religious people as indistinguishable. If you get to specific religious beliefs, e.g. prohibitions against certain sexual behavior, this can be relevant, but in a lot of cases it isn’t, which is why it’s a poor litmus test.

    Or you might think morality (or justice) is somehow part of this other realm, separate from the world.

    No I don’t. I can’t think of anything I said that would give that impression.

  69. PaulBC says

    consciousness razor@75

    I think they’re wrong about issues that matter, and a respectful way to act in that kind of situation is expressing this to them and trying to explain why that’s what I think.

    Without judging your approach, I normally practice respect by just acknowledging that their belief is important to them, though I don’t pretend to share their beliefs. If someone invites me to explain how I come to my conclusions, I’m happy to explain, but it’s not something I feel any duty to share with them.

  70. John Morales says

    PaulBC:

    <

    blockquote>I normally practice respect by just acknowledging that their belief is important to them, though I don’t pretend to share their beliefs.

    <

    blockquote>

    That’s precisely how I normally practice disdain! Go figure.

  71. PaulBC says

    John Morales@79 Well, would it be better if I started an argument.

    As a case in point, when someone offers me prayers for my daughter (who has had some serious medical issues) I say “Thank you” and I don’t press the point further as to whether I think prayers will make any difference. They’re telling me they care. I had a conversation with a coworker from the Philippines that progressed a little further along and I could reveal that, yes, I grew up Catholic but I’m not a believer. She respected that. I respected her caring. It could turn into an argument, but why should it?

  72. hemidactylus says

    @79- John

    Between the Peter Boghossian derived street epistemology and Darrel Ray’s invocation of Dawkins’ mind virus rhetoric there are different ways of disdaining believers. If I understand Ray correctly he’s not into proselytization but Boghossian sure is in a form of Socratic irony I kinda have issues with for being manipulative and insincerely empathetic even as practiced by his acolytes. But it is a step above Conan the Barbarian lamentations quest.

    And Ray is too much into looking down upon believers as zombie infected for my taste.

  73. John Morales says

    PaulBC, hemidactylus, yes, that’s my preferred method.

    PaulBC,

    It could turn into an argument, but why should it?

    Therefore, why shouldn’t it? :)

    hemidactylus,

    Between the Peter Boghossian derived street epistemology and Darrel Ray’s invocation of Dawkins’ mind virus rhetoric there are different ways of disdaining believers.

    Indeed, if and when it’s warranted. Obs, sometimes it’s for one reason or another not appropriate.

    (Flexibility and tolerance, that’s my modus)

  74. says

    consciousness razor @ #76,

    Ugh, that post.

    As an atheist, I’m uncomfortable that religion is such a huge part of American politics. When politicians start linking their policies with their faith I worry that the secular nature of US government is being further eroded. Politicians should always justify their policies with arguments open to all, regardless of their religious or nonreligious perspective, and no law should be passed purely based on faith.

    At the same time, I recognize that, in a country as deeply religious as America, progressives must reclaim the language of religion from the right, who have held that terrain essentially uncontested for far too long. Buttigieg is reclaiming it wholesale, harnessing the force of a newly-energized religious left to supercharge a new form of moral discourse in America – one which is putting progressive values in touch with their moral roots. This will undoubtedly enamor him to many American voters, while putting conservative Christians on the defensive – something which hasn’t happened for many decades. For that, this atheist salutes him.

    Uuuuuuuuuuugh. Everything about this. And he actually calls it “genuinely new in US politics,” like the Civil Rights movement didn’t happen.

  75. says

    PaulBC,

    Your view isn’t incomprehensible; it’s the same accommodationist claptrap I was arguing with Croft about in 2012. I make the case in that post for the importance of anti-faith activism to social justice activism. You might want to read it, because you’re just doing the thing accommodationists always do: ignoring the harmfulness of faith and the real-world power of religion to invent weird decontextualized hypotheticals in which elitist atheists are personally mean to religious believers. You’re a few hours away from the atheist mocking the old Catholic lady on her deathbed.

    You argue that you “feel it is problematic to base a social justice movement using atheism as a defining principle” but at the same time “atheists and free thought should be a driving force of the movement.” So we should be a driving force of social justice movements, just as long as we don’t make free thought, like, a thing? In your view, religious beliefs and faith shouldn’t be directly challenged even in the context of an explicitly atheist organization. (Of course, in your scenario, that’s not what happens – the person with the totally harmless religious beliefs is told “Mr. A, you are a stupid person for believing in your religion. What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be in this organization. We are atheists.” Because accommodationist scenarios never imagine any form of anti-faith discourse or activism other than personal obnoxiousness and disrespect.)

    It’s utterly bizarre to me that people are making these arguments in the US today, when powerful religious groups are backing an increasingly fascistic political party and promoting policies that are not only hugely harmful to humans and other animals right now but literally destroying the conditions for human life on the planet. And when the country is growing ever more irreligious. I have have truly had it with the ridiculous hypotheticals.

  76. says

    I think it is really only a disadvantage in cases where the differences are salient. E.g., a belief in vitalism is going to make you a very bad biologist. But a scenario like “Why is the little girl crying?” (a) “She is hungry.” (b) “She has lost her teddy bear.” may be resolved correctly or not by different people, but not particularly based on whether or not they are theist or atheist. It would require some combination of observational skills, knowledge of social customs, and maybe even some empathy.

    Outside of this totally decontextualized scenario, one of the areas in which religion has done and continues to do the most harm is raising children. I highly recommend Philip Greven’s Spare the Child. I talk in this post about the child-abuse movement among white evangelicals. Surely you’re aware of the horrors resulting from the Catholic Church’s involvement with education and childcare.

