Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ten things Christians and atheists can - and must - agree on. Before it's too late.

An interesting article came up on Digg today. The author, a christian, tries to make a good case for discussion between a-theists and believers. The problem with this nice little article is that the author seems to want to have the discussion on his terms and really has no understanding of the a-theistic position. I critique his piece, adding my thoughts to each of his points below:

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One.
Wrong. Pol Pot, Stalin et. al. did NOT commit atrocities in the NAME of atheism. There is nothing to believe in with atheism. There is no system of beliefs that comes with refusing to comit intellectual suicide. Whereas the seemingly endless list of atrocities committed by the overtly religious was EXACTLY because people's religious views differed from the persecutors. The author confuses atheism with a positive belief system. Just as darkness is the absence of light, atheism is the absence of credulity.

2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They're Saying.
Wrong. I don't BELIEVE in atheism. Non-belief is the default position of humanity, and belief IN something has to be inculcated. Again, do not confuse positive religious belief with what everyone in this world is born as - atheist.

3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different.
Only for very strange values of 'Not that different'. I don't spend one day a week of my time singing to invisible old men. I don't have a religious tax - tithe - on my income going to visible old men who would like me to continue in the tradition of 'thinking' that an "Appeal to Authority" is a good let alone a logical argument.

4. There Are Good People on Both Sides.
Wrong. Religion itself is evil. It inculcates credulity, allows - no demands - that people accept authoritarianism, spreads bigotry, hate and the belief that 'the other' is bad, evil and/or wrong. In no way can a person who spreads these beliefs be called GOOD.

5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them.
Good. Their point of view is reprehensible, inexcusable, immoral and disgusting.

6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy.
I'll quote the article for this one:
To move on, we only need to agree that rejecting science on one subject doesn't mean you reject all science on all subjects, and that rejecting Christian morality doesn't mean rejecting all morality.Interesting sentence.
The first part isn't logically possible and the second is a straw-man. If you reject science on ONE subject, you do indeed reject science as a whole because you are rejecting the scientific method. You don't get to have an order of physics with a side of sociology, hold the evolution. It's an interconnected whole.

The second part is simply untrue. Atheists reject the idea that morality can come from figments of the imagination in the guise of bearded old men with an unhealthy facination in causing irreparable harm to humanity. Morality is a human invention that allows groups of people to get along. Defining morality as coming from some non-observable entity simply allows one to define whatever morality one likes. You say there are no atheists in foxholes, I say that there are no atheist suicide bombers.

7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too.
Again, a quote from the article:
In reality, there are very few Christians who do or even try to follow the Bible
exactly, including all the obscure rules about church women staying silent and
Well then, why bother following religion AT ALL if one can simply pick and choose the rules that one likes? If you find my stance irritating, then it's time for you to examine your own beliefs and find out what it is that is striking such a chord within you. You don't follow the rules set forth by your 'betters', then quite possibly you should come over to our side and work on coming up with some rules that you can live with.

When atheism is the default for educated adults in the US of A, then, and only then will I quiet down and live and let live. But as long as I live in a country where my president can say "I'm not so sure that atheists should be considered as citizens," with the full knowledge that he will not receive censure from the population, I WILL NOT YIELD AN INCH.

8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid.
Wrong. Believing in fairy tales makes you stupid. Wishful thinking and 'gosh, wouldn't it be nice,' makes you stupid. Allowing yourself to be cowed and blackmailed into believing because of a fear of eternal damnation makes you stupid. You christians come across as arrogant, confident and utterly, completely, irrevocably stupid.

9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table.
Right, because anti-gay legislation is good, defense of slavery is good, intolerance, hatred, bigotry and deceitfulness is good. Remind me again what religion has done for me? Has it brought me greater understanding of the universe that I live in? No, I can thank Aristotle, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and Max Planck for that. Has it brought me great moral teachings? No, christian morals are just rehashes of previous moral systems. Has it brought me great literature? If you call a book written by committee, riddled with more plot holes than a block of Swiss cheese in a machine-gun factory and so contradictory that you could walk away less confused from a house of mirrors, then, yes, I suppose it has brought me great literature. What has rationalism gotten me? Hrmm.. this computer, my car, the lights in my house, advanced medicine, air travel, several men on the moon, the dream of being able to walk on Mars... I could go on and on. The truth of the matter is that religion does so LITTLE good and so MUCH harm, that when balanced against the benefits to rationalism, I can't believe that one could POSSIBLY consider religion of benefit to humanity.

10. You'll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence.
No, but I can, and will, shame you out of relevancy.

read more digg story

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At 20 May, 2007 15:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist too. I feel you, really I do, or perhaps I am just feeling my own frustration and imputing it to you. However, take a look at what people like Bishop Spong or the younger crowd, McLaren et. al. and the posse over at blogs like Of Course I Could Be Wrong are saying. Or just Google "emerging church." It's interesting.
I don't think it is quite as simple as we atheists are portraying it to be.

At 20 May, 2007 21:37, Blogger Unknown said...

You're absolutely right, it isn't that simple, and the 'solution' that I desire, that atheists aren't discriminated against, is much more reasonable than the point of view that I'm putting forth here. But just like with the feminist, gay rights and the civil rights movements, some few people need to take the more extreme position so that the majority of the non-religious can comfortably settle in the less extreme middle ground.

At 16 February, 2012 13:43, Blogger Jeremy Duncan said...

Ok, I have to disagree with you about the Bible. You're making the common mistake of seeing it as a failed attempt at a coherent, consistent work "written by committee" rather than what it is: an anthology encompassing a multitude of genres, styles, authors, agendas, and points-of-view. Contradictions are an inevitable result of this.

At 16 February, 2012 15:19, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not sure that's correct Jeremy.

I'm not assuming that the Bible is any thing at all in this essay, just that it's a collection of rules that people pick and choose from and call it 'holy' to do so.

Whether it's a coherent whole or a camel-like horse designed by sub-committee or an anthology is irrelevant to that.

There are people out there, lots of them, who do commit that mistake and cause huge problems for the rest of us because of it.

At 16 February, 2012 19:02, Blogger Jeremy Duncan said...

I'm talking about it in the context of literature, because you brought it up in the context of literature.

The Bible as "book of rules" is a whole separate issue, made more problematic by the fact that you don't have a single, consistent viewpoint being espoused in the Bible, since it's not a unified work.

I just think that eliminating nuance weakens any argument, and it shifts everything from the realm of honest, open discussion of issues to that of identity-politics shouting matches, which don't accomplish anything except make the representatives of each side more entrenched in their own positions, and give an occasional warm glow of self-satisfaction. I think we already see this too much in the political arena, to such an extent that actual political debate has given way almost completely to simply rooting for the home team.


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