What atheists are really concerned about

Discuss

292 Responses to “What atheists are really concerned about”

  1. lthrcoat says:

    All atheists are politically motivated at their core. Why else be so outspoken. If liberal ideology were pro religion they would change in a minute. The last war whose justification was Christianity occurred about 800 years ago…time to get over it.

    This post tries to make Christians look like narrow-minded morons…sure shows what side Boing comes in on.

    • polama says:

      Damn, you figured us out. Of course we believe in Jesus, everybody secretly does, it’s just liberal politics. Just like men don’t really love men, it’s just a gay agenda to overthrow America. Guess we’ll need a new thing we can pretend to believe for political gain…maybe astrology?

    • Anonymous says:

      Why else be so outspoken?

      You don’t pick your beliefs. You might find something like a religious world view convincing, or you might not. New ideas might change your mind, but you can’t simply choose to do it without lying to yourself.

      Consider what Bevatron said. People are constantly trying to get atheists to change. Yes, most of them are well-meaning, but you still get to hear the same message over and over again: the way you are now, you deserve to burn. A few less well-meaning people will go further and say people like you shouldn’t be trusted and are incapable of morals. Not many, but still it adds to the message: if you are atheist, something is horribly wrong with you.

      On the other hand, so much as put up a bus ad that says atheists probably won’t go to hell, and see the reaction you get. It’s ok to say atheists are alright in private, but anything in the public sphere is an attack on religion, or at the very least horrible smugness like Dawkins.

      I don’t want to pretend we have it nearly so bad as, say, homosexuals, but this is priviledge and its tone arguments. And they happen every time atheists say anthing, and so far, staying polite and quiet hasn’t helped.

    • Brainspore says:

      All atheists are politically motivated at their core. Why else be so outspoken.

      Most atheists are not particularly outspoken. Most people I know have no idea what my religious beliefs are (or aren’t) because it rarely comes up.

      And yes, I realize the irony of the exception I’m making right now.

    • Sork says:

      The last war whose justification was Christianity occurred about 800 years ago…time to get over it.

      You forgot about major events like the Thirty years’ war (1618–1648) – Protestants vs Catholics (Holy Roman Empire).

      • Cook!EMonstA says:

        Let us not forget the current Christian Crusade in the Grave Yard of Empires waged by the Cult of Americana against the heretic Islamic scourge.

        • Lindsay says:

          So you’re not necessarily opposed to Islamists? Really, I’d love to know why atheists tend to react more strongly to a mildly sanctimonious American Christian than to the stoning of “adulterers” in a Muslim theocracy. I just can’t take most atheists to be serious intellectuals. Most are quite adolescent about their non-beliefs.

          • Anonymous says:

            Really, Islamism doesn’t fall under the Iron Age morality category? Of course most atheists aren’t serious intellectuals, any more than most religious are; they’re just humans. Try listening to them before generalizing.

          • Cook!EMonstA says:

            I think you missed the part where I said I’m a Unitarian Universalist. I like Islam just fine. However, I do not like Fundamentalists of ANY religion. The Stoning of Adulterers is straight out of Leviticus. When your religion tells you to do stupid things to people because God said so, that is the point where you lose my support.

          • Owen says:

            Cook!EMonstA wasn’t saying anything about Islam. He/She was classifying the war in Afghanistan as a religious war, which I don’t think is correct, but his/her opinion about Islam wasn’t even mentioned.

            I think you’re jumping to conclusions.

          • Cook!EMonstA says:

            I classify the current misadventures in Empire by the USA as a religious war because that’s the way the NeoCons who started it considered it, a Holy Crusade.

          • Hools Verne says:

            That’s the way they sold it, not really the way they believed it to be. The current adventurism in the Middle East has far more to do with Orientalist constructs and the transfer of responsibilities for Western hegemony from across the pond.

      • Anonymous says:

        in Ireland, they’re still killing each other…

    • Anonymous says:

      The last war that was motivated by Christianity was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Which is just under 8 years ago (the actual invasion was in March of that year).

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bush-god-told-me-to-invade-iraq-509925.html
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2005/10_october/06/bush.shtml
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/07/iraq.usa

      So you’re off by .. nearly 800 years. ;-)

  2. Anonymous says:

    have yet to meet an atheist, who wasn’t just a christian/relegionista in reverse.dogmatic rhetoric is,just that! no matter who is throwing it. why? because jesus blahblahblah..or why? because nietzsche blahblahblah… the biggest douchegroup by far, no matter which end. hello atheists, meet the christians. Now get over yourselves. because in the end any group that thinks others should be like them and all those who are not must be stupiduncivilizedbackwarduneducatedsiningwizards, is really just more o’ the same B.S.

  3. lthrcoat says:

    By the way….I googled anti-christianity and it came up with a ton of stuff from atheists. I googled anti-atheism and it came up with more sites from atheists. you make your own conclusion.

  4. lecti says:

    What atheists are REALLY concerned about: If your boss is christian and you are not, are you gonna be passed up for promotion and get marginalized?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Gee, an atheist who feels misunderstood demonstrates he misunderstands christians. how clever of you!

    • Anonymous says:

      There seems to be great misunderstanding about atheism. We aren’t anti-religious in the manner of say, picketing churches with “God Is A Lie!” signs. We simply find the concept of a Supreme Being unlikely.

      Let me clarify: Christians, you know how you feel about Zeus? You know the story, and you know that at one point most of the world took it for granted that Zeus was the god of gods, that he was a father of other gods, had a wife called Hera, the milk from whose breast made the streaks in the night sky (which to this day are called the Milky Way, even though science proved them to be the stars of a vast spiral galaxy, not goddess milk.) Well, if you’re curious how atheists feel about your god, it’s the same way you feel about Zeus. We don’t hate him, fear him, or want to fight him. We just don’t consider him real.

  6. PFlint says:

    This sounded like my first days on the web, a dozen years ago. Nothing has changed. Never will. I’m not sure what it was for. Thanks for this, BoingBoing.

  7. Cook!EMonstA says:

    Oh, for the love of God, let us not be smug about it all (WTF?) I am not an atheist. I’m a ordained minister and a Universal Unitarian. Still, I fit this debate more as an atheist than a theist. If you believe in the mystery of the Universe, great. If you believe in bible ‘magic’ and unfounded hokum, you deserve to be derided and thought of as stupid. Sorry, you do. I’m talking about stuff like this;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5UlRQHxoN8

    This monk is actually preaching that the Tuscon Massacre is the fault of none other than Satan, that’s all, no one else. JL is a possessed satanist because he listened to ‘Heavy Metal Music’ and smoked pot, natch. If this is what religion gives you, I’m sorry, I can’t defend any of that and I think you deserve to be ridiculed.

  8. agreenster says:

    >>Unfortunately, it seems that the most vocal atheists – Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. – are unable to make these points without implying that anyone who believes in God must be a complete idiot.<<

    They dont think people who believe in god are idiots, they think they are deluded, brainwashed, and scared. And I agree. Its sad to see people believe in imaginary fairy tales so vehemently.

    The belief in god is slowly eroding away. I give it 10 more generations.

    • sapere_aude says:

      Thank you for making my point for me better than I made it myself, as well as for confirming my prejudices so I don’t have to feel so bad about them. ;-)

      • Owen says:

        Careful there! You’re starting to sound smug.

        In all seriousness, if you want to judge individual atheists, fine. That’s entirely reasonable. I don’t agree with agreenster’s characterization of religious people either.

        But Wheaton’s Law applies to everyone, even if the person you’re arguing with has already broken it. And expressing a prejudice against those who disagree with you isn’t any better than calling them idiots.

    • Tdawwg says:

      Wow, what newspapers are you reading? Perhaps in some parts of the West the belief in God is dying out, but it’s gangbusters in most of the world.

      And it seems worth pointing out that what you see as a delusion another might see as truth: you might as well argue with a schizophrenic that the voices he hears–actually hears–aren’t real. Religion and science are simply tools humans have evolved to make sense of their world: the values and benefits, and drawbacks and detriments, of each are open to debate, but they’re essentially the same, models for making sense of the phenomenal world. Thus, your scientific knowledge (itself a highly-fraught and constructed form of belief in many cases) equals my faith equals another’s flat-out delusion: just tools, man.

      Put short, “God” exists, even if God doesn’t, and that’s what’s important, or should be, for believers and nonbelievers alike: the fact of belief, rather than the truth of a belief.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        But that’s a red herring: it is the society of other people which attracts most to any religion, not the specific doctrines of their faith.

        Faith and adherence to specific precepts and principles are, to be sure, used as a kind of badge for admittance to their club: but it is still to my eyes first and foremost a club, a society.

        Do people attend their churches, synagogues and mosques to seek knowledge?

        I’d say no: that they rather seek there company, solace and comfort. An emotional, spiritual endeavour.

        Not an epistemic endeavour.
        That means to me that even if it were settled that no God exists, IMHO that makes no difference to the good, the comfort, that religion has given to most people.

        I’m not a religious man myself. But I have religious friends. And they are good people.

  9. Anonymous says:

    i completely agree. your argument, however, would be way more compelling and interesting if your graphic design didn’t look like something my cat did in QuarkXPress 1.0, circa 1990.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wait, what? They really are concerned about the capital ‘G’ thing?

    • Anonymous says:

      The first column says “things people THINK atheists care about” (meaning, they do not). So, no, while we would like the pledge, for example, to return to its ORIGINAL language (i.e. w/o the god part since that was added not by the author but by a priest) we don’t necessarily care so much about those things.

  11. Donald Petersen says:

    I suddenly realize: though I lost my faith decades ago, and I don’t usually capitalize God (even when used as a more-or-less proper noun), I always capitalize Christ and even (especially) every pronoun mention of Him and His Aspects. Mostly because it tickles me.

    I’m also amused by those who write the Name of their Deity as “G-d.” Wikipedia tells me that some Jews do so out of respect (which is understandable… pious is as pious does), or just in case they have to make an erasure. ‘Cause one mustn’t rub out the Name of God.

    Now, that’s some cautious piety!

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Some religions are stricter than others about any reduction of the deity to matter, capable of perception by our earthly senses.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Or ought I to have said “…susceptible to the perception of our earthly senses?”

        I like this latter better, it’s closer to what I meant.

  12. Modusoperandi says:

    Twice? That’s too much!

  13. ericroded says:

    Toss out Genesis and you destroy the whole story!

    • Cook!EMonstA says:

      Really? I’ve thought for quite a while that when God said, let the be light there was a really Big BANG. God then separated the light from the darkness and Suns formed.

      I think we should toss out Leviticus. There is really no hierarchy to all those rules so eating bacon and sodomy, pretty much equally bad. Oh, and don’t forget to Stone your Daughter for having premarital sex. (not picking on you just using your comment as a spring board.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    It’s not political power injecting religion into my life that I fear so much as religion injecting political power into my life that is “belief” and therefore not subject to real political process.

  15. querent says:

    Also: the implicit use or religion as a justification for warfare. I’m looking at you, america.

    • Anonymous says:

      Right. Because the extermination of Jews, murder of Muslims in former Yugoslavia, Irish Christian violence are all American problems….

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, querent, but it seems to me that the facts seem to point the complete other direction in this regard.

  16. thebelgianpanda says:

    as an aetheist i would stand with others to protect religious minded people while praying. it’s the right thing to do.

  17. sapere_aude says:

    A dozen things liberal, rational non-atheists wish that atheists (and fundamentalists) could understand:

    1. God ≠ religion
    2. religion ≠ fundamentalism
    3. existence of God ≠ belief in God*
    4. belief in God ≠ rejection of a liberal, scientific worldview
    5. faith ≠ blind, unquestioning belief / lack of skepticism**
    6. God ≠ things people have done in God’s name (good or bad)
    7. God ≠ the character or ethics of people who believe in God
    8. God ≠ what people believe about the nature of God
    9. beliefs about the nature of God ≠ monolithic or uniform
    10. God ≠ myths about God (e.g. as taught in religious texts)
    11. religious language about God ≠ literal***
    12. God ≠ anything that humans can really comprehend****

    * Ontology and epistemology are closely related; but they shouldn’t be conflated, as they often are in debates about God. Arguing about the epistemological issue of whether or not one ought to believe in God does not adequately address the ontological issue of whether or not there actually is a God.

    ** “Faith” = loyalty, devotion, trustworthiness, commitment, fidelity; NOT undoubting intellectual assent to an unproven proposition (as fundamentalists and atheists seem to think). A person of faith can question and doubt, and never give up searching for the truth, while still remaining faithful to the values and ideals of his or her religion.

    *** Religious language about God should be read as mythos (symbolic, metaphorical, allegorical) not as logos (literal, scientific). If you read it as logos (as fundamentalists and atheists tend to do), it’s simply nonsense. Religious language is intended to give humans a means of talking about things that are not easy to express in literal, scientific terms. The mistake made by fundamentalists (as well as atheists) is to try to force a literal interpretation on this non-literal language.

    **** If the concept of “God” has any meaning at all, then God must be transcendent – i.e. beyond human experience, and beyond the reach of human reason. God cannot be described using literal language, because our language (which is based on human experience) is inadequate to the task. God cannot be fully understood by the human mind, because the human mind can only understand things that are less complex than the human brain. If God is more complex than the human brain, God cannot be fully understood. If God can be understood, then God must be less complex than the human brain, thus inferior to humans, thus unworthy of being called “God”. If there is a God worthy of the name, then humans have about as much chance of understanding the nature of this God as the bacteria living in your gut have of understanding the nature of human beings. Since science is a human invention, the notion that science can either prove or disprove the existence of God is laughable on its face. So, for many of us, whenever we hear atheists citing lack of scientific evidence as a reason not to believe in God, we find it almost as ridiculous as Bill O’Reilly citing the tides as proof of God’s existence.

    • agreenster says:

      Gotta tell ya sapere_aude, I really dont think your list is very representative of what the common Christian in America thinks.

      • sapere_aude says:

        I don’t really care what the common Christian in America thinks; and that’s not what my list was about. I was talking about God, not about Christianity (and certainly not about American Christianity in particular). You’re still falling into the atheist habit of equating God with religion – and, particularly, with certain types of Christianity. Criticize American Christianity as much as you want. But don’t assume that this has anything to do with God.

        • agreenster says:

          Then what in the world is this conversation even about? If you’re defending your own definition of god, good for you. But we’re talking about organized religions here, arent we?

          I mean, Im agnostic. I dont know what caused the big bang, maybe it was some sort of higher being or god, and perhaps we’re in agreement on that. I have no idea. But what I can say with almost 100% certainty is that jesus was a reformer but not god, I dont need to accept him into my heart to be saved, there is no hell, the pope is just a regular human who wears a silly hat, etc etc.

          I mean, looking at your list, you sound more like a Deist, which puts you even more in the minority than atheists. The reason I brought up american christianity is because to me atheism vs religion is primarily a social, cultural, scientific and political discussion (and its subsequent repercussions), and secondarily a discussion on the definition of god.

          • sapere_aude says:

            Then what in the world is this conversation even about? If you’re defending your own definition of god, good for you. But we’re talking about organized religions here, arent we?

            Umm … the topic of this thread is atheism, not organized religion. By definition, “atheism” is a philosophical stance that denies the existence of God. Atheism per se does not automatically imply the rejection of organized religion. Some religions welcome atheists; and some atheists embrace religion for various reasons. Sure, many atheists do reject organized religion; but that’s not what “atheism” means. If we’re talking about atheism, then this is a conversation about the denial of the existence of God, not a conversation about criticism of organized religion. (BTW, you don’t have to be an atheist to criticize organized religion, either.)

            Properly, an “atheist” is someone who has taken a particular philosophical stance on the God question, regardless of that person’s attitude about religion. Unfortunately, it seems that many people nowadays want to use the label “atheist” to mean “anti-religious”. I would suggest that these people invest in a good dictionary, and find a better label. If we’re discussing “atheism” per se, then the discussion is really about philosophical reasons for denying the existence of any entity that could properly be called “God” (or “a god”). Criticisms of organized religion would be irrelevant to such a discussion. If, on the other hand, we’re discussing criticism of organized religion, then we’re not really talking about “atheism” per se. As I pointed out in a previous post, God ≠ religion. By the same token, atheism (i.e. denial of the existence of God) ≠ anti-religion.