    Now, I argue that not only specific harmful beliefs but faith itself is a problem, so pointing out that there are more liberal religious traditions that don’t share the most harmful beliefs isn’t a counter-argument to my argument, nor do I think those false beliefs should be accepted or encouraged to counter the worse ones. I point to this context to bring the discussion back to the real world, in which religious beliefs and institutions do immense harm to real people.

  77. PaulBC says

    SC@84

    OK, well at least we understand each other. I conceded that my hypothetical was along the lines of a Jack Chick scenario. I agree with consciousness razor that a religious person shouldn’t join a secular group if they “can’t take the heat” or I might if I understood what that “heat” entails, which was never defined. I was setting some fairly extreme boundaries here. My point was that someone who is offended just by atheists revealing their atheism should not be in a group like that.

    I accommodate because (a) I’m outnumbered and (b) I’d rather focus on what I have in common with people around me. I also don’t think the elitism issue is hypothetical at all. While I don’t have any stats in the SF Bay Area, observation would suggest to me that atheism is a high-class signifier around here. The lower wage jobs are held disproportionately by Latinos who are more likely to be church-going. I also work with Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, among others who have high-paying jobs like mine. I don’t read minds and I suspect that many highly educated people hold onto religion out of tradition rather than some burning faith.

    But the main thing is that I would like to get along with those around me and not just other white Americans who have rejected their faith along similar lines to me.

    If I were attacking American irrationality in priority order, I’d probably start with flag worship and onto “gushing over the military” (while sidestepping the point that whatever you believe about the justice of it, these are paid killers). (and I could go on; it’s not just “patriotism”) There are so many things that bother me about what people hold uncritically, that I don’t find religion to be the showstopper.

    But yes, Evangelical Christianity is weaponized for political purposes in the US. I used to laugh at Jimmy Swaggart on TV in the 80s, but hooboy, was I blindsided to the threat. Also, the Catholic church has formed some questionable alliances with them and has its own unrelated scandals. My family was on the Dorothy Day/Berrigan brothers side of things but it’s no excuse. I never said any of this was harmless. I also don’t believe that religion is mostly positive from the social justice side (though it has served in the past to mobilize, e.g. abolitionists and the civil rights movement). I think it is part of the landscape.

    You can pick a fight with religious belief and it may be the appropriate fight to pick. I do not believe that picking that fight is likely to advance a social justice movement, whatever its other benefits. That’s my main point.

    But I will add that I would personally not find any value to a group that promoted atheism along with transphobia and male superiority. If PZ hadn’t been writing about this, to be honest, I wouldn’t even know it was a thing.

  78. PaulBC says

    SC@85

    Surely you’re aware of the horrors resulting from the Catholic Church’s involvement with education and childcare.

    Yes, and I don’t want to sound like I’m sidestepping this.

  79. hemidactylus says

    I’ve been stumbling a bit as of late, but have been toying with the idea of being “post-atheist”. The whole all encompassing identity label thing is downright silly. Faithless agnostic could be a preferable moniker, but that’s yet another cubbyhole.

  80. PaulBC says

    And just to make this a lot less hypothetical, I believe that one the most urgent issues in US politics is wresting power from conservative Christians (including evangelicals and the conservative Catholics allied with them). I also believe that atheism as a movement isn’t all that useful for this purpose (but the drifting away from religion “Nones” is a helpful sign).

    The main role I see is providing a space in those communities in which people feel a lot of pressure to profess belief in which they can communicate with like-minded individuals. But it’s a stretch to wrap my head around, because that was never my life on the east coast and now in the SF Bay Area. So I’ll leave that to others.

    Secondarily, it goes without saying that religious belief should not be a litmus test for political office and that’s an important fight to pick. I still think that organizations that put the focus on separation (e.g. Americans United for Separation of Church and State) are better focused on addressing this than groups that do not include religious members.

  81. hemidactylus says

    Hmmm…actually a thing:

    https://www.atheistrev.com/2012/04/what-is-post-atheism.html

    https://hjrabbi.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/post-atheist/

    And I adore this quote attributed to The Onion in the last link:

    “Atheism, rejection of a belief in the existence of God in which one deeply devotes oneself to the nearly nonstop studying, writing, thinking, and talking about God. Upon reaching the philosophical and logical conclusion that God cannot exist, an atheist will dedicate the rest of his or her life to poring over books about God, fervently arguing with those who believe in God, and meeting with other devout atheists to discuss God or listen to someone lecture passionately and at length about how there is no God. The firmly held belief that there is no God gives atheists a deep sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.”

  82. PaulBC says

    SC: Here is a real question, not a hypothetical.

    It’s very clear that certain Christian churches in the Bay Area see Chinese immigrants as an opportunity and have for decades. (Korean immigrants too, but a lot are already Christian) Many Chinese people arrive here without a habit of practicing any religion due to the lasting effect of the cultural revolution, and join churches like River of Life. I can’t read minds as to why, but based on conversation and inference I believe it’s (a) an attempt to assimilate and (b) a chance for fellowship with other expatriates. The situation is different for immigrants who come with a religious tradition in place.

    Is there an atheist movement that could seize the same opportunity and provide an opportunities from a secular standpoint? Note: my hypothesis is not that “religion is better at this” but “atheists are dropping the ball.” If you cannot even promulgate your view to a group who might be receptive to new things, how do you plan to reverse entrenched belief?

  83. PaulBC says

    “the same opportunity and provide an opportunities” (sorry… I did mean to say something coherent)

    “the same opportunity and provide the benefits of entrance into mainstream society and fellowship from a secular standpoint”

  84. consciousness razor says

    I agree with consciousness razor that a religious person shouldn’t join a secular group if they “can’t take the heat” or I might if I understood what that “heat” entails, which was never defined.

    It’s very simple and should’ve been clear in context. It means criticism of religions. There are tons of legitimate criticisms to make about them, including a wide variety which pertain to moral/political issues, because they have a lot of serious fucking problems that go to the core of what such religions are about. You say you care about those things (at least some of them), so I do expect you to be okay with that.
    If nothing bad comes from some behavior/practice associated somehow with a religion, you should realize that there will be no such criticism to make about it. So don’t just imagine that happening anyway, for no coherent reason at all, then complain to me about whatever scenario it is that you conjured up in your imagination. I shouldn’t be held accountable for any of the unfair things the figments of your imagination may say or do. That wouldn’t be fair.
    It’s as if you think I’m a villain in one of those cheesy “God’s Not Dead” creationist movies. Why would you think that? Drank too much Kool-Aid? Just don’t know what to say but feel like you have to say something?

  85. PaulBC says

    Sorry (as usual) about the multiple posts, but it only just hit me that my example is more relevant than I realized.

    It seems like ancient history now, but California actually put a same-sex marriage ban on the ballot in 2008 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_California_Proposition_8

    It wasn’t a big topic at work, but the one person I did talk to about it was a coworker, originally from China, who belonged to a Christian church and had been fed the lie through his church that members of clergy would be forced by law to performed same-sex marriages. I tried to explain that nobody could force a church to perform any ceremony and the question was only whether the state recognizes civil and religious same-sex marriages. (I assume he had naturalized and could vote.)

    This is a clear instance in which even in a very liberal area, churches had much better success in their own form of outreach to a receptive audience than any atheist group had managed. Prop 8 passed, though it was later ruled unconstitutional.

    It is hard to shake the impression that American atheist groups still have relatively interest or ability in reaching out to immigrants and minorities and are mostly putting the fight in the context of their own religiously-dominated communities.

  86. PaulBC says

    Above should say “relatively little interest”.

    It’s very simple and should’ve been clear in context. It means criticism of religions. There are tons of legitimate criticisms to make about them, including a wide variety which pertain to moral/political issues, because they have a lot of serious fucking problems that go to the core of what such religions are about. You say you care about those things (at least some of them), so I do expect you to be okay with that.

    Well, then I agree that atheists shouldn’t be pandering to religious people. I never said they should.

    SC is right that my view comes down to conventional accommodationist “claptrap” so I guess this could have been a much shorter discussion. I do not think that belief in God is the root of all other harmful beliefs (e.g. authoritarianism). In fact, I think it’s mostly irrelevant despite the fact that authoritarianism and religion are combined in the metastasis of conservative Christianity (mostly evangelicals and one wing of the Catholic church). By contrast, I don’t think Unitarian-Universalists are a huge threat, or moribund mainstream churches. (And there are a lot of religions, needless to say, not all Christian).

    But yes, I am an atheist who buys into the accommodationist claptrap. (It’s boring and trite enough to be the “coexist” bumper sticker, and no I don’t have one). I really don’t see belief in God to be any more of a deal-breaker than belief in traditional gender roles, racism, classism or other impediments to living in a pluralistic society. I think they emerge from non-religious environments too.

    Actually, one argument against the above would be findings from, e.g., Pew surveys that do suggest atheists and agnostics are likely to agree with me politically. But the current set of American atheists is a small, highly motivated group. My view is that if atheism were to become the norm (as it was at least on paper in the Soviet Union) the same bigotries, child abuse, authoritarianism would emerge with different non-religious rationale. In fact, the case of transphobic atheists suggests that it can emerge readily even in a small group.

  87. consciousness razor says

    re: #94
    Yeah, if only atheists as a group were more progressive than the religious. Oh wait, they are.
    But okay … if only atheists were more progressiver than that. An admirable sentiment. It’s just shameful for a minority group like that, and it isn’t at all shameful for the remainder of the population which is religious and (typically) even less progressive.
    Then, the religious wouldn’t have temporarily banned same-sex marriages. Right? No, that doesn’t make any sense.
    Then, they wouldn’t have been able to confuse one of your coworkers about what it meant to ban or not ban such things. I don’t know how, but the minority of people who are atheists certainly could have prevented this, while of course the religious had no choice but to be deceptive (not to mention bigoted).
    That’s why you so proudly stand with the religious, because you care so much about social justice — and honesty! Religions have such a great track record, after all, as you so clearly just demonstrated. Meanwhile, you blame atheists for … being unpopular, apparently. Or maybe it’s for being horribly misrepresented. I’m not sure exactly. But it’s certainly a failing on the part of atheists.
    You’re totally right, PaulBC. You have been all along. Is that what you wanted to hear?

  88. consciousness razor says

    Actually, one argument against the above would be findings from, e.g., Pew surveys that do suggest atheists and agnostics are likely to agree with me politically. But the current set of American atheists is a small, highly motivated group.

    The Pew religious landscape study you’re presumably thinking of suggests that atheists and agnostics are about 7.1% of the US, which by my estimation is over 23 million people. If you consider all of the “unaffiliated,” that would be 22.8% or 74 million. And those numbers have been growing consistently since the 1990s.
    For comparison, Historically Black Protestants are 6.5%. All non-Christian religious groups combined are 5.9% — but you can see part of that is “buddhist,” “humanist,” “pagan,” “I have my own beliefs,” and so forth, meaning some of them should also probably be counted for these purposes.

  89. PaulBC says

    That’s why you so proudly stand with the religious, because you care so much about social justice — and honesty!