            So, we’ve got to decide: Are we talking about atheism and the God question, or are we talking about attitudes towards religion? If it’s the former, then I contend that the points I raised earlier are valid. If the latter, then your objections are valid; but the title of this post is wrong: Instead of saying, “What atheists are really concerned about,” it should read, “What people who are opposed to organized religion are really concerned about”.

          • agreenster says:

            I get your point, and it’s well taken. And I appreciate that you have a particular viewpoint on what god is, and that god should be separate from religion (and I agree).

            However, a majority of populations (let’s stick with the big three, christianity, islam, and jewish) do not separate religion from god, especially among the religious. Their religion exists to explain the nature of god, and without that religion, their god wouldnt exist. The proof is in the difference between the christian god and the muslim god; because on paper they are the SAME god, yet the followers of these religions would deny that christians and muslims worship the same entity. Ironic, right? But it’s proof that god and religion are inseperable in many people’s eyes.

            So while perhaps philosophically atheism is a stance on the existence of god (and to be fair, it isnt always flat-out denying it), its easy to see how atheism can also be an anti-religion stance.

          • Anonymous says:

            Just as a note, Judaism is particularly influential because it’s widespread, but it’s not one of the three most populous religions by any means.

          • sapere_aude says:

            I still don’t think you’re quite seeing the point I’m trying to make. What I’m trying to suggest is that the folks who call themselves “atheists” need to figure out what they really stand for.

            Are they mainly just opposed to fundamentalism? If so, they should confine their criticism to fundamentalism, and stop talking about “religion” as if all religious people embrace the same wacky views as the fundies. In fact, many religious people are just as critical of fundamentalism as atheists are. There’s an opportunity for atheists and liberal believers to join forces against the fundies; but atheists are squandering that opportunity by ridiculing all religious belief, and lumping liberal believers in the same category as fundamentalists.

            Are they opposed to all forms of religion – or all least all forms of organized theistic religion – including liberal as well as fundamentalist faiths? If so, they should take some time to specifically address why they believe that liberal religion is bad. We know why they don’t like fundamentalism, with its authoritarianism, its (often militant) sectarianism, its unreflective dogmatism, its paranoia and superstition, its literalistic interpretation of myth, and its anti-scientific worldview. But liberal religions, essentially by definition, are not authoritarian, or sectarian, or dogmatic; they embrace rationality and skepticism, interpret myths non-literally, and embrace a scientific worldview. So why do atheists object to liberal religion; and why do they insist upon lumping liberal believers in with the fundies and pretending that there’s no difference between the two? If atheists can’t see the difference between liberal religion and fundamentalism, then that just shows that they don’t know squat about religion or theology; which means that their opinions about religion are worthless and ought to be ignored.

            Are they mainly opposed to the “traditional” Judeo-Christian-Islamic conception of “God” – i.e. the fundamentalist idea of “God”? If so, they should make it clear that they are addressing their criticism specifically at one particular conception of “God”, not at all possible conceptions of “God”. And they should realize that, for many believers, “God” is not the bronze age sky deity that small children and fundamentalists believe in, and that atheists love to scoff at. Rather, the liberal conception of God – the conception of God you encounter in the writings of liberal Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians – is far more sophisticated, and bears little resemblance to the caricature of God found in a children’s book of Bible stories, or in the minds of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. If atheists want to ridicule this one particular caricature of God, that’s fine. But if they want to pretend that this caricature is what all believers mean when they talk about “God”, they’re only showing their own ignorance and intellectual sloppiness.

            Do they reject all possible conceptions of “God”? If so, then they’d better be prepared to argue against deists, and pantheists, and panentheists, and transtheists, and people who hold other conceptions of God, not just against fundamentalists.

            I think what I object to most about the rhetoric I hear from so many atheists (apart from the smugness of their tone) is the false dichotomy that they want to force us to accept: They seem to be saying that we must either: (a) embrace the (patently absurd) fundamentalist conception of “God”, or else (b) reject the very idea of “God” as absurd, and become atheists like them. When you point out to them that there is actually a third option – namely (c) embrace a more sophisticated conception of “God” that doesn’t rely on a literal interpretation of bronze age myths – they always seem to want to dodge the issue by claiming that such a conception of “God” doesn’t really count. (Atheists will even go so far as to try to claim that Thomas Jefferson, a well known deist, was actually an atheist – in spite of the fact that Jefferson frequently mentioned God in his writings – because, for modern atheists, Jefferson’s deist view of “God” doesn’t really count.) Well, that’s utter nonsense. Non-believers don’t get to decide which specific conceptions of “God” count for believers and which don’t. If we were to buy into the false dichotomy of the atheists, then we would have to conclude that many of the world’s leading Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians for the past century or more were really atheists, since they reject the fundamentalist caricature of “God” in favor of a more sophisticated understanding of the deity.

          • robulus says:

            Nicely said. I always feel the really great comments in these threads don’t kick in until well after the 200 mark.

          • agreenster says:

            Again, sapere_aude, I whole-heartedly appreciate your posts, and in many ways agree with you. (we agnostics are typically half deists, half atheists) But I must reiterate, I think your intellect on the subject is the extreme exception, and not the rule. There seems to be far more “fundamentalists” (as you call them, though I’d be more inclined to call them typical church goers) than deists in the religious population, especially in the USA and latin/south america, though perhaps not in the UK or other Western cultures. But sample any mid-western town on any given Sunday, and my money would be that the people love jesus and say you’ll go to hell if you arent saved.

            And for those of the muslim faith, I bet you’d find only a teeny tiny percentage that reject the traditional teachings of the koran in favor of a more general, deist viewpoint. Wouldnt you agree?

            So my question to you is, why do you consider atheists (or in my case, agnostics) so smug and intolerable, when we almost have the exact same viewpoints about religion, and only barely differ on the subject of god?

          • sapere_aude says:

            So my question to you is, why do you consider atheists (or in my case, agnostics) so smug and intolerable, when we almost have the exact same viewpoints about religion, and only barely differ on the subject of god?

            Well, I never said anything about agnostics. In fact, I count agnostics among those who are open-minded on the God question. Nor, to the best of my recollection, did I ever say that atheists are “intolerable” – and, if I did, then I chose my words poorly. As a committed liberal, I would never advocate intolerance toward any group. Nor did I say that atheists in general are smug – I was only speaking about those outspoken atheists, like Dawkins and Hitchens, who go around publicly ridiculing religion and belief in God. But, as for these outspoken atheists, I consider them smug for the same reason that I find Bill Maher smug even when I agree with what he’s saying. It should be possible to take and defend a position on a complex, yet controversial issue without glossing over the nuances of the issue, and without assuming or implying that anyone who takes a different position on that issue is being irrational.

            Besides, I’m not convinced that you’re right in saying that, “we almost have the exact same viewpoints about religion, and only barely differ on the subject of god”. I recognize a clear distinction between liberal religion and fundamentalism. And, while I’m every bit as critical of fundamentalism as atheists are, I can’t dismiss all religion simply because I reject the worst examples of religion. (And I think you’re underestimating the prevalence of liberal Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world; which is easy to do, because they tend to be less vocal than the fundies.)

            And is it really true that atheists and deists/pantheists/panentheists/etc. “barely differ” on the subject of God? One says that there is no God, and that belief is irrational. The other says that there may be a God, and belief can be rational. That seems like a pretty substantial difference. Now, of course, this difference depends on some unstated assumptions about what is meant by “God”. Atheists implicitly define “God” in one particular way (which is similar to the fundamentalist understanding of “God”); whereas liberal believers use a different definition of “God”. So, admittedly, the difference is one of semantics; but never underestimate the importance of semantics when dealing with a philosophical issue. (Some philosophers would argue that all philosophical debates really boil down to semantics.)

            When atheists go out of their way to criticize religion and people of faith, making no distinction between fundamentalists and liberal believers, and when they argue that God is a “delusion” and that belief is “irrational”, without explicitly stating that they are only referring to one particular conception of “God” that not all believers share, then I think it’s fair to say that they’re being smug.

          • agreenster says:

            You’re a lively debater, sapere_aude. I think I’d like you in real life, haha. But you did call me smug at one point in this thread. ;)

            You make very good points, though I’d argue that when Atheists rail against “religion,” I would bet that 99% of the time, they are targeting fundamentalists, even though it isnt said outright. And I think Dawkins and Hitchens take an aggressive, hostile approach to religion, like a doctor might take an aggressive approach toward a disease. It’s overkill, I admit. But I’m convinced their motives are good. I think society would benefit tremendously if we stopped believing in bronze-age gods.

            But then again, you must admit that the term “delusional,” while it sounds insulting, is actually accurate. Believing in something when there is no evidence of it’s existence is delusional. Or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. Either way, I’ll continue to be agnostic. “I dont know” seems like a pretty honest bet.

            But I ask you to reconsider your stand on Bill Maher. :) He’s a comedian first, above all, and a brilliant one at that. You gotta admit, the smugness is highly entertaining.

          • sapere_aude says:

            Did I actually call you smug, or did I merely imply it in response to your comment that people who believe in gods are deluded, brainwashed, and scared? ;-)

            As for agnosticism, I would argue that genuine agnosticism is probably the most intellectually honest position to take on the God question, because it acknowledges the limits of human knowledge, understanding, and reason. However, much of what passes for “agnosticism” today is really either apatheism (i.e. not caring whether or not there is a God), or atheism tempered by a healthy dose of humility. I would never try to talk anyone out of being a genuine agnostic. But I would encourage agnostics not to contemptuously turn their backs on the God question simply because it can’t be answered to our satisfaction, or to cynically scoff at those who continue to search for answers.

            I understand that you sympathize with the atheist attitude toward religion, and think that their motives are good. But, while I share their disgust with fundamentalism, I cannot endorse their misguided methods or their misplaced zeal. Perhaps they do think they are battling a cancer, as you suggest. But they seem to be unable to distinguish between cancerous tissue and healthy tissue; which makes me question whether we ought to trust them with the surgeon’s knife.

            In my view, the best antidote for bad religion is not irreligion, but good religion; the best antidote for naïve theism is not atheism, but sophisticated theism. Of course, good religion does not have to be organized religion; but I believe that there is a proper place for organized religion in a healthy society, so long as it is liberal religion, not fundamentalism. If you want to learn more about liberal attitudes about religion and theology, a good place to start is with the works of Karen Armstrong, who is one of the most articulate defenders of liberal theology in the world today. She’s written several books, and frequently gives lectures and interviews (many of which you can find on YouTube and elsewhere online). Here’s a very short video in which Karen Armstrong is interviewed about her beliefs. And here’s a longer video of Karen Armstrong conversing with Bill Moyers (himself a liberal Christian) about various religions issues, including atheism and fundamentalism. But if you do a Google search on her name, you’ll find many more videos of Karen Armstrong giving talks or interviews. I think her view of God and religion is more common than you might imagine.

            And, as for Bill Maher, I agree that his smugness is an entertaining part of his humor (though he does lay it on a bit too thick for my taste). But the problem with Maher is that, even when he’s being serious, he’s still smug. Personally, I prefer Jon Stewart over Bill Maher. Stewart demonstrates that it’s possible to make politically relevant points in a humorous way without acting as if you have utter contempt for those who don’t share your views.

          • sapere_aude says:

            Well, it looks like my lost comment finally showed up; and now I notice that I failed to include one other important video link: to the full-length documentary based on Karen Armstrong’s excellent book A History of God. If you watch this video you’ll see that the idea of “God” has evolved quite a lot over the last 4000 years, and that many religious people have a far more sophisticated view of God than atheists give them credit for. Yes, fundamentalism, with its childish notions of “God”, is far too common; but not everyone who believes in God is a fundamentalist – not by a long shot.

            I should note that, while rewatching this documentary, which was made in 2001, I noticed an unintentional irony. In the part of the film where they were discussing Islamic politics, they showed a short video clip of Hosni Mubarak praying in a mosque just as the voiceover was saying that Islam teaches that you must always stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. Awkward.

          • sapere_aude says:

            I posted a reply to your comment a few hours ago; but it looks like it got eaten by the comment monster. It may show up later, or it may not. If not, then never mind – it wasn’t all that profound or anything: I just pointed out that I agreed with you about some things and disagreed about others. No big deal. Certainly not worth the effort of trying to rewrite the whole thing (assuming I could even remember what I wrote). On the other hand, if it does eventually show up, then this comment is pointless, and you just wasted your time by reading it. :-)

    • Anonymous says:

      Huh. Speaking as an atheist, I understand and agree with all of those except #5 and #12. And the former is a minor quibble: that might not be what you mean by faith, but I’m sure you’ll agree that lots of other religions do mean it as undoubting acceptance of their ideas. After all, #9.

      As for #12, though, I understand your opinion but I don’t think it’s necessarily true. People can understand aspects of many things that are much more complex than them. To grasp the totality of history and how society develops would be impossible, but you can still provide evidence for or against specific events and principles. It’s not a priori the case that gods should be exceptions.

      But I do understand you can posit a God that’s so far beyond human comprehension that discussing the consequences of his existence makes no sense. I just don’t understand the point if you’re interested in trying to find truth about the universe. It seems like casting yourself as brains in jars, or a sort of reverse solipsism; it’s easy to assume things you can’t find out about, but what do gain by doing so?

      This is not a debate I want to have here; I’m just trying to explain that you’re not pointing out some new concept that atheists are simply ignorant of. Some atheists are and some aren’t, I would guess in about the same proportions as the general population. After all, despite the generalizations you keep seeing, atheists aren’t a monolithic group either.

      The problem is that conceptions like this or pantheism really have nothing to do with the active gods who plant fossils and destroy wicked cities, to the point where arguments about one will of course not apply to the other. And of the two, most atheists worry more about the latter. The opening post should give a good idea why.

      • sapere_aude says:

        that might not be what you mean by faith, but I’m sure you’ll agree that lots of other religions do mean it as undoubting acceptance of their ideas.

        Yes. We call those religions “fundamentalist” religions. In fact, “undoubting acceptance of their ideas” can almost be seen as the very definition of “fundamentalism”. As I said above, fundamentalists don’t grasp the real meaning of “faith” any better than atheists do.

        The problem is that conceptions like this or pantheism really have nothing to do with the active gods who plant fossils and destroy wicked cities, to the point where arguments about one will of course not apply to the other. And of the two, most atheists worry more about the latter.

        Which is my point with items #1, #2, and #4. I think you’ll find that, with the exception of fundamentalists, most non-atheists would embrace item #12, and do not believe in “active gods who plant fossils and destroy wicked cities” any more than atheists do. If your only goal is to discredit the wacky beliefs of fundamentalists, that’s great! More power to you! Most of us liberal, rational theists, quasi-theists, and agnostics would gladly join forces with you. But please don’t lump all non-atheists in with the fundies. We have no objection when atheists ridicule the overly simplistic caricature of God that fundamentalists seem to believe in. But that’s not how liberal, rational theists and quasi-theists conceptualize God. The problem that many of us have with atheists is not that you dare ridicule fundamentalist belief; it’s that you have a tendency to paint with too broad a brush, and end up ridiculing all religious belief, and everyone who is willing to keep an open mind on the God question.

      • sapere_aude says:

        I should also add the following:

        If atheists understand #1 why do they keep attacking religion as an indirect way of attacking God / belief in God?

        If atheists understand #2 why do they ridicule all religion? Why don’t they make a clearer distinctions between fundamentalist and liberal religions?

        If atheists understand #3 why do they keep making epistemological arguments against belief in God as a proxy for ontological arguments against the existence of God?

        If atheists understand #4 why do they continue to harp on the authoritarianism and anti-scientific worldview of some fundamentalist religions as a means of discrediting belief in God?

        (I’ll skip #5, since you conceded that you didn’t fully buy this.)

        If atheists understand #6 and #7 why do they keep harping on all the fact that lots of religious people over the centuries have been complete assholes? How is that relevant to the question of whether or not God exists?

        If atheists understand #8 and #9 why do they frame their arguments against God in terms of the specific beliefs that only a minority of believers have about God (e.g. that God created the world 6,000 years ago, and buried fossils to confound the unbelievers)?

        If atheists understand #10 and #11 why do they keep harping on how ridiculous the stories of the Bible (especially Genesis) sound when interpreted literally? Only fundies interpret Genesis literally. The rest of us accept it as myth. Why won’t atheists acknowledge this?

        (And I’ll skip #12, since you conceded that you didn’t buy this one, either.)

        I realize that you were only speaking for yourself, and not for all atheists; but, if most atheists are like you, and understand the things I pointed out on the list above, then why do they frame their arguments in ways that make it seem as if they don’t understand these things?

        • Anonymous says:

          The answer to most of those things is because different people offer different arguments against atheism. For instance, many argue that whether or not god exists, it would be best for everyone to think it does because religion simply makes the world a better place. That’s why you get people talking (harping, if you like tone arguments) about the harm religion does; it’s not because they think it actually impacts God’s existence.

          Likewise, most atheists focus on fundamentalist beliefs because they are simple examples of how faith (not in the sense you offered it) can blind people to facts, without showing much value in leading them to truth. That doesn’t have anything to do with whether God exists, but it does have to do with whether faith is a viable tool for considering such questions, which is another thing people argue. And yes, those often include people from more liberal religions, which is why some atheists don’t bother to distinguish them. I personally disagree on that point, though I think there’s more to the question than some people give credit for.

          In short, atheists make arguments about many different things not as proxies, but because we’re also talking about more than one question. It doesn’t mean we think belief and religion are synonymous with God’s existence, the way your list implied. In truth, it’s hard to think of an prominent atheist who would claim that.

          But then, what do I know? I read the opening post as saying atheists mainly aren’t really that concerned about liberal religions, just ones that try and force themselves on people, and was treated to a hundred comments about how this is yet another example of insulting all religions and how we atheists never draw distinctions. Obviously religious people know far more about what atheists think than I do.

  18. Anonymous says:

    “The propagation of backwards, anti-scientific thought and outdated morality based on fictitious characters from the Iron Age.”
    IOW, they don’t want to be told what they can’t do.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ain’t that the truth.

  20. Beelzebuddy says:

    im an atheist and what is this

    When asked to compare two groups of people directly, I prefer to look at the very worst public proponents. Although there are certainly more extremist members here and there, the ones who actually get airtime represent the limit of what the group is willing to put up with.

    Religion:
    Fred Phelps
    Pat Robertson
    Sharia law

    Atheism:
    Dawkins
    Hitchens
    the pricks who stole that VFW cross in the desert

    I’ll take smug pricks over hateful bigots, thank you.

    • Rob Gehrke says:

      I’m not sure how much it’s possible to put Hitchens in that “atheism” category, insomuch as he seems to not mind people worshiping HIS own particular version of verbose smugness…

    • Anonymous says:

      …very worst public proponents….

      Religion:
      Fred Phelps
      Pat Robertson
      Sharia law

      Atheism:
      Dawkins
      Hitchens
      the pricks who stole that VFW cross in the desert

      You really think Dawkins is worse than Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot?

      OK, I can see why you’d think that about Hitchens, but c’mon, Dawkins? He doesn’t even advocate mass murder! He’s a pansy, weak-tea atheist! No strength of conviction, I bet he doesn’t even eat babies. It’s hard to consider him a real atheist at all.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Shit that most athiests are really concerned about:

    -making sure people know that they’re athiests at all hours of the day

    • Anonymous says:

      I dont see any atheists going door to door trying to uncovert people

    • MollyNYC says:

      Shit that most athiests are really concerned about:

      -making sure people know that they’re athiests at all hours of the day (Anon @ 6)

      Yeah, I’m sure it happens all the time. Oh wait–no, it only happens in the Glen Beckian alternative reality where you park your brain.

      Here’s a tip: You know a lot more atheists than you think you do–and that’s because most atheists have more sense than to discuss it with knee-jerk religion apologists like yourself–at any hour.

      On the other hand, who hasn’t been forced to endure the company of some church-bot determined to bring you into their ill-considered faith?

    • Anonymous says:

      quote:

      Shit that most athiests are really concerned about:

      -making sure people know that they’re athiests at all hours of the day

      ha ha! Isn’t that the truth! I don’t have to go around blasting my religious beliefs 24/7 and I find anyone who does – even those who claim to have “none” but must constantly point out to the world that they have “none” to be pretty suspect and quite frankly so shaky in whatever their belief system supposedly is that they have to constantly reaffirm it to themselves, thus the ridiculous 24/7 displays.

      Just a thought.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can only speak for myself, but the only time I tell anybody I’m an atheist, is when people knock on my door and want to talk about God and the bible. And people who put their faith in God need not worry about atheism every being a threat to their religion. Atheists have faith in the belief that when they die, it’s over for them forever. And that is scary, at least it is for me. All major religions that have stood the test of time promise an afterlife. Atheism can never match such a promise.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because, on the other side of the fence, religious people ALWAYS keep their faith to themselves. Right?

      *rolls eyes*

  22. Andrew S says:

    It bothers me a bit that this article is called “What atheists are really concerned about”, when it should be “Active atheists”, “Assertive atheists”, or “Absolutist atheists”. Not all atheists demand the abolition of religion, or even of the idea some religions have that they follow the one true faith. These “passive atheists”, such as myself, make up a larger portion of atheists than people think (I think our numbers are underestimated because we’re not as loud.) Just because I don’t believe in a religion doesn’t mean I’m not accepting of other beliefs (this is assuming they don’t make a de jure attempt on others’ civil rights).

    • Anonymous says:

      Where does it say religion should be abolished? I keep looking at the opening post, and all I see are complaints about anti-science, backwards morals, indoctrination, and using political power to promote their agendas. Unless all religion does this, which would be news to me, what is everyone seeing that I’m not?

  23. Anonymous says:

    “Use of political power to inject religion into the lives of all people?”: perhaps you’ve got this one backwards…

  24. Anonymous says:

    I would add to the right column: not getting burned at the stake.

  25. Steak says:

    I try to discourage people from saying anything when I sneeze, because doing so is superstitious, in an entirely non-denominational way. I asked my friend why he said “bless you,” and his reply was that “it’s polite.”

    Well, why is it polite? It would be polite if we were expressing concern for an unfortunate event, but sneezing feels great! Also, no-one says anything specific when we cough, or weep, or vomit, arguably things that people enjoy much less than sneezing.

    Why should sneezing continue to be singled out in an age when there is no danger of pneumonic plague, or now we know there is zero chance of evil spirits invading the body? It’s just another bodily function, like all the others.

    Saying “bless you” or “gesundheit” for that one event isn’t “polite”. It’s just a centuries-old tradition based on superstition; there’s no religious belief associated with it at all these days.

    The wider point: you can campaign against mindless traditions and a lack of critical thinking without once going near religion, or indeed being an atheist.

    • chgoliz says:

      Saying “bless you” or “gesundheit” for that one event isn’t “polite”. It’s just a centuries-old tradition based on superstition….

      Hang on: gesundheit simply means “health”. When someone sneezes, it’s often an indication of mildly bad health; wishing someone good health in that context is very much a polite gesture. It’s shorthand for “I hope you feel better soon.”

    • Donald Petersen says:

      The wider point: you can campaign against mindless traditions and a lack of critical thinking without once going near religion, or indeed being an atheist.

      Yeah, that’s true, but to what end? A great many cultures (if not most) include some sort of sneeze-acknowledgement, and they tend to be either wishes for blessings or more secular wishes for good health. Maybe it strikes you as needlessly credulous to offer a blessing at every kerchoo, but bodily functions (universal though they may be) aren’t immune to certain restrictions in polite society. Is it somehow false or unreasonably polite to avoid cutting the cheese in a crowded elevator? Or to solicit society’s pardon when a particularly stinky and/or noisy one slips out accidentally in a crowded and enclosed environment? Is it silly to have doors on bathrooms and individual stalls around public toilets? Are handkerchiefs and even Kleenex an unnecessary affectation?

      Okay, sure, many of these things are the result of perfectly legitimate health concerns. But a sneeze-acknowledgement isn’t as useless and unnecessary as you might think. When someone sneezes a particularly sneezy sneeze (or a series of them), it makes sense to hope they feel better soon, and an invocation of health (be it “salud” or “gesundheit” or just “Jesus, I hope you get over that cold soon, Cyrano”) is usefully polite, even when both parties know that such a well-wishing can be of no possible practical benefit to the sneezer. A solicitous syllable or three reminds the sneezer that he or she has a friend who appreciates his or her “suffering,” even when it’s just a comfortable isolated sneeze for fun.

      I’ll quote Heinlein again, since I can: “Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naïve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.”

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve often felt awkward with the lack of something nice to say when someone coughs or weeps; “oops, you are coughing” only goes so far. And in my experience sneezing isn’t particularly pleasant, so I’m glad there’s something to say for it, even if the original meaning is no more relevant that that of “good-bye”.

    • Anonymous says:

      i take the other tract on this one. i say “bless you” to people for every other audible bodily function, whether it be a burp, fart, hiccup, cough, or yawn… all except sneezing. most people just laugh. some question my sensibility towards using the polite catchphrase “incorrectly.” for these people, i explain that saying such is just an ancient superstition, and that modern humans are equally likely of exhibiting primary symptoms of a life threatening disease through any of these audible methods, all of which approach nil. still a third category actually have the audacity to sneeze and then question me for not “blessing” them… these people get a slight laugh and similar explanation, accompanied with something along the lines of “why must your every sneeze promote an audible response from me?… i’m not your dog.”

      however, when i sneeze and someone says “bless you,” i thank them (if i know them, strangers get ignored just as if they’d uttered any other nonsense phrase in my general direction). the utterance of “bless you” is for most people equivalent to a pavlovian response, conditioned upon them since childhood. regardless of whether they realize this, they are doing what they believe to be polite. as such, i see no reason to deny them the obligatory polite response expected of me. silly societal decorum exists regardless of personal beliefs, and i go along with it as a path of minimal resistance. i suppose that i place a distinction between their well-intended politeness and their expected “politeness” on my part.

  26. ilKhan says:

    Has it occurred to any of you that you’re arguing over things that are freely ignored?

    Except the God in politics thing. I’m a Christian and even I believe that. No god of any kind belongs in politics.

    As for the using of Islam being violent as a justification for killing terrorists…..

    Just a show of hands, has anybody ever heard of a secular or atheist terrorist from an Arabic country?

  27. hideousmonster says:

    I think Atheists and Christians alike should just take a chill pill and tend to their own lives. You’re a damn atheist! So what if “backwards, anti-scientific thought” does get propogated? You’ll be dead and nonexistant in a 100 years anyway. And of course they’re indoctrinated the young, poor, and uneducated. Those are the people who need the most indoctrination of some kind of value system. And on the subject of political power. I think it’s just as bad to use political power to indoctrinate people to beelieve that the judgement of scientists is some how more reliable than the judgement of the people themselves. If I see something that would be considered paranormal, or experienced something spiritual, I don’t care how possible of impossible the mainstream scientific understanding of the world allows for what I interpretted what I saw, I was the observer, and that makes me the best authority on whether or not it could happen.

  28. hassenpfeffer says:

    Iron Age??? Bronze Age if you’re being generous, Stone Age if not.

  29. ill lich says:

    I have tried repeatedly to point out to conservatives I know that there IS NO “war on Christmas”; every liberal I know celebrates Christmas, even including some atheists and non-religious Jews (?!) who do it more for the festive nature than the religion. I know some Christians will take exception to that, and say “it’s not really Christmas without Christ”, but the fact remains: if they are celebrating something they call Christmas then they are NOT trying to get rid of Christmas, so cut out the phony persecution.

  30. Lucifer says:

    Militant atheists usually don’t grow up having never gone to church. On the contrary, they’re usually former church-goers who become disenfranchised with the church for whatever reason and make a difficult decision to leave it. Over time, they realize this was the right thing to do for them and try to proselytize and share about their liberation from this formerly incompatible lifestyle. This never works. The believers derive strength from this perceived martyrdom of persecution from worldly forces of Satan (me).

    Atheists should permit the world to turn completely religious and let it reach a sort of market saturation. The people will ultimately see its greedy and cruel face. That is the only way to truly destroy the church and bring enlightenment to the people in a secular world where human compassion does not need divine mandate to exist.

    I am hoping the arab world is undergoing that very process. France did after its republic was established… God does not elect its leaders, nor does it choose its Superbowl winners, so quit thanking Jesus for stupid stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      Atheists should permit the world to turn completely religious and let it reach a sort of market saturation.

      I’m pretty sure it did, and what you are seeing now is people moving away from that.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is the reason I left church and it was the best thing I have ever done.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the world has already hit a saturation point. The fact of the matter seems that without education people are likely to continue to believe god is the source of many naturally occurring and scientifically explainable things. The solution is actually education. All the place you list as being less religious these days also went through a very good reworking and upgrading of their curriculum to emphasize science and math and engineering so that those countries would be able to compete in a modern industrial world. Meanwhile in other parts of the world (I’m looking at you America) we teach too much history and literature and we skip evolution all together. We have scientists that are genetically engineering goats to produce spider silk proteins in their milk – but only 25% of teachers in the US teach evolution because of the controversy they face for doing so. People use god and the bible to explain things they don’t understand. As we understand more of the world around us – we don’t need god and the bible anymore to explain things. The answer is education.

  31. Phlip says:

    Yay! Religion causes zealotry! Not the other way around!

  32. UncaScrooge says:

    I think that athiests can learn a lot from the religious. Particularly from their mistakes.

    For instance, if you keep your mouth shut, all of your public spokespeople will eventually be perceived as a bunch of assholes. Athiests should be prepared to shout down the smug. Otherwise List Number One will come to dominate all public discourse.

    Athiests should also learn cognitive dissonance and how to believe in six impossible things before breakfast. Mythology exists for a reason and for reason itself.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for your concern! We can tell you really care about our minority belief because you tell us we ought to adopt your opinions, and make fun of Greek spelling.

  33. stasike says:

    The link doesn’t work.

    I am Atheist and I never imagined that people think that I might mind them saying “Merry Christmas”, or “Thank God”.

    I am more concerned when people HAVE to swear on the bible at court hearing. I would ask for a listing of Linux kernel source ;-).
    I was enraged when I read article on BoingBoing about prison (in Texas?) where you can have 3 book, from which one HAS to be a bible.

    What annoys me is when the Church forbids the use of contraceptives (including Coitus interruptus!) and consequently deeply religious people have LOTS of kids they wouldn’t have otherwise.

    • Anonymous says:

      atheists really like using big words and complex sentence structure in order to justify their miserable internals. what people dont understand is, religion is meant to believe in the unbelievable in order to create hope that something unbelievable will happen. trying to disprove religion, which many anti religion and atheists do, is counter productive to their “said” intentions. words have no meaning in the real word. only actions which lead to a morally GOOD end result. how can you explain miracles with science? all religions are based around miracles. the asians have it right with their philosophy about life. life is full of coincidence yet it is up you the individual to decode what happened. there is no such thing as coincidence in my mind, only opportunity.

    • Andrew S says:

      Actually, I’m pretty sure almost all states allow for secular swearing in.

    • Anonymous says:

      > religious people having lots of kids…

      well, in a democracy, that’s a viable strategy for political power, no?

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hey, guess what? These are also the things that adherents of liberal religion are worried about too. I’m an ordained member of the clergy, and I’d say that I share all of the concerns in the column on the right.

    • Mark Frauenfelder says:

      I’ve met other like you, and wish there were many more like you. Sadly, the anti-science fundamentalists seem to call all the shots when it comes to telling everyone else what the Bible means.

  35. Anonymous says:

    In reply to agreenster 251 and robulus 253:
    I am referring to the human capacity for beauty, which is largely irrelevant to whether the flower flourishes and evolves, excepting horticultural enterprises, which isn’t what I wrote about. Many lifeforms, whether perceived as beautiful or ugly survive and evolve regardless of human intervention or approval, as they have done before humans even existed. So I don’t know what your point is. I was trying to illustrate the futility of ascertaining the thoughts or motives of human beings using the scientific method. Not sure how the “valid ways of looking at a flower” relates to that. Then again, I really don’t give a rat’s a$s. :)

  36. AmyTee says:

    That’s kinda neat, although in some cases it’d be hard to communicate that sort of thing without sounding a little condescending.

    This post reminded me that I wrote a letter to the community paper when I was about 16 on the topic. It was in response to a “Young people these days…” column that whined about how god-based morality is disappearing, etc. The paper’s spellcheck capitalized “god” in my letter, which is something I have never really bothered to do. Sure enough, the author of the column jumped down my throat about it; my response was along the lines of “That’s courtesy of spell-check. Also, if all I concern myself with is the capitalization of some word my priorities are totally wrong.”