    Who said I “proudly stand with the religious”? Do I “proudly stand” with corgi fanciers? What I do say is that it’s their own business (and having picked a random example, I am in fact against the practice of breeding pedigree dogs, but that too isn’t a hill I want to die on).

    You’re totally right, PaulBC. You have been all along. Is that what you wanted to hear?

    No. I am trying to understand my own position here, and I think it is a little clearer to me now. I am curious if I actually agree with you or SC and am just splitting hairs. I have to conclude the answer is no.

    I have long felt that most people are non-believers who adhere to tradition. At least, very few of them accept their entire stated creed even if they may believe prayer holds some sway or feel guilt connected to particular doctrines. A small percentage are fervent believers. I see this condition as a persistent element of human fallibility rather than a problem that can be addressed through education. Many religious people are in fact educated and exposed to other ideas.

    I don’t really want to “hear” from you or anyone that I am right about this. Maybe some light could be shed on the subject, but not in a debate format.

  90. PaulBC says

    John Morales@79

    Back to respect vs. disdain, my default outlook towards other people (and not just their religious beliefs) is something like.

    “I don’t think you value X for the reason you claim, because your claim makes no sense. However, I accept at face value that you value X because you told me you do.”

    (And this isn’t the part I say out loud unless I really need to cut the discussion short.)

    It has taken me far in life. If it comes across as disdain, so be it. If I felt I had some duty to convince others to put aside the stuff they care about and start caring about stuff I care about, I would be a very hopeless person.

  91. PaulBC says

    hemidactylus@64

    Wikipedia called WD Ross a “non-naturalist”. That sounds like a deal breaker to me. Can you elaborate a little?

  92. consciousness razor says

    What I do say is that it’s their own business

    It’s not like people can’t read your apologetics in this thread, like they can’t see that you’ve identified with accommodationism for reasons that remain incomprehensible to me. People can see you claiming that we shouldn’t be very critical of religions – that this is somehow pointless if not counterproductive – while at the same time emphasizing how much you will (or might) associate with religious people on causes that matter to you … presumably for the same reasons you would be criticizing religions, if you were being consistent. Maybe you don’t especially like how I just put it, but it’s hard to believe that I’ve totally misread what this entire conversation has been about.
    Also, it’s not their own business, so don’t say that either. This shit does in fact hurt tons of people. We’ve gone through this already, and you definitely know it by now. I’ve honestly tried to be charitable here, but this is the sort of thing you say when you’re trying to correct me.

    I see this condition as a persistent element of human fallibility rather than a problem that can be addressed through education.

    I don’t care what your half-baked theory is. There’s abundant evidence that people do learn to reject their faith. It’s a process that happens through learning or experience, like many others, difficult though it may be. You can consider me an example, or better yet, you’re probably one too.

    Many religious people are in fact educated and exposed to other ideas.

    Well, that contradiction didn’t take long. So it can be addressed through education. Who would’ve guessed?

    I don’t really want to “hear” from you or anyone that I am right about this.

    I don’t really want to ask for your permission before I say you’re wrong.

  93. says

    PaulBC:

    If I were attacking American irrationality in priority order, I’d probably start with flag worship and onto “gushing over the military” (while sidestepping the point that whatever you believe about the justice of it, these are paid killers). (and I could go on; it’s not just “patriotism”) There are so many things that bother me about what people hold uncritically, that I don’t find religion to be the showstopper.

    See, to me, the way you present the situation is like this strange upside-down world in which religion is a set of largely poor and minority individuals who need to be protected from challenges to their faith rather than a set of hugely powerful institutions with a stranglehold on the lives of billions of people. Religion/faith isn’t the only institution promoting bad belief, but it’s inseparable from the others (corporations and governments, first and foremost) – it’s all part of the same system. (I’ll note that the current vice president and secretary of state are religious extremists.) Religious faith is also specifically harmful within this constellation because it makes a virtue of irrational belief and uses various coercive tools to block challenges to these beliefs and methods of arriving at beliefs.

    I can’t emphasize enough that for people in a huge part of the world it’s dangerous to the point of life-threatening to openly challenge religion or be openly atheist (or even secularist). You can be imprisoned, executed, or hacked to death in the street. In the US, the power of religion is maintained through their grip on government institutions and also through coercive social practices: Atheism is regularly maligned and disparaged, but it’s unacceptable to challenge religion and faith, regardless of their real power. The price of coming out as an atheist can be scorn and exclusion from your family and community, which can fall particularly hard on women and would be unbearable for many people. It’s still very rare in the US for politician to be openly atheist or even consistently secular, much less to point out that the beliefs on which so many legislators base their policies are irrational and illegitimate. You echo this culture in your comments, which portray challenges to religious faith as inherently aggressive – religious groups have tried to deny me my right to my own body my whole life, but saying faith is bad and harmful is me “picking a fight” with religion; religious beliefs are in a special category which means you show respect for people by acknowledging that these beliefs are “important to them” (unlike those specific religious beliefs you deem harmful, or presumably nonreligious harmful beliefs); clearly criticizing religious faith is set in hypothetical situations – overwhelmingly the reverse of reality – in which atheists have power and are through their criticism being unwelcoming, disrespectful, and exclusive; and so on.

    I don’t know whether my grandmother prayed the rosary daily. She might have, but she died young and when I was a small child – a death I attribute in no small part, if indirectly, to the Catholic Church (as did, I learned recently, my grandfather). Were she still alive, I assume I would tell her what I think about religion (and she might agree with me). But I don’t think anyone’s advocating like approaching random religious people on the street or in our lives and challenging their faith, or refusing to work with religious believers on any cause, or responding disdainfully when someone says they’ll keep you in their prayers, or refusing to say “Bless you” if someone sneezes. That would be strange and serve no purpose. But to me, as I argued in great detail in that post, a key part of social justice is challenging faith and religion for the harms they do to believers and nonbelievers alike, which means refusing the cloying deference religious people claim for them.