  37. zarivad says:

    I am as wary of reliance by atheists and others on scientism as I am of the reliance by theists on religious dogma. When I find myself living in a society which collectively recognizes and supports, among other things, the rights to self-medication and suicide (and I DON’T mean physician – assisted suicide), then I’ll know some improvement has been made. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.
    As church and state were once conjoined, now medicine and the state are — and just as the former arrangement corrupted both, so has the latter. The medieval priest has been replaced by the M.D; the confessional by the clinic; in criminal law, the presumption of mental incompetence has, where it matters the most, displaced the legal presumption of innocence. There are documented capital murder cases in the U. S., where a defendant has been ordered by the state to undergo psychiatric treatment, so that he could be found sane enough to execute!
    Many people, whether believers, agnostics or atheists, still cling to the domination – submission model of social order ordained by religious institutions. But rather than believing in, for example, the divinity of Jesus, they endorse (often passively) the legitimacy of “mental health services”, buoyed by “breakthroughs” in neurobiological research. This system has never worked, but every once in awhile a Jared Loughner comes along, so the effort to shore up the Potempkin’s Village of psychiatry and community mental health organizations is redoubled, with little public protest. But psychiatry is nothing more than a competing secular religion, masquerading as a medical / scientific enterprise, concerned with healing “sick” minds. In fact, it is a house of cards, whose only real success is the very thorough, socially devastating undermining of the concept of personal responsibility. Consequently, people no longer make bad decisions because they lack modesty, restraint or self – discipline; instead, they “suffer” from “chemical imbalances.” The prognosis for this state of affairs is not encouraging.
    It is a grave mistake to think of humans as biological automatons whose behaviors are subject only to the laws of physics. Science is wonderful for explaining many of life’s great mysteries. But while it may be useful for telling us why a flower is red, it can’t tell us why it is beautiful.
    So the question of religious values being imposed on the disinterested should be seen as a problem by everyone. But few people, regardless of their philosophical orientation, seem to even recognize, much less acknowledge, the most pernicious offender.

  38. Dorkomatic says:

    For myself, I’m concerned about one thing above all – freedom of thought.
    I don’t to want be condemned for Thoughtcrime (by anyone religious or atheist)

  39. Rob Gehrke says:

    If I see the word “smug” one more time (or any derivations thereof), I swear I’ll start believing in God again.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I like the people who are clearly not atheists saying what atheists want.

    Its like me saying “Jews really want Jumbo Prawns!” or “Roman Catholics don’t like God’s love it makes them feel itchy!” or “Muslims love Jesus.”

    Then again I’m a nihilist so what the f##k do I know?

  41. Bevatron Repairman says:

    And on the flip side, Athiests believe that fundamentalist Christians think that they are worried about wearing immodest clothing or hot sex or whatever, instead the rather specific: “We Do Not Want You to Burn in Hell Forever.” If they want to target the young and uneducated, it’s because they don’t want them to burn in hell either. I’m far away from a fundamentalist Christian, but am friends with many, and it’s an honestly and passionately held belief. I don’t care for the anti-science of that brand of it at all, but if you strip it down that’s their concern. However badly framed, it’s what they seem to be after.

    I don’t see athiests wandering my neighborhood seeing taking their afternoons to help me avoid an infinity of torment — they don’t believe it in, of course, but neither to they take their afternoons to help me do anything at all. I don’t agree with them nor their interpretation of the Bible, but I find their concern for strangers a perfectly lovely thing to do.

    • Phlip says:

      > they honestly don’t want you to burn in hell

      that is Artificial Guilt – forcing them to feel guilty about the abstract, such as secretly “believing in” evolution while professing creationism. They try hardest to convince themselves.

      So if they simply _must_ feel guilty about allowing you heathens to go to hell… let them!

    • Anonymous says:

      “We Do Not Want You to Burn in Hell Forever…and we know that will happen if you wear immodest clothing, because we have so much more insight into this than you do.” It’s sort of being generous, but only in a really arrogant and condescending way.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I don’t see athiests wandering my neighborhood seeing taking their afternoons to help me avoid an infinity of torment — they don’t believe it in, of course, but neither to they take their afternoons to help me do anything at all. I don’t agree with them nor their interpretation of the Bible, but I find their concern for strangers a perfectly lovely thing to do. ”

      Actually I would have to disagree with the part about atheists not taking time to help people, most of the atheists I know are more “Christ-like” than most of the Christians that I know.

    • Anonymous says:

      “…neither [do atheists] take their afternoons to help me do anything at all.”

      Seriously? That is an absurd generalization to make. Are you saying that atheists don’t volunteer, serve in military/medicine/rescue operations, give to charity, or perform random acts of kindness?

      The next time I hold the door open for someone, pick up garbage on my street, or give a homeless person a sandwich, I will yell “I’M AN ATHEIST AND PERFORMING A GOOD DEED BASED ON MY PERSONAL MORAL COMPASS, YOU’RE WELCOME”. I mean, if that’s what you require to attain good data.

      Ho, sit down.

    • Anonymous says:

      “We Do Not Want You to Burn in Hell Forever” was the excuse used in the Inquisitions to justify torturing people to death in order to “save” them. I’ll pass on your ignorant brand of love, thank you

    • Anonymous says:

      What we do is try to Un-do the damage, with or without intent, done by the teeming masses of straight up ignorant, but possibly well-meaning christians. Go to a library, read anything by Locke, Russel, Huxley, Orwell, or myriad other proud atheists who did this world a major service by disconnecting the religious fingers strangling our collective intellect.

      Jesus Herbert Christ your statement is so bloody infuriating. I hope I didn’t offend you with the response to it.

  42. UncaScrooge says:

    Remember, when spelling Atheist: I before E except after C. God hates bad spelling.

  43. humanresource says:

    The list is pretty sensible, although I would add that atheists don’t necessarily spend much time thinking about religion at all. That’s the best thing, as far as I’m concerned.

    • t3knomanser says:

      No one should spend much time thinking about religion. It’s like masturbation: it makes you feel good, doesn’t hurt anyone, but is best done in private.

  44. regeya says:

    “the Church forbids the use of contraceptives”

    What is this “the Church” you speak of?

  45. g0d5m15t4k3 says:

    I’d say “Amen” if I wasn’t agnostic. So “I agree!”

  46. exile says:

    A challenge to all believers.

    Big prizes if you win!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBUc_kATGgg

  47. bobthecitizen says:

    WOW, once again Boing Boing has to just go and insult a whole bunch of folks because they’re beliefs aren’t “hip” and therefore should be mocked.

    I’m very religious , I belong to an extremely strict faith. But because of that I am not some half assed hypocrit. I want god off of our money and out of our schools. I think politicians who state religious motivations should be canned.

    Why do these close minded articles always project their close mindedness on others?

    About half of my friends are atheists and we get along great, because how I believe the world works is a very personal thing.

    I’ve also got an extensive scientific background and I can tell you that science is a religion by any standard. ie Dark matter theory is a ridiculous effort to prop up a series of theories that have not proven accurate through experimentation but that we are still expected to have “faith” in.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dark matter is a theory which people will believe in until something better comes along, and I have never seen anyone take it as a matter of faith. Of course, I didn’t see where this post mocked beliefs that aren’t hip, so maybe I just don’t have special sight.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I’ve also got an extensive scientific background and I can tell you that science is a religion by any standard”

      No, science is a religion by YOUR standard. Sorry, but I call bullshit. If you had an extensive scientific background you’d at least understand the DEFINITION of science.

      ——————————————-
      Science is “an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world”

      and

      Science is “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws”

      and

      “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation”.

      RELIGION on the other hand is:

      “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. ”

      Science vs religion is facts vs beliefs.

      SO much mis-information in these comments it makes my head spin.

      • Tristan Eldtritch says:

        “Science vs religion is facts vs beliefs”. Anon, this strict division of science and religion between fact and belief does no favors to the atheist argument. The atheist position (as opposed to the agnostic one) that god absolutely does not exist is a belief and by no means a fact. Hence, by the definition you’ve given, strong atheism is a semi-religious (ie belief and not fact orientated) extrapolation from the neutral operation of the scientific method.

        • Felton / Moderator says:

          That’s a very narrow definition of atheism.

        • chgoliz says:

          The atheist position (as opposed to the agnostic one) that god absolutely does not exist is a belief and by no means a fact.

          You seem to be confusing the word “atheism” with the word “anti-theism”.

          • Tristan Eldtritch says:

            Fair enough, I seem to be confusing the terminology, at least in the definition I gave of atheism. But how exactly is anti-theism to be differentiated from the militant, New Atheist movement which provokes most of these debates? And, in relation to the table above, how does calling God a “fictional character” really differ from saying that he absolutely doesn’t exist?

          • Anonymous says:

            The militant atheists were the communists, who actually kill people for their beliefs the way other militants do. The new atheists are only outspoken, or “smug” I guess is how you’re supposed to say it.

          • noen says:

            ::tap::tap::tap::

            Is this thing still on?

            “You seem to be confusing the word “atheism” with the word “anti-theism”.”

            ‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. Atheism IS anti-theism because anti indicates negation. Theists claim that “god exists” is true, atheists claim that “god exists” is false. Atheism is a positive claim and most decidedly not “the set of all non-theists”.

            Atheists try to claim (falsely) that they merely “lack belief” for political and rhetorical reasons because that way they don’t have to face the fact that their claim is empty.

          • Anonymous says:

            The confusion is over the word absolutely. Atheists think gods do not exist – if you’re simply not sure, you’re agnostic – but I have never met any who argue this should be taken on faith. Instead, most will argue that the absence of evidence means gods are no more likely to exist than unicorns, and so for all practical purposes is as false as anything else; a few claim the word god is currently too poorly defined to say much about in general. Both could be disputed, and it’s hard to see what’s semi-religious about these positions.

            Ito, the claim that atheists can’t cope with Jainist, Zen, or pantheist semantics tells me you haven’t talked to many. Most I’ve heard have the same objections to their precepts, and will happily explain their objections to them when asked. They just don’t usually bother, because they care more about the sorts of things outlined in the opening post, and pantheists aren’t out there trying to dismantle science.

          • chgoliz says:

            Let’s look at your link, shall we? How does that philosophy entry begin?

            ‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. I shall here assume that the God in question is that of a sophisticated monotheism. The tribal gods of the early inhabitants of Palestine are of little or no philosophical interest. They were essentially finite beings, and the god of one tribe or collection of tribes was regarded as good in that it enabled victory in war against tribes with less powerful gods. Similarly the Greek and Roman gods were more like mythical heroes and heroines than like the omnipotent, omniscient and good God postulated in mediaeval and modern philosophy. As the Romans used the word, ‘atheist’ could be used to refer to theists of another religion, notably the Christians, and so merely to signify disbelief in their own mythical heroes.

            Ah, so everything has to be filtered through the concept of a “sophisticated monotheism” which excludes other western (and all non-western) gods except for the One True God. Gosh, I wonder which god the author is referring to?

            If I link to someone’s philosophical argument that Christians are cannibalistic idol worshipers, does that become the official definition of the word “Christian”?

  48. sapere_aude says:

    Well, I’m not technically an atheist (I’m more of a panentheist); but I’m concerned about the same things that atheists are concerned about, according to this chart. So, you don’t have to be an atheist to be concerned about these things. And my problem with outspoken atheists (like Richard Dawkins) is not their undoubting certitude that there is no God. It’s that they’re so damn smug about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      How is NOT believing in a god any more smug than believing there IS a god? There is no scientifically credible evidence that there is a god. I don’t see how it smug for a scientist to trust the evidence. It is what scientists do. (NOTE: ancient texts written by humans DO NOT count as scientifically credible evidence of a deity.)

      • sapere_aude says:

        I never said that not believing in God was, in and of itself, “smug”. I said that the most outspoken atheists (people like Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and the people who can be counted on to post comments of ridicule anytime the subject of God or religion comes up in an online article, blog post, or discussion thread) are rather smug in their attitude about the absurdity of believing in God.

        Don’t confuse the claim, “Many atheists are smug,” with the claim, “Atheism is smug.” These are two completely different claims. I contend that the former is true. But I never claimed the latter. In fact, it would make no sense to say that atheism itself is “smug”, because atheism is an idea, not a person; and only a person can be smug.

        You can embrace any idea (even atheism) without being smug about it. But, for some reason, it seems that many of the folks who embrace the idea of atheism are rather smug in their attitude toward those who don’t share their views. I don’t know why that is. Some of the previous commenters have offered possible explanations. But, frankly, it doesn’t really matter why so many outspoken atheists are smug. The fact is, they are. And it’s annoying. Many of us would be more than willing to listen to what they have to say, and to engage them in respectful discussion and debate on the subjects of God and religion, if they didn’t go out of their way to ridicule all belief in God as irrational or delusional.

    • Phlip says:

      Dawkins is just another cult leader – the Cult of the Smug!

    • allen says:

      That’s a common critique of atheists- the smugness.

      I’m not arguing that you need to like “outspoken” atheists- but I think that you need to at least realize that you are falling back on an ad-hominem attack. You admit that you have the same concerns, but you still don’t like them talking about it because they are “smug” about their convictions. So you dismiss their propositions and concerns because you don’t like their attitude.

      How does one say “I don’t think you are right about something you care deeply about, and here is why…” without offending? Can you at least imagine that someone invading your privacy to tell you that you are a bad person that is going to hell might also seem to have an attitude problem?

      Do you realize by criticizing “outspoken” atheists, you are essentially asking atheists to hide their beliefs, and be reluctant to own their own convictions for fear of appearing smug?

      You might not like what dawkins says, or think he seems smug, but everything he says is put forth like a logical proposition, open for reasoned rebuttal.

      For the record: the above is what I,as an atheist, really care about. I want to be able to be an atheist and not have that count against me in public opinion. I want a separation of church and state- so that when people run for office, they don’t need to make obligatory statements about faith. I don’t want the bible or koran or whatever cited as a reason to instate policies that do obeservable harm to human beings- such as has happened with AIDS prevention in africa. There are so many privileges that come with being a christian in this country- and like all privileges, they are invisible to those that enjoy them. As an atheist- I just want an elimination of faith based privileges, so that muslims, atheists, buddhists, jews, christians, whatever- are on equal footing.

      What I don’t care about is that you hold some views that give you comfort, and provide a moral guide. If they seem to produce a good and happy person, and your religion is important to you- that’s fine. I have my own eccentricities that I doubt you would understand.

      • sapere_aude says:

        That’s a common critique of atheists- the smugness.

        Hmmm … I wonder why that is. Could it possibly be because the most outspoken atheists have actually earned their reputation for smugness?

        I think that you need to at least realize that you are falling back on an ad-hominem attack. You admit that you have the same concerns, but you still don’t like them talking about it because they are “smug” about their convictions. So you dismiss their propositions and concerns because you don’t like their attitude.

        I never said I didn’t like them talking about it; nor do I dismiss their propositions and concerns. (As I said, I share those same concerns. I would argue in favor of every point on the right side of the list above.) All I said was that I don’t like their smugness. You can make a case for all of the things listed above without being smug about it.

        Do you realize by criticizing “outspoken” atheists, you are essentially asking atheists to hide their beliefs, and be reluctant to own their own convictions for fear of appearing smug?

        That’s utter nonsense, and you know it. It’s as absurd as the claim by right-wing pundits that the calls for “civility” in the wake of the Tucson shooting were really just an attempt to censor conservatives. Apparently these wingnuts equate “be civil” with “STFU” – which says a lot about their own self image as conservatives. And apparently you’re equating “don’t be smug” with “STFU” – which says a lot about your self image as an atheist. Atheists should be able to vigorously argue in favor of each of the points listed on the right side of the chart above without being smug; and many of them do. Unfortunately, it seems that the most vocal atheists – Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. – are unable to make these points without implying that anyone who believes in God must be a complete idiot.

        I would never argue that atheists must concede anything to religious fundamentalists. (Fundies of any stripe deserve nothing but ridicule.) But many atheists seem to make no distinction between fundamentalists, liberal theists, quasi-theists (like me, who have an unconventional view of what is meant by “God”), and even open-minded agnostics. I have no desire to silence atheists, or convert them to theism. I just wish they wouldn’t so obviously turn up their noses in distaste whenever they encounter anyone who doesn’t share their absolute conviction that “God” is nothing but a fairytale.