    But I will add that I would personally not find any value to a group that promoted atheism along with transphobia and male superiority.

    I mean, obviously.

  94. PaulBC says

    Well, that contradiction didn’t take long. So it can be addressed through education. Who would’ve guessed?

    Um, no. My point was that education does not seem especially effective. Many highly educated people adhere to their birth religion, despite being widely read and exposed to other ideas. Where’s the contradiction?

    For whatever reason, you think I’m engaging in apologetics. Sorry, I think it would be very ineffective apologetics as you’ve demonstrated.

    I accommodate because N-1 people are not me. I don’t see how this is incomprehensible. You could argue that it’s cowardly. I don’t have a rebuttal, but that’s just how it is.

    I don’t really want to ask for your permission before I say you’re wrong.

    Again, nobody said you should.

  95. says

    Oh – meant to note that the data consistently show that the less religious a polity – state, country – is, the better on all of the measures we associate with social justice, and that there’s a causal influence. So the notion that challenging faith/religion isn’t especially relevant to social-justice goals is not supported.

  96. says

    consciousness razor:

    I shouldn’t be held accountable for any of the unfair things the figments of your imagination may say or do. That wouldn’t be fair.
    It’s as if you think I’m a villain in one of those cheesy “God’s Not Dead” creationist movies.

    LOL. I’m having flashbacks to Chris Stedman’s fantasy mint-julep party.

  97. PaulBC says

    SC@103

    See, to me, the way you present the situation is like this strange upside-down world in which religion is a set of largely poor and minority individuals who need to be protected from challenges to their faith rather than a set of hugely powerful institutions with a stranglehold on the lives of billions of people. Religion/faith isn’t the only institution promoting bad belief, but it’s inseparable from the others (corporations and governments, first and foremost) – it’s all part of the same system. (I’ll note that the current vice president and secretary of state are religious extremists.) Religious faith is also specifically harmful within this constellation because it makes a virtue of irrational belief and uses various coercive tools to block challenges to these beliefs and methods of arriving at beliefs.

    I agree 100% with the part starting with “set of hugely….”

    I object to your interpretation of what I said (blame is as always on me, the writer). I never suggested anyone needs to be “protected” from challenges to faith. I did say, rather tritely, that the “coexist” bumpersticker is in line with my views.

    Yes, some religions have a dangerous stranglehold on power, and it’s true in this country right now. Mike Pence is a frightening religious extremist. No question about it. If your focus is on breaking this stranglehold, more power to you. However, I do not believe this is the root cause of human rights violations. It’s one of many. We might disagree on this point.

    I also don’t think that the primary power of religion over individuals is part of a political power structure. It is so enmeshed in culture that it is part of human identity. And again, this is a trite, waffly point that you can hear in Obama’s speeches: “The right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose to practice no faith at all, if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.” …which is why I’m a little startled by the degree of pushback.

    The practices we inflict on our children need to be judged individually and on outcome, not on whether they stem from religion or something else. (The view I’m coming from and I understand that you disagree.)

    I mean, obviously.

    Yes, well, I was originally responding to the point about the tail wagging the dog. There did potentially seem to be some dispute about this point.

    I did not think that staking out my position as a waffly accommodationist would lead to this much discussion.

  98. says

    (I was away for a while, so I’m just returning to the thread and responding to comments as I go through them, so forgive me if I’m duplicating anything that’s already been said.)

    PaulBC @ #94, let me see if I have this straight. Your personal impressions, based largely on an interaction with one guy, who was lied to by his church, about Proposition Fucking 8, is something you think is a worthwhile addition to your argument that atheists should be more accommodating of religion. OK, then.

    I hope you don’t have any more questions for me about SF atheist organizations. I don’t know anything about them, nor am I here to defend any atheist organization in particular or the atheist movement as a whole.

  99. hemidactylus says

    @101- PaulBC

    I wouldn’t read too much spookiness into that and I’m also unsure on his intuitionism but I still find his prima facie duty grid useful to keep in mind as beyond a simple eudaemonics. There are better ways to make a fact vs value distinction.

    https://www.iep.utm.edu/ross-wd/#SH6a

    Going on Moore’s concept of Good it cannot be decomposed analytically. It’s irreducible. If memory serves Ross focused on Right instead. Anyone who helps themself to Moore’s “naturalistic fallacy” as a battering ram to smash evolutionary ethics inherits this unacknowledged baggage, which I recall taking as a sort of Platonism. Again I’m more into Ross’s grid (from above link) than the non-naturalism:

    “1. Fidelity. We should strive to keep promises and be honest and truthful.

    Reparation. We should make amends when we have wronged someone else.
    Gratitude. We should be grateful to others when they perform actions that benefit us and we should try to return the favor.
    Non-injury (or non-maleficence). We should refrain from harming others either physically or psychologically.
    Beneficence. We should be kind to others and to try to improve their health, wisdom, security, happiness, and well-being.
    Self-improvement. We should strive to improve our own health, wisdom, security, happiness, and well-being.
    Justice. We should try to be fair and try to distribute benefits and burdens equably and evenly.”

    Not that I’m any good at practice over theory. I’m fallible.