        For the record: the above is what I,as an atheist, really care about.

        But, as I said, one doesn’t have to be an atheist to care about these things. Many non-atheists care as much about these things as atheists do. So, equating these concerns with atheism – saying that these things are what atheism is really all about – is disingenuous. Atheism is NOT about these things. Atheism (by definition) is about a rejection of the idea of God. Atheists may care about all of these other things because they reject the idea of God; but it would be misleading to equate atheism with the list of concerns on the right half of the chart above.

        I want to be able to be an atheist and not have that count against me in public opinion. I want a separation of church and state- so that when people run for office, they don’t need to make obligatory statements about faith. I don’t want the bible or koran or whatever cited as a reason to instate policies that do obeservable harm to human beings- such as has happened with AIDS prevention in africa. There are so many privileges that come with being a christian in this country- and like all privileges, they are invisible to those that enjoy them. As an atheist- I just want an elimination of faith based privileges, so that muslims, atheists, buddhists, jews, christians, whatever- are on equal footing.

        Amen to all of those things! Don’t assume that only atheists sympathize with these concerns. That’s kinda what I mean by “smugness” – the automatic assumption that if someone isn’t an atheist that he or she must want to silence atheists, to tear down the wall of separation between church and state, to enact religiously-based policies that do more harm than good, to privilege the religious over the non-religious, etc. What’s annoying about some (though certainly not all) atheists is that they seem to equate belief in a deity with irrationality, superstition, an anti-scientific worldview, dogma, sectarianism, authoritarianism, and all of the other ills of fundamentalism. But not everyone who believes in God is a fundamentalist; and we would appreciate it if atheists would stop lumping all of us together, and stop treating us all like ignorant children who still insist on believing in the Tooth Fairy even after our older siblings have told us that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.

        • allen says:

          First of all, thanks for a reply, and for engaging me in dialog instead of debate. It’s easy to start projecting on people web forums, but I want to first say that you seem like a good person working over an issue with me, and that I respect you.

          Hmmm … I wonder why that is. Could it possibly be because the most outspoken atheists have actually earned their reputation for smugness?

          It could be, but I also think that the beliefs of atheists are irritating to a lot of religious people, and that the resentment to their ideas are transferred onto the people. Since we are talking about Dawkins- I haven’t considered his posts on Boingboing to be particularly smug. Maybe if you present an example of typical smugness and can show that it is a recurrent characteristic of his writings, I’d reconsider. Ad Hominem is a well known logical fallacy for a reason, it’s an easy fallback position when you don’t like what someone is saying but don’t see a way to disagree.

          That’s utter nonsense, and you know it. It’s as absurd as the claim by right-wing pundits that the calls for “civility” in the wake of the Tucson shooting were really just an attempt to censor conservatives

          Your proposition if I understand it, is that calling for civility is like calling outspoken atheists smug?

          Civility is a neutral term with a rather clear definition. Smug is an insult with a nebulous definition. Calling for civility is equilateral, and an invitation. Calling “outspoken atheists” “smug”, first groups all outspoken atheists together, then dismisses them with a negative character trait. You can see through this thread that you aren’t alone in stereotyping atheists this way. I will tell you honestly that when I feel the need to “speak out” as an atheist (such as when it is assumed that I am a christian), I DO immediately worry about falling victim to that stereotype.

          But, as I said, one doesn’t have to be an atheist to care about these things.

          No, you don’t. But the subject of the article was “what do atheists care about”, and as an atheist, I figured I should weigh in. I wasn’t meaning to imply that you didn’t care about the same things.

          But not everyone who believes in God is a fundamentalist; and we would appreciate it if atheists would stop lumping all of us together

          That’s fair, but I do think you should think about something: there are a LOT more of you than us. Atheists are a small minority. You have the power, we don’t. You enjoy the privileges of the majority, we don’t. Maybe we are experiencing something that you can’t relate to that causes us to be a little more on edge than makes sense. You don’t have to, but I’d ask you consider cutting a little slack, given the disparity in vulnerability the two views have. If 80% of the country is ever atheist, I’ll cut christians who feel surrounded and put upon a break, I promise.

          FWIW, I know a lot of protestants and catholics who are scientists and nice guys. I don’t lump them together with Fred Phelps.

          and stop treating us all like ignorant children who still insist on believing in the Tooth Fairy even after our older siblings have told us that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.

          Well- ok, so what do you mean by that? Do you want atheists to think god is more likely than a tooth fairy, or do you want them to treat you as equals (not younger siblings)? The way you treat an ignorant child who believes in the tooth fairy is: you humor them. You might even amuse yourself by encouraging them in their belief. The way you treat an equal who believes in the tooth fairy is to say, hey joe- you sure about that tooth fairy thing?

          If you want atheists to think that god is more likely than the tooth fairy, they’ll be happy to walk you through why they think that and what it would take to convince them otherwise.

          • sapere_aude says:

            [Apologies in advance – especially to the mods – for the length; but I felt that allen deserved a thorough answer to his reasonable and respectful questions]

            It could be, but I also think that the beliefs of atheists are irritating to a lot of religious people, and that the resentment to their ideas are transferred onto the people.

            Perhaps. But I am not “religious” in the conventional sense, and even I find many atheists irritating – not because they are challenging any dogmas I happen to hold (since I don’t subscribe to any particular religious dogmas), but because they seem to assume that anyone who doesn’t utterly reject the idea of “God” must be deluded, brainwashed, or irrational.

            Since we are talking about Dawkins- I haven’t considered his posts on Boingboing to be particularly smug.

            Then you and I apparently have different ideas of what it means to be “smug”.

            Maybe if you present an example of typical smugness and can show that it is a recurrent characteristic of his writings, I’d reconsider.

            Well, let’s look at his two most recent posts on BoingBoing: How about his premise that it’s OK to discriminate against people on the basis of their personal beliefs? How about his claim that anyone who disagrees with this premise is doing so for purely emotional reasons and is not thinking logically? That’s kinda smug, don’t you think?

            Ad Hominem is a well known logical fallacy for a reason, it’s an easy fallback position when you don’t like what someone is saying but don’t see a way to disagree.

            Yes it is. But I clearly wasn’t using ad hominem. Ad hominem is the fallacy of attacking a position by attacking the person who holds that position. I wasn’t attacking any position. As I said, I fully agree with all of the points listed on the right hand side of the chart above – I certainly have no desire to argue against them. I was simply saying that I didn’t like the smugness with which atheists make their arguments. It should be possible to make these arguments without treating non-atheists as if they were all bigots and simpletons.

            Your proposition if I understand it, is that calling for civility is like calling outspoken atheists smug?

            No. My proposition is that asking people to be more civil is very much like asking people to be less smug. Both are calls for people to treat others – and especially the people who disagree with them – with respect: not to treat them as enemies (which would be uncivil) or as intellectually inferior (which would be smug).

            Civility is a neutral term with a rather clear definition. Smug is an insult with a nebulous definition.

            “Uncivil” could certainly be interpreted as an insult. And “smug” is not really all that nebulous. It basically means self-satisfied, pompous, arrogant, superior, full of yourself, etc. No more nebulous than “uncivil”.

            Calling for civility is equilateral, and an invitation.

            Only if both sides are being equally uncivil. But we all know that the recent calls for civility were primarily calls for the right-wing to tone it down a notch.

            And calling for people to stop being smug can also be equilateral, assuming that there is smugness on both sides, which, of course, there is – fundies also have quite a reputation for being smug. But this thread was about atheists, not fundies; so I directed my comments specifically in their direction.

            Calling “outspoken atheists” “smug”, first groups all outspoken atheists together, then dismisses them with a negative character trait.

            Are there any outspoken atheists who aren’t smug? And, by “outspoken”, I don’t just mean people who talk publicly about their atheism. I’m talking about those who can’t seem to talk about anything else. I’m talking about those who seem to have made it their mission in life to spread atheism – those who, with some irony, might be called “evangelists” for atheism.

            Atheists are a small minority. You have the power, we don’t. You enjoy the privileges of the majority, we don’t. Maybe we are experiencing something that you can’t relate to that causes us to be a little more on edge than makes sense. You don’t have to, but I’d ask you consider cutting a little slack, given the disparity in vulnerability the two views have. If 80% of the country is ever atheist, I’ll cut christians who feel surrounded and put upon a break, I promise.

            That excuse might work for American atheists; but it can’t excuse people like Dawkins: a British academic. British society is much less religious than American society; and academia is far more accepting of atheism than society at large. So, what’s his excuse for smugness? Other than the fact that all academics tend to be a bit smug. (I can say that, since I’m an academic.)

            FWIW, I know a lot of protestants and catholics who are scientists and nice guys. I don’t lump them together with Fred Phelps.

            That’s great. But I was never assuming that all atheists think exactly alike. Just because you draw a distinction between reasonable theists and unreasonable theists doesn’t mean that all atheists do. And the ones who rant the loudest seem not to draw that distinction.

            Do you want atheists to think god is more likely than a tooth fairy, or do you want them to treat you as equals (not younger siblings)?

            I want them to realize that, for many of us, belief in God is nothing at all like belief in the Tooth Fairy. Children believe in the Tooth Fairy because of what their parents told them, and because they don’t yet have the reasoning ability to figure out the truth. Some people (particularly those of fundamentalist leanings) believe in God for the same reason. But many theists (and quasi-theists like me) have come to our theological viewpoints after a long process of careful study, reasoning, and reflection, in which we gave serious consideration to all of the arguments both for and against the existence of God – including the arguments made by atheists – and have come to the conclusion that belief makes more sense than non-belief. Many theists have even given more serious thought to the issue than most atheists have. So, what I want is for atheists to stop assuming that all believers are thinking like children, and actually listen to what they are saying about why they believe rather than simply dismissing their belief as a childish fantasy.

          • Anonymous says:

            Are there any outspoken atheists who aren’t smug? And, by “outspoken”, I don’t just mean people who talk publicly about their atheism. I’m talking about those who can’t seem to talk about anything else.

            It’s difficult to say, but are there any outspoken anything that aren’t smug, by these definitions? If you can’t seem to talk about more than one thing, then almost a priori you must be pretty sure that it’s worth promoting.

            Of course, by this definition Dawkins isn’t an outspoken atheist, because he’s also spent plenty of time writing about evolution and psychology, which is what I know him from. I don’t know about Hitchens and others.

          • noen says:

            “It’s difficult to say, but are there any outspoken anything that aren’t smug, by these definitions?”

            I’d settle for prominent athesits not advocating torture (Sam Harris), not calling for the removal of parental rights (Dawkins), not being a cheerleader for US imperialism in the middle east (Hitchens), not calling for the suppression of free speech (Sam Harris again) and not advocating a violent fascist response to Islam (Pat Condell)

            Is that too much to ask?

          • Anonymous says:

            No. Just be sure you ask it of the outspoken religious leaders, too, who have just as bad a track record.

          • Anonymous says:

            That reply sounded like a tu quoque. Let me restate: it’s difficult to find any outspoken advocates, atheist or not, who hasn’t advocated something comparably stupid. Which doesn’t excuse it, but should remind that it is a human failing and not a specific property of atheism.

            Remember, Dawkins and Harris aren’t atheist prophets. They’re just guys we happen to agree with on the one point, and I don’t think I’m alone in disagreeing with them on others.

          • momus_98 says:

            Would you also settle for church authorities not actively covering up the rampant sexual abuse of children (The Vatican); not building monuments and shrines to stupidity (Ken Ham); not denying the safety and efficacy of vaccines and falsifying data (Andrew Wakefield); not being a glaring hypocrite (Ted Haggard, et al.); not advocating torture as a valid interrogation method (Dick Cheney); not advocating a hyperbolic response to Islam (Oklahoma state legislature, et al.)

            Is that also too much to ask?

          • sapere_aude says:

            I think Dawkins is brilliant as an evolutionary biologist. When he’s speaking or writing on that subject he’s always worth paying attention to. He’s a great popularizer and defender of science. And I have even enjoyed watching some television documentaries he made (or at least narrated) many years ago. So I have no problems with Dawkins qua scientist. It’s Dawkins qua evangelical atheist that I have problems with. It’s not the fact that he’s an atheist that bothers me (I couldn’t care less about his private convictions). What gets under my skin is the way he seems to treat all non-atheists as irrational simpletons who are just too thickheaded to see the obvious truth that there is no God.

            Now, I’ll have to admit that if I were to debate fundamentalists as much as he does (and I’ve debated more than my fair share over the years), I would probably get so exasperated with them that I would become just as smug as Dawkins is. So maybe his smugness is understandable. But it’s still very unattractive; and it doesn’t help his cause any. If you want to persuade someone to see things your way you have to try to start from common ground, and be willing to listen to what they have to say with an open mind, and try to understand where they’re coming from. If you start with the assumption that they’re simply stupid, and it’s your job to set them straight, then you’re unlikely to persuade them of anything other than your own smugness.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think Dawkins and the others are trying to persuade religious people to see things their way, though. They’re more arguing to the ones who haven’t made up their mind one way or the other. And speaking as an atheist, one thing they do well is remind us that we’re not by ourselves, which by itself can be a great help when so many people are quick to dismiss us. I understand why their attitude annoys religious people, but really when the main voices in government, the media, and the society at large all promote faith when not outright condemning its lack, there are worse things than a little smugness from authors arguing our case.

        • Anonymous says:

          Who has made those automatic assumptions, or lumped all theists together? Certainly that hasn’t happened here, and to automatically censure atheists for those who have done so whenever their beliefs are defended is lumping all atheists together.

          Smugness is a tone argument. Of course the most outspoken atheists have earned the term; it’s the new way to be uppity.

  49. Ugly Canuck says:

    It should never be forgotten that religion as a social institution meets social needs, and always has.
    It is the continuity of community and society which one feels with one’s co-religionists that keep many many people coming back, regardless of the intricacies of religious doctrine, or indeed whether or not they actually have faith.

    Going after other religions is just a bogus way to bolster the community feeling which may be lacking in one’s own, sometimes.

    Religion provides a structure – sometimes quite literally – to the schedule and staging of community and family and human events: that is all to the good, IMHO.

    It’s the beating up of others that I won’t tolerate from religious types.
    Not will I tolerate people beating up on religious types.

    It just isn’t necessary, and it’s cruel.

    • airdrummer says:

      thank you…finally someone has brought up why religion exists @ all: it is simply the most effective way of motivating people to rise above their animal instincts (the id in freudian terms), not to mention propagating such survival-enhancing knowledge as “get your drinking water_upstream_from the latrine”-)

      and how do you convey such knowledge in a pre-literate world? you wrap them in mnemonic stories that trigger our innate spirituality, that brain state called bliss we all pursue, to give these myths their power…

      and while the dawkinses like to mock these myths for not withstanding rational examination, they miss the most important function of religion: the target audience is the _pre_rational mind, ie: children (see point 2-right above.) the conscience (superego) _must_be nourished before the ego is hardened by the id…

      and that i think explains the excesses of religion atheists rightly decry: desperation leads to excess…just look @ our inner cities:-( or the the AIDS epidemic, which spread when african elders’ influence lost in the migration from the countryside into the cities…in a pre-industrial world, the most effective defense against STDs is monogamy, after all…

      • Mister44 says:

        re: “thank you…finally someone has brought up why religion exists @ all: it is simply the most effective way of motivating people to rise above their animal instincts”

        I thought the purpose of religion was bake sales.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been both an atheist and a vegetarian for dozens of years. It makes me angry that if I ever go to jail and want a vegetarian meal I have to pretend I’m not an atheist because opposition to animal suffering is not a good enough excuse. Instead I have to be part of any religion that disallows meat because religious beliefs are viewed by the government as more integral to my being than moral beliefs.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is completely untrue at the jail where I work. If I ask if you have any dietary restrictions, I ask “for any religious or moral observation” and include vegetarianism in that. And, btw, I am an atheist so if you tell me your vegetarian to be vegetarian, then you get to eat vegetarian in here. I’ll also ask which form of vegetarian you eat.

      Stop claiming that all institutions are run the same and on some form of oppressive religious regime without having the facts.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not in the UK!