    I was in the midst of reading some Robert Audi’s views of Ross but got distracted. Here’s a secular humanist take:

    “Our norms impose obligations, but these obligations can be overridden by other obligations. In the words of the twentieth-century English ethicist W. D. Ross, our norms impose prima facie obligations, that is, they impose obligations that must be followed unless there is a competing norm that imposes an obligation that takes priority.”
    From
    The Necessity of Secularism
    Ronald A. Lindsay

    Paul Kurtz also made reference to these weighted obligations.

    Right now I’m neck deep in arch-villain Herbert Spencer who GE Moore reacted to. So my brain is cluttered.

  100. PaulBC says

    SC@108

    First, a concession. I find your point about the political power of organized religion persuasive and probably do tend to dismiss it more than I ought to. It’s a blight on humanity. Maybe it is the biggest one. I do not have an answer. But I also find it inseparable from identity and culture.

    your argument that atheists should be more accommodating of religion

    If I made such an argument, I retract it. I am personally fairly accommodating of religion and merely assert my own right to be.

  101. says

    PaulBC:

    SC is right that my view comes down to conventional accommodationist “claptrap” so I guess this could have been a much shorter discussion. I do not think that belief in God is the root of all other harmful beliefs (e.g. authoritarianism). In fact, I think it’s mostly irrelevant despite the fact that authoritarianism and religion are combined in the metastasis of conservative Christianity (mostly evangelicals and one wing of the Catholic church). By contrast, I don’t think Unitarian-Universalists are a huge threat, or moribund mainstream churches. (And there are a lot of religions, needless to say, not all Christian).

    This is ridiculous. I’ve lost count of the number of preconditions you’ve now set which somehow have to be met to convince you that it’s worthwhile to openly challenge religious faith as part of a social justice movement. Religion has to be not a cause of harm but the major cause of harm, the sole cause of harm, the root of all of the other causes of harm. (And “religion” now means, for some reason, “belief in God.”) A less religious society would have to be not only much better but free of virtually all social ills. Oh, and anti-faith activities absorb all of someone’s time and so can’t be combined with anything else. And you haven’t once addressed my extensive analysis of the harms of faith in the post I linked to @ #28 above.

    This is the same sort of thing opponents of gun-control measures do – the problem is really this other thing, guns aren’t the only problem, it wouldn’t address this specific shooting, it wouldn’t end all violence, etc.

    If you think religion is “mostly irrelevant” to socially harmful beliefs I don’t think we have much more to talk about. You’re living in a dreamworld. Here, for example, are the groups that supported Prop H8:

    The Roman Catholic Church,[65] as well as a Roman Catholic lay fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus,[66] firmly supported the measure. The bishops of the California Catholic Conference released a statement supporting the proposition,[67] a position met with mixed reactions among church members, including clergy.[68][69]

    George Hugh Niederauer as Archbishop of San Francisco campaigned in 2008 in favor of the Proposition, and claimed to have been instrumental in forging alliances between Catholics and Mormons to support the measure.[70] His successor, Salvatore Cordileone was regarded as instrumental in devising the initiative. Campaign finance records show he personally gave at least $6,000 to back the voter-approved ban[71] and was instrumental in raising $1.5 million to put the proposition on the ballot.[72] Subsequently, as Cardinal archbishop of San Francisco, he has called publicly for an amendment to the US Constitution as “the only remedy in law against judicial activism” following the number of state same-sex marriage bans struck down by federal judges. He also attended and addressed the audience at the “March for Marriage”, a rally opposing marriage for same-sex couples, in Washington, D.C. in June 2014.[citation needed]

    In California’s 2008 election the Knights of Columbus attracted media attention when they donated more than $1.4 million to Proposition 8.[73] The Order was the largest financial supporter of the successful effort to maintain a legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.[74]

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[75][76][77] (LDS Church), also publicly supported the proposition. The First Presidency of the church announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter intended to be read in every congregation in California. In this letter, church members were encouraged to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time”.[75] The church produced and broadcast to its congregations a program describing the support of the Proposition, and describing the timeline it proposes for what it describes as grassroots efforts to support the Proposition.[78] Local church leaders set organizational and monetary goals for their membership—sometimes quite specific—to fulfill this call.[79][80] The response of church members to their leadership’s appeals to donate money and volunteer time was very supportive,[81] such that Latter-day Saints provided a significant source for financial donations in support of the proposition, both inside and outside the State of California.[82] LDS members contributed over $20 million,[83] about 45% of out-of-state contributions to ProtectMarriage.com came from Utah, over three times more than any other state.[84] ProtectMarriage, the official proponent of Proposition 8, estimates that about half the donations they received came from Mormon sources, and that LDS church members made up somewhere between 80% and 90% of the volunteers for early door-to-door canvassing.[85]

    Other religious organizations that supported Proposition 8 include the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America,[86] Eastern Orthodox Church,[87] a group of Evangelical Christians led by Jim Garlow and Miles McPherson,[88] American Family Association, Focus on the Family[89] and the National Organization for Marriage.[90] Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, also endorsed the measure.

    It was pretty much entirely a religious initiative.

    Authoritarianism isn’t a belief but a constellation of psychological tendencies and beliefs and the movements, organizations, and institutions embodying them. I think a major factor in the persistence of authoritarianism is authoritarian or abusive parenting and childhood education. Of course there are nonreligious beliefs and ideologies that promote this kind of parenting and education, but in the US it’s overwhelmingly religious in origin. I didn’t mention it above, but the current secretary of education is also a religious extremist, whose family long funded Dobson’s authoritarian child-abuse cult. Weakening the hold of religion in the US would contribute greatly to reducing authoritarianism.

    But yes, I am an atheist who buys into the accommodationist claptrap. (It’s boring and trite enough to be the “coexist” bumper sticker, and no I don’t have one). I really don’t see belief in God to be any more of a deal-breaker than belief in traditional gender roles, racism, classism or other impediments to living in a pluralistic society. I think they emerge from non-religious environments too.

    What the actual fuck? What “deal” are we talking about? Are you suggesting that openly challenging religious faith and the deference paid to it is somehow saying religious people should be denied the right to exist?

    Actually, one argument against the above would be findings from, e.g., Pew surveys that do suggest atheists and agnostics are likely to agree with me politically. But the current set of American atheists is a small, highly motivated group.

    ?

    My view is that if atheism were to become the norm (as it was at least on paper in the Soviet Union) the same bigotries, child abuse, authoritarianism would emerge with different non-religious rationale. In fact, the case of transphobic atheists suggests that it can emerge readily even in a small group.

    The Soviet Union? Seriously? Take a look at this list. Also see the work of Phil Zuckerman, for example.

  102. says

    @PaulBC:

    “Non-naturalism” is a meta-ethical grouping of related ethical systems entirely separate from the more familiar groupings of consequentialisms, deontologies, and virtue ethics. Non-naturalism asserts that even though the truth of any ethical statement depends on objective facts about the world/universe, we can’t reduce ethical statements to those facts. Ethics, then, is not contained within nature. Unlike those other earlier groupings, non-naturalism is on a plane with naturalism (ethical statements are reducible to natural facts pertaining to the world/universe and thus can be judged true or false), error theory (ethical statements never turn out to be true, for various reasons), non-cognitivism (ethical statements cannot be judged as true or false, they simply don’t make assertions of fact and cannot be considered philosophical “propositions” at all), and ethical anti-realism, which might seem to be similar to non-naturalism, but remember that non-naturalist ethics asserts that moral propositions/ethical statements refer to facts about the world/universe, and thus can in some cases be proved not to be true, but are not reducible to facts about the world/universe. Anti-realism, in contrast, asserts that ethical statements never refer to any concrete facts at all.

    Non-naturalistic systems of ethics are not about incorporating the supernatural. They need to be understood as resisting the assertion that we can simply measure the universe and discover laws of ethics the way we discover laws of physics.

    Obviously, simply saying “ethics are not discoverable in the same way as physics but facts about the world are still relevant to determining what is or isn’t ethical” is not itself the basis of an ethical system. However, non-naturalism as a position can then be joined with other, more familiar categories like virtue ethics to form a beginning point in a search for ethics. “Consequentialisms”, “Deontologies, or “Virtue ethics” as categories might tell you something about what you’re looking for in an ethical system while naturalism, non-naturalism, error theory, etc. tell you how and where to look. … though of course non-cognitivism and anti-realism in particular straddle the divide I’m implying exists between these two separate planes of meta-ethical categorization because (for instance) you can’t have an entirely anti-realist ethical system that is also a consequentialist system unless literally none of the consequences being considered in your system are consequences that, as a matter of fact, we can say would or won’t occur in this world/universe when taking a particular action. While you could have an anti-realist ethical system that is concerned with the consequences not in this universe but in another, historically consequentialism hasn’t been interpreted as including such ethical systems and I think you’d find yourself getting a hell of a lot of pushback from consequentialists on any assertion that you’ve successfully constructed an anti-realist system of ethics that should be included in consequentialism.

    Non-naturalism, too, resists consequentialism, but in more subtle ways: Utilitarianism defines a “good” which must be maximized (indeed, maximizing “good” is the entire purpose of Utilitarianism specifically and consequentialisms generally) as human pleasure or happiness. But whether you are happy or not is a non-moral fact about the world, and non-naturalism asserts that one cannot reduce moral goodness to such natural facts. Utilitarianism might, in some cases, lead to “good” outcomes, but the central premise that happiness = goodness cannot be true under non-naturalism.

    Thus your concern in #101:

    Wikipedia called WD Ross a “non-naturalist”. That sounds like a deal breaker to me.

    seems to me to be likely founded on a misunderstanding of non-naturalism, and possibly on confusing non-naturalism with supernaturalism. This is, of course, both common and completely understandable coming from someone who hasn’t studied 20th & 21st century ethics.

  103. PaulBC says

    SC

    it’s worthwhile to openly challenge religious faith as part of a social justice movement.

    I heartily concur. It’s worthwhile to openly challenge religious faith as part of a social justice movement. Indeed it is worthwhile to openly challenge religious faith in other contexts. Indeed, such challenges may be worthwhile even when they are not perceived in the most favorable light.

    I hope this serves as a sufficient white flag.

  104. PaulBC says

    Crip Dyke@112 hemidactylus@109

    Yes, I am probably just confused by unfamiliar terminology. I may look into WD Ross, though to be honest, it sounds like it would require a greater commitment of attention span than I’m willing to make right at the moment.

  105. PaulBC says

    SC

    I’ll look into Phil Zuckerman’s work. I see a copy of “Living the secular life : new answers to old questions” at my library and “What it means to be moral : why religion is not necessary for living an ethical life” recently added. Also “Faith No More” at another nearby library. (That looks the most promising, and I may get it today.)

    [Prop 8] was pretty much entirely a religious initiative.

    Yes, and that’s why it sprung to mind in context.

  106. says

    PaulBC:

    I also don’t think that the primary power of religion over individuals is part of a political power structure. It is so enmeshed in culture that it is part of human identity.

    I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make here. A lot of things, including white and male supremacy, are parts of some people’s identity. I don’t think you’d argue against challenging those beliefs or their irrational basis because they’re part of some people’s identities. I hope you’re not arguing that religion or faith is essential to human identity, since that’s obviously false. Or that religion can’t be both part of a political (economic, cultural) power structure and also part of some people’s identity, which would also be false.