      Any morally structured belief system should be valued equally, under our current legislation. I can’t remember the exact wording, look it up if interested.

      This means that an aetheist cannot be forced to partake in any religious pageantry, vegetarians cannot be forced to eat meat, etc even within the prison populations.

      I quite like living here – cold and damp it maybe, but at least we do tend to put the right protections of ‘rights’ into law. How we then enact them, will come to be the measure of our humanity this century I think.

      Plus, as a woman I feel my right to equality more supported by society here than almost anywhere else in the world. Not perfect, but better than the majority!

  51. omarius says:

    Thanks, BoingBoing, for shitting on my religion for the 8,438,422nd time. I know you want us to keep questioning! I question why I read here every time it happens. Hindus and Zoroastrians must feel a little let down that they don’t get the same loving treatment here.

    You know, you’re kind of like some of my old girlfriends. Ninety-five percent of the time you’re a joy to be with, and the other five percent of the time you make me feel like you hate me. And I just keep coming back for more! Mmmm, derision.

    • chgoliz says:

      Other than the one reference to Christmas, there’s no specific religion(s) mentioned. Why do you assume every reference to religion and/or a god means YOUR religion and YOUR god? Yours isn’t even the majority religion in the world.

      Seriously. Think about it.

    • Phlip says:

      > Thanks, BoingBoing, for shitting on my religion for the
      > 8,438,422nd time

      If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.

      —-

      Breaking News: Thousands of Buddhists now rioting, because a Westerner met Buddha on the road and didn’t kill him.

      —-

      And, finally:

      http://fav.me/d2mz1j7

    • Anonymous says:

      Uh, can you do me a quick favor and quote for me where in this entry Christianity is singled out?

    • Chris Tucker says:

      Thanks, BoingBoing, for shitting on my religion for the 8,438,422nd time.

      You’re Welcome!

      Sorry about your butthurt, though.

    • Enormo says:

      Hindus and Zoroastrians must feel a little let down that they don’t get the same loving treatment here.

      Zoroastrians don’t prosthelytize or condem other religions as being false. They encourage non-Zoroastrians to practice their own religions and believe in “other” Gods.

      At least that’s the way I understand it from my father and every other Zoroastrian that I grew up around.

      The numerous Hindus I grew up with were also on board.

      So were the Jews (mom’s side).

      What I learned from a good number of my father’s Christian “friends” was that he was going to burn in hell.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s funny that you think this post is shitting on your religion. It doesn’t mention any particular religion. There are a lot of religions that meet the criteria in the list of things atheists are concerned about. Maybe it’s talking about some other religion.

      Of course, you don’t have much escape if you see that list and say “Hey. That’s unquestionably talking about my religion. We do all of that stuff”.

  52. CrewBaby says:

    Shit people think (most) religious people are concerned about:
    - eradicating the scientific method and all notions of a non-magic-based belief system from the minds of all
    - mass forcible conversion of all unbelievers
    - what other people do in bed

    Shit that (most) religious people are really concerned about:
    - living our own lives in accordance with the rules of our faith, and also paying our bills, getting to work on time, figuring out how to fix the broken drainpipe, etc.
    - the mockery and occasional outright abuse that we and our children often receive in academic and educational settings, by people who claim to be promoting tolerance and respect for all (as a college professor, this one is taken from personal experience).
    - the separation of church and state. The combination is just as corruptive to church as it is to state, and anyone with half a brain knows it.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t some massive jackasses out there making us all look bad on the religious side, in ALL faiths and throughout history, or that the rise of the Conservative Religious Right and fundamentalist Islam shouldn’t be a matter of deep concern for all people. But the implication that all people of faith are part of some powerful, sinister, anti-rational cabal trying to steal the children!!!!!11 is disrespectful both to those of us who believe, and to atheists who are a little more open-minded and intelligent than that.

    • Anonymous says:

      WORD! I’d say ‘Amen’, but I don’t want to be crucified in this crowd. :^)

    • Maddy says:

      amen to that from this athiest. however, you do have to realize that we’ve gone from a time when our parents encouraged us to be very private about our beliefs, to a time when folks are actively trying to control school textbooks based on their particular set of faith-based beliefs. I used to advocate whatever-gets-you-through-the-night, but relgion’s night is currently trying to encroach on my day …

  53. OrcOnTheEndOfMyFork says:

    They dont think people who believe in god are idiots, they think they are deluded, brainwashed, and scared. And I agree. Its sad to see people believe in imaginary fairy tales so vehemently.

    The belief in god is slowly eroding away. I give it 10 more generations.

    I love it! The accusation that those who believe in god are deluded, brainwashed, and scared followed by an equally deluded, brainwashed, and scared statement that the belief in god is slowly eroding away. Audacious!

    Human beings have been spiritually inclined since they were capable of forming the thought. It’s a part of the human condition, and even your supposedly purely rational mind is not immune to emotion, whimsy, and imagination.

    In my moments of deluded, brainwashed, and scared thoughts, I picture a world where people aren’t allowed to think for themselves, even if that thinking is conventionally wrong. What furthering of mankind is there in downloading and masturbating to porn if just for the useless sexual and emotional experience of it? But I wouldn’t deny you your porn in spite of such irrationalities.

    You don’t see Christians huddling in Europe for centuries convinced that everyone who has ever journeyed to the Americas must have fallen off the face of a flat earth. Rational thinking does have a way of winning the day in its own time. You have to allow people the time to come around, not be in a rush to force it down unwilling throats. That’s the stuff of religious atrocities you’re so fond of being against.

    And allowing the people the freedom to express their “irrational” sides produces music, literature, and creativity that the world would be less colorful without. Art has long been, and continues to be, inspired by religions both living and dead. I can’t look at all of that culture, shrug, and call it useless and that I hope it’s all gone in 10 generations.

  54. Guido says:

    Speaking as a Liberal Christian – I share the concerns of the right column myself… it’s odd, but I frequently find myself sympathizing more with the atheist and agnostic community than with the right-er wings of Christianity. I think most moderate religious folk probably do…

  55. noen says:

    Atheists are today’s fundamentalists who believe with absolute certainty in the rightness of their belief system that there is only One Truth outside of which no one is saved. Religious fundamentalists are today’s atheists wrapped up in their fetishistic disavowal of their materialistic, amoral lives in a desperate attempt to hide the fact of their loss of faith.

    I think that Christians and atheists should just get a room already and fuck each others brains out. You know it’s what you want.

    • Anonymous says:

      Atheists are today’s fundamentalists who believe with absolute certainty in the rightness of their belief system that there is only One Truth outside of which no one is saved.

      Because people who say things like “I see no evidence for God, and I only wish people who thought he exists would stop trying to push their beliefs on me” either aren’t atheists, or don’t exist.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      No: fundamentalists are today’s fundamentalists.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I think that Christians and atheists should just get a room already and fuck each others brains out. You know it’s what you want.

      Funny. I keep thinking something similar about the gun thread.

      • t3knomanser says:

        Does it have to be a Christian? Christians, often do reach the “so crazy they’re hotter than hot” levels of crazy, statistically, they’re pretty boring. The various pagan faiths, on the other hand, often cross that crazy/hot threshold to just be crazy hot.

        //Then again, my atheist wife is hot, too. I think I’ll stick with her. You can have the crazy Wiccans.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Some people become Atheists because they feel like God screwed ‘em over and, well…. they prolly deserved it.

  57. Anonymous says:

    Can this be an Aha! moment for everyone? You could make the same type of list for Christians or Muslims or Jews, you know. Or you could change the labels to the more accurate “What the most vocal atheists seem to care about, but really we don’t as a group” and “What atheists like to believe we care about, even though, yeah, the shit in the other column does seem to dominate most discussions.”

  58. semiotix says:

    Thanks, BoingBoing, for shitting on my religion for the 8,438,422nd time. I know you want us to keep questioning! I question why I read here every time it happens.

    To belatedly address your point, I came in here at about the same time as you (as I reliably do in every athiest/agnostic/religion post I see) to make more or less the same point.

    Watching the comments approach the 200 mark, though, I’ve come reluctantly to the conclusion that BB takes pretty much the same approach to this topic as Fark.com does to global warming (for instance): it’s chum for the sharks, and the sharks drive up page views–the chief difference being that Fark doesn’t really make any secret of it. We come here to learn about steampunk and digital tchotchkes and how to make your own didgeridoo, but we only click on those threads once, tops. And we don’t get the endorphin rush of helping our tribe of Rights beat back the savage Wrongs that’ll get us clicking back the next day to see what fresh atrocity we’ll have to fix.

    I guess they have to make their nut, and I guess it’s my own stupid fault that I’m disappointed, but I think what it boils down to is that the most successful media entities are always the ones that are best at manipulating their audiences. And hey–look where I came to complain about it.

  59. shava says:

    You can show that the cure to overpopulation is getting families out of poverty; pretty much no one is going to argue with that. Similarly, the cure to ignorance is education. I don’t see too many atheists teaching, say, media criticism or world religions, either of which will neutralize the single-source fundamentalist thinking that seems to irk them most.

    I am not an atheist, but my objections to atheists on the whole is not that they disbelieve in god(s), but that they are so fundamentalist in their belief – and so damn humorless about it.

    Many of the most brilliant scientists in the modern world have a strong spiritual base, and professionally embrace doubt. If you embrace science you have to embrace doubt – it’s essential to the method.

    I have met many atheists who had both humor and doubt – atheists personally, but agnostic for the rest of the world.

    But the folks who have no humor and no doubt in their (denied ;) souls, are just abandoning their fundie roots for it’s fundamental opposite. They are not really liberated, in my experience, from the mindset of their childhood which they reject.

    • Anonymous says:

      Atheism isn’t a belief; it’s merely an observation.

      I observe the Universe around me, and see no evidence of god(s). Just a simple observation. That is also the main reason why atheists don’t need atheist churches. We don’t have a belief that needs reinforcing in spite of observations to the contrary. If god(s) existed, and made their existence plainly known (stopping by your house for dinner, helping rake the yard, etc.) religious people wouldn’t need churches to help prop up their beliefs either, because in that case it would just be an observation too, like atheism.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Curious that people should be taking this as an attack on all Christianity, when there isn’t one here. Unless you assume that all Christians are responsible for this stuff.

    What this is saying is that if you aren’t interested propagation of anti-scientific thought and indoctrination of youth, you aren’t one of the people atheists are worried about. There are exceptions, but most of the time, it’s true.

  61. ericroded says:

    I’m concerned about King James.

  62. semiotix says:

    It’s more or less a nonstarter in a BB comment thread, I’ve learned, but these kind of atheists speak for the overall population of nonbelievers to roughly the same extent that, say, Presbyterians speak for all theists.

    The shit this atheist is really concerned about is the persistent and pernicious idea that there’s one correct way to understand every aspect of the universe, and that this correct view can be losslessly compressed into a series of parables/bullet points/lemmas/textbook chapters, and that anyone who fails a given test of orthodoxy is hellbound/backwards/medieval/sinful/wrong/bad/gross/unfit to hold office/etc.

    Anyway, offered FWIW.

    (And yes, I’ve seen the xkcd cartoon! :)

  63. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I have no particular opinion on atheists. Athiests, on the other hand, are going to the same part of Hell as the Bhuddists and followers of Ghandi.

  64. Anonymous says:

    I’m concerned that we need more good, friendly dialogue with religiously minded people. Many of them are very, very intelligent and I’m no advocate of the Dawkins/Hitchens acidity. I think most of their ideas, indeed many of their proposals, are great – however their impatience really picks at my scab….
    There simply must be lots of theists out there willing to engage in good, honest, patient, two-way conversation on the Theist/Atheist debate. No?

  65. Phlip says:

    Ahem. My church accepts atheists.

    I win!

    • Sawyertrice says:

      By “accepts” I assume you mean “welcomes”, so my question is, why would a church welcome an atheist if the hope was not conversion? don’t then all churches welcome atheists?

      and if it was not conversion, why then would a religious community of like-minded people accept an unyielding atheist as part of their congregation?

      • Anonymous says:

        UU churches and Ethical Societies welcome atheists and agnostics.

      • Phlip says:

        Because Unitarian Universalism is about inclusion, not conversion. Each service starts with “This is a sanctuary for those seeking their own answers to questions of faith”.

        Not cramming ready-made answers down everyone’s throats. (To put it in thread-speak!)

  66. Warthog says:

    Backwards, anti-scientific thought? I dunno, I’m a devout High Anglican, but I believe in evolution and the Big Bang and the 13.5 billion year old universe. I practice a religion that has evolved over the past 4,000 years as the communities that practice it have evolved.

    Targeted indoctrination – well, all societies indoctrinate people, including atheistic ones. We bring up our children to believe in God, not murder or steal, treat people well, etc. because we believe that people work better that way.

    It is not a bad thing that religion for the most part has been taken away from the ruling structures, although as long as believers hold power, we must expect them to be influenced by their beliefs, which they would argue are the things that make them most truly themselves. Nobody asks an atheist to give up his beliefs in order to be a legislator, why should a Jew, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, etc. etc. give up their beliefs? Before you say “Because their beliefs are based on fictions, and ours are not,” remember that highly intelligent people for thousands of years have believed deeply in a god, and presented cogent arguments for their beliefs. Furthermore, the beliefs of atheists are based on their perceptions and experience, the validity of which they have no more evidence than believers do of theirs. Strange but true. How do you know that you can rely on your thoughts? It is enought that Archbishops no longer sit in the cabinet or advise Prime Ministers on national matters.

    I believe that Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus existed, although not all the stories may be true in the sense that a report in the NY Times is true. Mohammed (pbuh) certainly existed, and lived large enough to become part of the historical record.

    Are bad things done in the name of religion? Terrible things are done. Then again, the atheist Communist Russians killed 60,000,000 people. Top that, inquisitors!

    Lastly, every atheist I have argued with has been a Biblical Literalist. I am asked to defend actions I don’t believe ever occurred, and thinking that I admit is outdated, and often has a more obscure meaning than any western translation gives to the words.

    I believe in God, and God asks me to be true, just, fair and kind to everyone. I don’t think that’s a bad view of how one should live.

  67. Anonymous says:

    >And my problem with outspoken atheists (like Richard Dawkins) is not their undoubting certitude that there is no God. It’s that they’re so damn smug about it.

    First of all, Dawkins (like most atheists) does not declare they are 100% sure there is no god. They declare that the evidence is wanting.

    And smug? Perhaps. But not as smug as, say, every single person who has the gall to pretend they speak for God.

    >Thanks, BoingBoing, for shitting on my religion for the 8,438,422nd time.

    So you’re admitting your religion does the things in the right-hand column?

    Atheists wouldn’t have a big problem with religion if it was actually innocuous. If you have an innocuous religion, have at it, just don’t try to convince anyone else it’s real.

  68. Anonymous says:

    Intoxicated men guised in the blanket of religion. Only mysticism/Sufism is the real threat to conservative fundamentalist.

  69. Anonymous says:

    Shit that atheists and the religious are both really concerned about”
    - arguing on the internet

  70. Anonymous says:

    Has science successfully replaced God?

    • Anonymous says:

      “Has science successfully replaced God?”

      Why?

      That is not the purpose of science.

      You might just as well ask, “Has science successfully replaced the Easter bunny?”

      Knowledge and self awareness can help remove your lonely feeling that there must be an invisible friend/creator/etc.

  71. billstewart says:

    From a Christian perspective, not only are Dawkins et al definitely smug, but it’s extremely annoying because we’re supposed to be the ones who get to be smug about being superior, not them.

    And as far as getting “God” off of the currency, it used to say “X% silver” on it, and saying “hey, we’re the government, trust us” would make it transparently obvious that it’s fake, while saying “In God We Trust” might distract a few people. And the Pledge has so many things wrong with it, but the courts told Newdow that it’s ok to make kids say “one Nation under God” because they know they’re not really expected to mean what they’re saying or believe it, so it’s not unconstitutionally establishing religion. In both cases, it counts as the “not taking God’s name in vain” that’s on the graven image of the Ten Commandments that that judge planted in front of his courthouse. And the problem with atheists getting hung up about that stuff is that it’s supposed to be our job.

  72. Anonymous says:

    I hate religion, and I am a born again, spirit-filled, son of the living God. God hates religion too.

  73. Anonymous says:

    I care about open conversation with respect for what other people believe, feel, think and act upon.
    This means giving freedom for speaking and expressing.
    And of course taking the responsability to love (and live for) the other rather than just yourself.
    That really makes your life more meaningful.
    I dont think this atheist view fits into that profile, it feels egoistic, arrogant and also restricitng towards the way others like to live their lives.

  74. Anonymous says:

    All of this is going on the presumption that you know what Christians think. Can you read their minds? There are so many declarations in these comments that definitively state what a group of people think, but you really don’t have any idea what people are thinking – it’s basically just your prejudices.

    I also notice that the original posting and many of the atheist comments are from a perspective of one group of people (Christians) trying to impose their will on another group. This view of the world holds that having power over other people is important. As an evangelical Christian, I have no interest in this at all. I just want to do my work, enjoy my life, help people out when I can, and worship God as I please.

    I would like to see others come to Christ, but I would never condone coercing someone into it. A relationship with Christ must be entered of one’s own free will, or it is completely useless, mainly because there is no change in the person’s heart.

    • Laroquod says:

      “I also notice that the original posting and many of the atheist comments are from a perspective of one group of people (Christians) trying to impose their will on another group.”

      The original posting doesn’t even mention Christianity. Since you managed to read that precisely the way you wanted to rather than according to what it says, I suspect you are doing the same with many of the comments below (some of which explicitly refer to Christianity, but many of which consciously avoid pegging one religion, but I doubt you’ve noticed).

      Also, you’ve illustrated nicely what the problem is of basing one’s worldview on one interpretation (i.e. ‘A relationship with Christ must be entered of one’s own free will’). What if others do not share that interpretation? What if they end up interpreting your text as wildly as you interpret the original image at the top of this thread? They may well start wars to impose their beliefs — and in fact, they do.

  75. Anonymous says:

    Moral of the story; No matter how right you are, for God’s sake, do not be smug about it or everyone will just vilify you. My God how stupid is that…

  76. chgoliz says:

    The handful of internationally known Atheists (capital “A” because it seems to be their actual title) who are perceived by some as “smug” don’t interfere in my life in any way. I’m not going to get worked up over a few celebrities who act like, well, celebrities. Some people have strong personalities. So what?

    The daily grind of dealing with people in my actual life who think anyone who doesn’t adhere to their particular belief system is totally wrong and therefore not to be trusted or respected (what’s that called again? oh, yeah: smug), on the other hand, is a real problem. To say nothing of my country’s Constitution being trashed by their representatives in government.

    Average everyday atheists are invisible. Average everyday theists are dominant. Even on this thread, we’re seeing a number of posts crying victim at having the lens of inquiry pointed toward their beliefs, which of course should never be questioned.

    Deal with the beam in your own belief system first before getting hysterical about the mote in someone else’s.

  77. Nylund says:

    When I moved to Canada as an American, I was surprised to learn how much time and thought was devoted in Canada to forming opinions about subjects like who won the war of 1812, which country deserves credit for inventing the telephone, TV, basketball, etc. They’d ask me what the view in America was on these issues and I’d answer, “Most Americans haven’t even thought about these things, much less formed opinions on them.” The atheist/theist debate reminds me of that. Its funny how one side can have such strong opinions about a particular debate while the other side doesn’t realize these are even topics of debate.

  78. Anonymous says:

    As a atheist, all i can say… There is no way either side can prove to each other who is right. It’s a coin toss.

  79. Anonymous says:

    What makes me sad, is looking at my depressed neighborhood and how common the idea that god/Jesus will fix everything…

    as though god/Jesus is a personal ATM machine.
    When the going gets rough and even the church of choice isn’t able to help people keep their home or feed their kids, what good is faith? What good is that church that happily took their donations/tithe when times were good?

  80. agreenster says:

    Hey look at all these posts talking about me! Glad I could help stir the debate.

    I recognize the role religion has served over the thousands of years of social evolution. I think it has brought both good and bad, and one could argue mostly good. But I agree with Sam Harris, in that humanity has finally evolved enough that we should focus on deriving our morals from public debate and scientific method, not from ancient texts and doctrine; from the tenets of secularism, not religion. In fact, I would argue that is the only way it’s truly ever been done. God was a useful tool to scare people into following man’s rules for thousands of years, and I believe we’ve outgrown it.

    It is my opinion that belief in god is a delusion. And I dont mean that as an insult. The definition of delusion is “an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary.” There is no evidence of the existence of god, so therefore I believe the definition fits. (the burden of proof lies with the claim-makers) If legitimate evidence exists, please make me aware of it. Otherwise, arguments against the use of the word “deluded” are invalid.

    And it’s also my opinion that people are scared into religion because the fear of death and punishment are extremely difficult fears to overcome. I come from an extremely religious household, so I know how hard it is to deny your upbringing.

    And regarding my theory about the decline of religion (or perhaps more accurately, the belief in a personal god), I guess call it a hunch. But if one were to chart religious practice over the last 1000 years, my money would be on the downward trend.

  81. agreenster says:

    “Science is wonderful for explaining many of life’s great mysteries. But while it may be useful for telling us why a flower is red, it can’t tell us why it is beautiful.”

    Actually, it can.

    Colorful, vibrant, full, fertile are all descriptions of beauty, and, not coincidentally, also the same descriptions used of something that has evolved to survive. Health and fertility are the benchmarks of beauty, ie the benchmarks of survival, which are understood and explained through science and evolution.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was writing of the human capacity for appreciating aesthetic beauty.
      Flowers and other life forms flourish and evolve mostly despite human appreciation or intervention, excepting the activities in some horticultural enterprises. Whether a human thinks a flower or other non-human life form is beautiful or not is irrelevant to its “success” as a species. Extending your argument would suggest that evolution would cease for some or all life forms if there were no humans around to appreciate them. That’s just absurd. After all, plants have no capacity for forming an appreciation for beauty the way humans do.
      Perhaps you would do better to explain, scientifically, why I like roses more than marigolds or carnations. That should keep you busy for awhile.

      • agreenster says:

        You’ve completely misunderstood the point. Flowers havent survived because humans think they are pretty. You think they are pretty because they have characteristics of vibrance, health, and show all the physical signs of flourishing survivability.

        To illustrate my point further, I’ll use the opposite example. Why is it that people find pools of blood or vomit or the smell of a decomposing body so repulsive? Is it because jesus said “thou shalt find these unattractive?” No. You are genetically programmed to avoid danger, sickness, and things that dont promote survivability. Science has shown that the reason people “sympathy vomit” is because thousands of years ago, if a group of homo-sapiens came across bad food, and one member of the group vomited, they’d better all vomit to avoid poisoning. So people who puked, lived. That is one of our ancestors, and we still do it to this day. Same reason why if you hear and see someone cough or sneeze, your white blood cell count rises. And yes, behavior is genetic. The domesticated silver fox experiment proved that.

        And science can also explain why you prefer marigolds to roses. Humans are programmed, through evolution, to value variety. Genetic mutation relies on trial and error to push the species to a more survivable state. Without genetic deviation, humans (all species, actually) would continue down one path, and eventually reach a stagnation point genetically. And we all know what happens when a species doesnt adapt. It dies. So yes, it makes sense scientifically. One of our species greatest survivable characteristics is our curiosity and finding new ways of doing things. If we werent genetically disposed to try new and different things, we’d likely not have evolved to the place we are now.

  82. Anonymous says:

    useful. Can we now have one which says what theists are really concerned about as well?

  83. OrcOnTheEndOfMyFork says:

    Atheists: A group of people who smugly believe their world view is the only right one, and everyone else around them is wasting their lives living a lie.

    How… “original.”

  84. RandomGameR says:

    As long as a person worships a book that directly tells them to murder gay people I find it hard to trust said person.

  85. Anonymous says:

    Matthew Swartz I am a (Christian) believer, but even if I wasn’t, I would still think the list on the left actually made more sense than the one on the right. The idea that such moral progress has been made throughout history that we can confidently call the past “backwards” requires quite a bit of faith. It isn’t self-evidently true. The middle point seems to be more sour grapes about the communication difficulties (based in pretension, perhaps?) of one’s ingroup than anything else, and the last one seems to be a restatement of the things in the other column.

  86. Raj77 says:

    Dawkins may be smug (what do you even mean?) but he’s not out there persecuting someone. I say that as a Quaker from an area wherein many people are hardcore Presbyterian or evangelical fundamentalists, and they’ll sure as shit engage themselves in some anti-gay/ anti-Catholic/ anti-people-who-aren’t-like me any day of the week, in the name of Jesus.

    Fellow Christians, you can cavil about how you’re not like that as much as you like, and that you’ve never persecuted anyone! Congratulations, you’ve fulfilled the basic entry requirements of being a decent human being. Get involved, help some people who are not like you, and defend the vulnerable from your ideological brethren. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem.

  87. CANTFIGHTTHEDITE says:

    I think some Skeptics, including this one, are concerned with any irrationalities whatsoever, religious or otherwise. I don’t care whether you claim you’re helping strangers in Jesus’ name or in the name Cthuhlu, or because your horoscope said you should, you’re still being irrational. Just say what you yourself are getting out of it, that’s the real reason.

  88. Raj77 says:

    Also: if someone makes a valid criticism of the kind of thing many Christians do? The correct response as a Christian is not to defend your in-group with pride and anger. The correct response is to go out tomorrow and try to do a little better than you did yesterday.

  89. Anonymous says:

    I’m atheist, and I think this list is utterly moronic on multiple levels.

    Real intellectuals understand that this kind of thinking is childish at best. The world, humans, morality, and philosophy are far more complicated than the opinions spouted in these comments.

  90. Anonymous says:

    Is the Two Minutes’ Hate over yet?

  91. Laroquod says:

    P.S. OK yes it mentions some Christian on words on the left side, in group of things atheists aren’t concerned about. The group of things we do care about is conspicuously applicable to all religions.

  92. Crispian says:

    Shouldn’t the titles read:

    “Shit that atheists think that people think atheists are really concerned about” and “The reasons why atheists might seem to care about such shit”?

    Just to be accurate.

    The truth is…people don’t care or think that much about atheists, as much as atheists wish to flatter themselves.

    Most of the debate about the issues in the first column occurs between people claiming to believe in a deity.

    But perhaps the secularists are doing it all on behalf of atheists, naively believing those issues to be of the utmost importance to them. Perhaps religious folks and atheists can band together and disparage such secularists.

    Of course, that’s unlikely when atheists continue to disparage people’s beliefs with the kind of inflammatory rhetoric shown in the (apparently brilliant?) chart above.

  93. ransom notes says:

    nailed it. ’nuff said. thanks David.

  94. Bloodboiler says:

    Shit that atheists should be concerned about:

    - Atheists believe their faith/ideological system is superior to all others.

    - Atheists believe that wars were, are and will be motivated by religion instead general greed and xenophobia common to all humans.

    - Atheists believe that they are exempt from cognitive dissonance, religious tendencies and other psychological and neurological factors that affect thinking in all people.

  • Phlip says:

    That comment was supposed to have fake XML tags around it, excusing the false-dichotomy. Real life is always more nuanced!

    BB’s blog machine snarfed the less-than and greater-than symbols! Fail!

  • Talia says:

    “- Atheists believe their faith/ideological system is superior to all others.”

    And who doesn’t believe that?

    Your other two statements are quite clearly and brazenly irrational and erroneous.

  • Anonymous says:

    It seems that atheism is a faith-based worldview – the unwavering faith in an unknowable aspect of reality: a firm disbelief in a specifically defined god. It is fundamentalism: believing one’s own perspective to be the only correct one, and people who believe something else are wrong.

    The case that religion breeds militant fundamentalism is based on a basic misunderstanding of the purpose of religion – even a rudimentary understanding of any religion reveals the common truth of not harming other living beings. Those who believe they are killing in the name of god misunderstand their religion on a fundamental level.

    Dogmatic world-views pervert people into misunderstanding. This is true of Evangelical Christianity as much as Scientific Materialism. To have unwavering faith – whether belief or disbelief – is a commitment to ignorance, because it closes the mind to alternative possibilities.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thinking atheism is always, even usually, an unwavering faith means never having read anything an atheist has wrote.

  • nevermath says:

    In some ways, this is sort of a meta-comment re: the comments above.

    It’s interesting to see all the definitions of atheism discussed in these comments. I know that a lot of people think these long comment debates consist of mostly futile finger pointing, but I think that reading over them can provide a lot of insight into the way different people see the world and how they characterize and organize different views.

    Anyway, I call myself an atheist, but I don’t ascribe to nearly any of the specific characterizations of it above. I read a couple of posts a few page-ups ago which define atheist as anti-theism because the ‘a’ prefix is meant to be a negation. This is not how I see it, I take the “a” to mean without (apolitical, for example, means w/o a political view or message). When I call myself an atheist, I mean to say that I don’t ascribe to a religion, or any sort of theological belief. Some argue that atheism is itself a faith-based-belief, and this is a tricky point in a number of ways (there are probably some for whom this is the case), but I feel pretty justified in saying that I am not an atheist in that contradictory sense. It’s easy to get me to admit that I am not certain, by any standard, that a God (or that gods) doesn’t (don’t) exist. I just don’t hold the belief that they do exist.

    This is what I mean when I say that I am an atheist, just that and nothing more. I do have other beliefs on the topic (for example, I don’t think that a belief in God is a very well justified belief, and I do have a number of political views about the way that religion is ‘handled’ in the political arena), but these beliefs are not part of my atheism qua atheism. They constitute my worldview, and I would never want to throw in with every other atheist in terms of their worldviews.

    I hope I haven’t sounded smug, but I certainly may have. The problem with calling atheists (or anyone else) smug in discussions like this is that there is a fine line between being smug and being patronizing. If I really strongly feel a certain way about something, why should I act as though I don’t?

    Anyway, I think the most important issue in these comments, which has been thoughtfully adressed many a time and in many different ways, is that no unified worldview can be ascribed to all the members of any particular group. The sheer number of people who claim to be religious in one way or another and then make a further claim about how they have been pigeon-holed should prove this. This is a two way street though: be careful how you characterize groups, and be careful not to feel so individually characterized in the future.

    One last point, and a slightly more argumentative one at that: I take issue with the attacks on BoingBoing for posting this. While I hardly found the image all that insightful, I don’t think that the BoingBoing contributors have any obligation other than simply posting what they find interesting. I know this sounds incredibly naive, but in reality, there is no mission statement or social obligation that this webpage has to live up to.

    Alright, those are my thoughts after spending over an hour reading comments about a relatively trite (and visually unappealing) graphic about atheism. I enjoyed it, and I felt it flexed my analytic muscles at times. I think this debate it overwhelmingly a good thing, and I think that this is due to the high volume of intelligent and thoughtful people who take the time to write something on here. And while I very strongly disagree with quite a bit of what has been said, I think it’s awesome that people are saying it and that others are disagreeing.

    Word up.

  • Antinous / Moderator says:

    My son displays a general garment and you claim it’s cut to your fit? What a fascinating revelation.

  • Anonymous says:

    All views about a god, whether for or against, are religious in nature.

    Atheists are really concerned about promoting their own religious views.

  • Anonymous says:

    My only issue with this is the following:
    Religion is marketed to all people, all classes. It’s a bit of a reach to say that it is heavily marketed only to the poor and the uneducated. (A little patronizing too). People with money certainly attract the eye of any organization looking for new recruits. Religion is no exception. Also, many religious people of various faiths are highly educated. Talk to your Muslim doctor some time. Adults on the street are approached by proselytizers everyday. The young are not the only targets. Every one is. This is where people in the New Atheism movement fail to think critically, which is more annoying than their proselytizing behavior. (Give me Old Atheism any day). I was sympathetic right up until that statement, which makes me think the author is not nearly as worldly as he thinks he is. Quite possibly an angsty post-adolescent who only knows the world from his civics classes and internet forums, while not actually truly interacting with the poor and uneducated, except to tip generously at TGIF’s.

  • crnk says:

    This may be a blanket statement, but even then I think it is a stretch. This isn’t generally a big topic I aim to discuss (let’s face it, there are a lot better ones), but I don’t know anyone -save one religious nutjob- who actually thinks that atheists are running around worried about the capital G or ‘bless you’ they see occasionally.