    And again, this is a trite, waffly point that you can hear in Obama’s speeches: “The right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose to practice no faith at all, if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.” …which is why I’m a little startled by the degree of pushback.

    I don’t disagree with the content of what he says there (although he wasn’t big on atheist inclusion, from what I saw); in fact, Obama went further than most in pointing to the right to practice no faith at all. It’s what gets left out – the right to openly challenge religious belief. It’s not forbidden by law as it is in so many other places, but it’s treated as almost an infringement on people’s right to practice their religion, as aggression, as harmful. Just to say “That’s a bad and harmful way to arrive at beliefs. Moreover, many of your beliefs – unsurprisingly, given the irrational manner in which they were formed – are false. And I don’t think faith is worthy of praise or special status” is considered so scandalous that people get the vapors and try to discourage it at every turn. Given the power and status of religion at present, this deference has to go.

  107. says

    PaulBC:

    I hope this serves as a sufficient white flag.

    Sorry – I posted #116 before I saw this. Don’t feel you have to respond. Cheers. It was a pleasant discussion and helped me clarify some of my own ideas.

    And belatedly to Rob Grigjanis – apologies for calling you a douche @ #55.

  108. PaulBC says

    SC@116

    A lot of leftists complain about Obama’s centrism, but from the standpoint of embracing a pluralistic society, I think he took measures that are way off the charts by any previous standard of presidential messaging on this issue. Anyway, I like him and I like his style, and it angers me to see how far we’ve gone in the opposite direction in under 3 years. But I am not making a prescriptive statement that his is the right approach.

    I also like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is a coalition of believers and atheists. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I believe it is possible to eliminate the harmful church/state complex through separation rather than elimination or reduction of religious belief.

    I also endorse your right to argue about religion with believers. It’s not something I have any appetite to engage in. Is this a reasonable statement of preference?

    OK, so that’s about it. I don’t see anything to suggest I would disagree with Zuckerman’s work, but I will look into it.

  109. says

    A lot of leftists complain about Obama’s centrism, but from the standpoint of embracing a pluralistic society, I think he took measures that are way off the charts by any previous standard of presidential messaging on this issue.

    I agree, which points to the sad state of affairs in this country. As you said, that’s like the most anodyne statement imaginable – just really stating what’s in the Constitution, which was written more than two centuries ago – and it stands out. He doesn’t talk about the right to debate or mock religious beliefs, the right to not have other people’s religious beliefs imposed on you, the importance of secular government, or anything like it, and it still went well beyond what most politicians say about religion.

    Here’s how Obama responded to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. I almost can’t wrap my mind around how far we’ve moved from that standard of presidential decency. It’s mindboggling.

  110. wzrd1 says

    When one is doing stuff, shit and things, well, the shit hangs around to try to stick to one’s ankles. It’s the nature of shit.
    Had enough shit details to learn that lesson, when some idiot spilled the barrel.*
    That said, one above such shit doesn’t have shit stick to them, those not above it wear it.

    You saw shit, avoided it, rose above and moved on.
    The environment, as to sexual orientation and social orientation sounds like a crowd I’d enjoy learning new things from, while entertaining them via various means.
    After all, I am, among other skills, a chef.
    A man, a woman and a dog looked about and said, “Now what?”.
    Instantly, noting, “Aw, shit! Again?!”.
    A seesaw landed. With a catch.

    Or as Fiddler on the Roof has it, To life, to life, lechaim! Lechaim, lechaim, to life. If you’re lucky, Monday was no worse than Sunday, lechaim, lechaim, to life!
    Welcome, welcome to my world…

  111. PaulBC says

    SC (not trying to reopen anything but to follow up)

    I read Faith No More (it’s short). I don’t find anything surprising in Zuckerman’s findings, but the interviews are interesting.

    My interpretation is still somewhat different. Most of the hardships identified by Zuckerman arose from the degree of social control (family, friends, and community) in the religions in his sample. I see the main problem as the controlling environment. Religion is simply the most popular, highly effective form of gaslighting rather than the root cause. (Not expecting agreement; just my assertion.)

    I appreciated this passage towards the end of the book.

    There is a unique worry that faces many apostate parents: how do they impart their values and beliefs to their children without “brainwashing” them? … For religious parents—especially the strongly devout and heavily involved—it is a joy and a duty to bring up their children in the fold, to teach them the tenets of their religion with earnest devotion, and to do all they can to ensure that their children become enmeshed in their religious tradition.

    I’d add that even as a much younger, more or less believing Catholic, I would have thought it was wrong to “brainwash” my future kids,. The idea of finding it “a joy and a duty to bring up [my] children in the fold” is disturbing to me, sending me to flashbacks of watching reruns of the Twilight Zone or the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers on my parents’ too old black and white TV in the 70s (which I’d argue is still the best way to watch these classics).

    I tell my actual kids, now in their early teens, that I was brought up Catholic, I am no longer a believer, that they can choose to believe or not, and that they should respect other people, including their faiths, (and though I don’t think I ever added this) unless there is some very good reason not too. And people raise their kids all kinds of ways, including the Mormons across the street, who all seem pretty happy, but that’s for them to work through. I couldn’t be that kind of parent (or kid most likely).

    To reiterate, I still agree “It’s worthwhile to openly challenge religious faith”. And anyone who is religious really ought to ask themselves why their faith is so fragile it cannot hold up to scrutiny. I think my parents and Catholic educators might have been a little too confident about what can really hold up. But I also think that was easier to maintain faith in the past.

    I have a more or less sanguine view that faith goes away with increased freedom and prosperity. That is consistent with Zuckerman’s conclusions.

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