    However, the post’s original content represents a small egotisical minority of athiests with a big superiority complex. Are they REALLY trying to ignore or belittle:
    scientific developments and embrace of the scientific method by religious people?
    morality based on one’s principles and priorities instead of whatever today’s fancy is?
    the simple existence of documented historical people?
    I mean…REALLY?
    I’m not even going to go beyond a scrape in noting the role of religion in education and literacy in history.

    • Anonymous says:

      Where does it so much as imply that all religious people partake in such things, or that none are concerned about them? All it says is that atheists aren’t out to destroy Christmas. If anyone wants to know why atheists are often so “humorless”, it’s because any positive message about them is immediately treated as a rude attack on all religion.

  • Anonymous says:

    Really? I care about those things, and I’m a priest!

  • robulus says:

    Perhaps more to the point, looking at a flower and appreciating it’s beauty, and looking at a flower and seeking to understand it’s structure and the way it interelates with its surroundings, are both valid ways of looking at a flower. People can do both, and it doesn’t require cognitive dissonance or mental compartmentalisation. They are simply different approaches to experiencing the world.

  • carlmosconi says:

    Amen brother! Amen!

  • Anonymous says:

    Atheists, despite their non-belief can’t seem to break out of Judeo-Christian thinking. They have syncretized the whole missionary mentality right into their own practices.

    Sadly, they can’t seem to fathom that there are many intelligent people in this world who believe in God, advocate separation of church and state, and also think fanaticism of any sort is dangerous.

    • Anonymous says:

      Since nobody said those people don’t exist, here or almost anywhere else, apparently most atheists only exist in your mind. It’s difficult to hear a sequence of “don’t think all religious people are all the same!” alternating with “atheists are all ignorant about the same thing.”

  • usfoodpolicy says:

    Shit that atheists think theists are concerned about:
    – fear of evolution
    – virgin birth
    – sexual prudery
    – fear of science
    – getting into heaven
    – hating homosexuals

    But many thoughtful theists care about many of the things boing boing readers care about (all links to boingboing posts).
    justice
    courage in the face of oppression
    family, all kinds of family

    Let’s quickly dispense with the next two rounds of this discussion. “But didn’t religious people do [awful thing].” “Uh, yes, I think [awful thing] is bad.”

    I’m with omarius on this one. Generalizations about religious people are almost the only narrow-minded prejudice I ever see tolerated on boingboing.

  • Tdawwg says:

    On the right-hand side listing what atheists are “Really Concerned About,” they forgot things like money, sex, wellbeing, the future, family, friends, etc. They also forgot to note that these exact same things are what theists are “Really Concerned About.”

    Too bad we can’t also put “Stickin’ it to the man,” “social justice,” “a better future for everyone” for both groups as well, and are unfortunately forced to include “self-righteousness” and “generally being d*cks to those who disagree” for both. . . . Sad.

  • Anonymous says:

    I always kind of felt when Atheists attempted to remove christmas decorations or roadside crosses it had more to do with their personal religious upbringing and insecurities about their belief/nonbelief. I know personally as a kid who had doubts early on, when I was younger religious imagery bothered me because it reminded me of those concerns.

    Now i’m a satisfied Agnostic. Atheism involves as much faith as any other religion. I remain indifferent.

  • momus_98 says:

    I’m a proud atheist who’s smug much in the way that Hitchens, Dawkins, James Randi, or the Mythbusters might be considered smug. I laughed when “Touchdown Jesus” burned. I read Pharygula on a regular basis. I know that there is no debate when it comes to astrology, homeopathy, or creationism: It’s all rubbish. Period. I take great glee in poking holes in people’s long held beliefs; to wit, I would’ve been the guy posting the response in this Facebook example:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/01/the_science_vs_creationism_deb.php

    We atheists are regarded as one step below baby killers in the social hierarchy; to identify oneself as an “Atheist” is to be regarded with malice or distrust. Maybe we come off as seeming smug simply because we’re tired of mythology having the run of the place; we’re no longer afraid to point and laugh at the silly robes, vestments, and rituals of the various churches; we look at what Christianity says (the earth is only 6,000 years old) and *know* that that’s simply not true; and we are better able to differentiate between myth & fable and reality.

    I can rest in reasoned comfort knowing that this god being with all his might & power could smite me at will, but hasn’t…because he doesn’t exist.

    • Mister44 says:

      re”.. point and laugh at the silly robes, vestments, and rituals of the various churches; we look at what Christianity says (the earth is only 6,000 years old) and *know* that that’s simply not true;”

      Hey – don’t hate on the robes. Some of them are stylin’. And we got some neat hats.

      And just a point – Christianity doesn’t say the earth is 6000-10000years old, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and some Baptists say that. A vast majority do not.

      That is the problem I see. You have ‘smug’ (to barrow your term) atheists actively waving the truth in the faces of Fundamentalists, who feel attacked and cling even more so to a belief – thinking it defines their faith.

      I home school and once a week I take my kiddo to a group class with other kids. It is a nice place – great people – but most of them are much more fundamentalists than me. I overheard one of them heard Ken Ham speak and yadda yadda. I am thinking of making a paper or something that helps explain both the science of evolution, but how it doesn’t have to clash with scripture. I am just waiting for someone to ask me. Cocked and loaded.

      • Anonymous says:

        You really think the fundamentalists cling to their beliefs because of atheists? That if it weren’t for people like Dawkins criticizing them, they wouldn’t be so interested in things like taking evolution out of schools?

        This is backwards. Many people like Dawkins will tell you they become outspoken opponents of religion at least in part because of what fundamentalists were already doing. And countries where atheism is prominent tend to have fewer fundamentalists, not more.

        • Mister44 says:

          re: “You really think the fundamentalists cling to their beliefs because of atheists? That if it weren’t for people like Dawkins criticizing them, they wouldn’t be so interested in things like taking evolution out of schools?”

          That isn’t even close to what I said. Am I that inept at conveying a point?

          I said they simply REACT to people like Dawkins. They feel attacked and they get more vocal and even less open for new ideas. If there were no atheists they would have these same beliefs

          This isn’t unique to Fundamentalists, we all do it in one way or another. Try to tell Mac owner that Macs suck and see what happens ;o)

          And I am sure this goes both ways, with people getting in others faces about their religion, or championing a cause based on it in politics.

          My point was the two extremes react to one another and are the most vocal, while a majority of people are just watching going 0_o

    • noen says:

      “We atheists are regarded as one step below baby killers in the social hierarchy”

      The USS Histrionics is going full steam ahead!

      “we look at what Christianity says (the earth is only 6,000 years old)”

      With a strawman at the helm!

      “I can rest in reasoned comfort knowing that this god being with all his might & power could smite me at will, but hasn’t…because he doesn’t exist.”

      Maybe the reason why is that he loves you.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      “Momus”, eh?

      Wasn’t that the name of ancient Greek God of fault-finding?

      But in any event, I think that you too should be tolerated.

      Good luck!

      If that’s not too superstitious a saying for you.

      • momus_98 says:

        +10 internets to Ugly Canuck! Most people read that as two separate words – “mom” and “us” – and assume I’m female. I came up with that handle back in the days of Yahoo! Chat circa 1997 and you’re the only person (so far) that got the meaning right off. Good job, sir!

        Definition of Momus according to Wikipedia:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momus

  • polama says:

    There’s an interesting phenomena here. People tend to use themselves as a stand in for a group they belong to. Thus a moderate religious individual, while acknowledging the existence of reactionary fundamentalism, will believe that most religious folks are quiet, live-and-let-live individuals concerned primarily with their own morality. That’s what most of the people at there church are like. Similarly, a reasonable atheist will see atheists as generally reasonable, non-aggressive individuals who may not understand a belief in God but don’t really have a problem with those who do. But when forming opinions on the “other” group, we’re naturally attracted to the loud, crazy ones who demand attention. Thus the religious folk start to view the atheists as pushy snobs, and the atheists start to think the religious folks all believe some really wacky things.

    So you get a post like this, that’s implicitly directed at the “War on Christmas” Christians that atheists believe make up a larger percentage of the world than they really do. A reasonable religious individual thinks “we don’t really think that about atheists, they’ve just got a persecution complex (which fits with the extreme versions they’ve noticed). So they respond dismissively. And the atheists think “that’s just like them” and suddenly you have two reasonable individuals arguing past each other: if they got to know each other they’d put each other in the “one of the good ones” category, but they don’t so they assume the other fits the caricature in there head. Happens with politics, happens especially, for whatever reason, with smokers/non-smokers. Groupings just seem to breed conflict.

    • Anonymous says:

      you must be an existentialist like myself. Søren Kierkegaard? its a good philosophy to use if your virtues are of good nature and you are also an altruist to stay consistent with your ideals. what we are reaching is a point of collision between all religions, ideas, philosophies, etc. you can blame this on communication technology. we never would have been this paranoid about what each person believes if we didnt try to butt in on personal lives ala facebook, twitter, media, anything “informational”. this is coming from someone who has seen the birth and been apart of the IT realm. we created technology to help people and explore new possibilities. not create drama and relations. LOL the biggest issue in egypt was how their internet was shut off. WTF ARE YOU KIDDING!? my internet goes out all the time thanks to americas aging telephone lines. the best part is we think we need newer technology in order to get things faster but all that does is cover up the fundamental problem of the age! people are so blind to how immature america is.

    • Maddy says:

      wow, actual perception vs. going to the Home-for-Internet-Obvious-Disses …

  • Ito Kagehisa says:

    There are many, many flavors of atheism and many nuances (just as in theist persuasions) and just like theists there is no shortage of atheists who will loudly shout that their own Jacques Derrida deconstruction of the word is the One True Definition.

    My church was built on land provided by an atheist for the purpose of building the church; he attends service most Sundays. Does that blow your mind?

    I consider most of the New Atheists to be heretic Christians; the God they so fervently disbelieve is fundamentally defined by the words of the Christian Bible. They do not accept other definitions, as chgoliz points out, and cannot cope semantically or intellectually with Jainism, academic Zen, or scientific pantheism. The best they usually have to offer is a complaint that such beliefs are “weak religion” because all their arguments apply weakly (at best!) to such faiths.

    Most Satanists are heretic Christians (and all satanists are of the judeo-christian family of religion). If you accept the words of a book, such as the Bible or Torah, as containing the absolute boundaries of your religious philosophy, you are a part of the mainstream of the religions that use that book to define God. If you don’t conform to the accepted practices of that mainstream, you are a heretic.

  • Anonymous says:

    Okay, this shit is starting to piss me off! As a scientist and a Christian I have found the increasing amount of anti-faith opinion on Boing Boing, which I do believe is very influential, to be overwhelming. Just because I have a faith does not mean that I go around shoving it down folk’s throats, and in fact that is against what I believe is appropriate.

    Most “Christians” I know who want faith based curriculum and God back into governing actually don’t attend church if at all, know little about the bible or what Jesus said, in short they are plain ignorant about what is asked of them (as followers of Christ). I am very troubled by the rallying to get faith put into our public education! I don’t want some numbskull teaching my kids what God is because, well I don’t think they know and it sure as hell isn’t what I believe. It bothers me that there is a movement to get the 10 commandments into public buildings, have religious displays on public property, etc… For so many reasons that I don’t think I need to point out here.

    BUT, I want you to get this straight, I also think that Christians and other faithful have a place in science and in government and etc… This fear of science and religion mixing is, well – kind of like a peer of mine who was studying ichthyology denying that evolution occurs (WTF? How does one do that? How can you count as rational if you do that?). All these atheists strutting their stuff as if they are scions of science need to step off! Darwin was Christian! You need to think outside of your preconceived ideas of what it means to have a faith and be a scientist, it is far more then you are proselytizing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just because I have a faith does not mean that I go around shoving it down folk’s throats, and in fact that is against what I believe is appropriate.

      Again, who said you did? What anti-faith opinion is expressed in the article, and is it anything compared to the pro-faith opinions expressed in the comments? Who is persecuting you?

    • Anonymous says:

      Darwin was Christian! You need to think outside of your preconceived ideas of what it means to have a faith and be a scientist, it is far more then you are proselytizing.

      Yes, Darwin was a Christian, and also believed that women were intellectucally inferior to men – he allowed the meta-narrative of his faith to interfere with observational science-based theorizing.

      This is what worries those without religious belief, about those who claim religious belief does not affect their science. If you believe in the obserational, evidence-based, empirical, theorectic science method of approaching the universe you must be commiting a strange version of double think to also go to churches/mosques/synagogues/temples etc and listen to people preaching based on texts and ideas that are simply without any foundation you would usually apply to your work.

      my parents call themselves Christian, and attend a fairly traditional church in the UK. My Mum even sings in the choir, but that does not mean they do not actively question what faith means to their analytical, highly intelligent, understanding of the world… I think, eventually, they will find, as I have, that it is just not compatible. My gran has also reached this conclusion, and I found this out recently. Interesting, my mothers conviction of my gran’s ‘devout faith’ meant i never discussed these issues with her before.

      Eva (not anonymous)

  • quori says:

    We have friends who are athiests, my wife and I are born again Christians (Baptists to be exact, myself a former Catholic).

    Numerous times we find ourselves being looked down upon for our faith and beliefs. At no point have we ever done that to them.

    I have however pointed out to him that he designs weapon systems for Military use at an engineering firm…in essence his job: mass destruction and murder. His counter is that I was a former soldier (US Army, now retired from service)….how are they different? My reply…I ask for forgiveness for whatever sins and wrongs I committed. Any harm I may have done, I ask that I be forgiven for it. He sees nothing wrong or immoral with what he does.

    The argument that his view and mine have with one another is NOT scientific…it is moral and ethical.

    Someone wants to believe in creationism instead of evolution…let them be an uneducated fool. Personally…in my world…God is capable of both. Did He create the heavens, Earth, and universe…Yes. Did he make it exactly as it is today? Hell to the no. He allowed it to evolve and grow. We as parents don’t wnat our kids coming out fully mature and grown…we want them to be babies and watch them grow. Same thing for our inanimate “children”….people who buy a home don;t leave it as is for 40-50 years….They expand, remodel, change and evolve it according to their needs, wants, and whims.

    Why would anyone think God (or whatever you want to believe in) would be any different?!? This thought process is far more deistic than evangelical for certain….but being a Christian should not be an assumption of a rejection of science. Nor should an acceptance of science be a rejection of faith in a higher power.

    We have the capacity for both within our being. THAT, IMHO, is how we are created in HIS image. We have an incredible capability to be a conundrum of Science and Faith. Thats what seperates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    • Xenu says:

      Numerous times we find ourselves being looked down upon for our faith and beliefs. At no point have we ever done that to them.

      It’s a good thing you never gloat, and you came to BoingBoing to post about the fact that you never gloat.

      That makes you a much better person than other people, doesn’t it?

      • quori says:

        It’s a good thing you never gloat, and you came to BoingBoing to post about the fact that you never gloat.

        That makes you a much better person than other people, doesn’t it?

        I come to BoingBoing to read the articles and opinions therein. I only post a comment when I feel strongly about my personal position regarding said subject.

        And I never said I am a better person than anyone else. In fact you are throwing back at me the exact issue I have with many Atheists and Religious people alike…”holier than thou art” attitudes. One does not need to be religious or believe in God to act like that.

        Your tone is condescending and rude. You haven’t countered my position in any way, instead you have simply pointed a finger at me and waggled it stating, “You’re one of those people!!”

        Is what I said wrong between our friends and my wife? Do you even know us to comment on the relationship and specific differences we have?

        I stated that we both were/are employed in similar positions supporting a military in one form or another. He designs weapon systems…I worked in the medical corp. Are either of us better than the other? no. My point was that as a Christian and Atheist the difference between us IS NOT about science. Its about ethics and morals. I am seeking some kind of repentance for my wrongs….he seeks nothing. I did not say ALL ATHEISTS do that…I specifically pointed out my friend.

        Without some sort of higher moral authority, what does he have to hold himself in place? What means of checks and balances does he have to ensure he does what is right? Should he rely on Human perception of right and wrong? That doesn’t have the best historical tack record in my estimation to be very reliable.

        • agreenster says:

          “Without some sort of higher moral authority, what does he have to hold himself in place?”

          This is a good place to start

          http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-moral-landscape/

          Basically, humanity has evolved to learn how to play nice with each other in order to survive. Behavioral genetics have been researched with fascinating results. Check out (google) the domesticated silver fox experiment. How creatures behave is programmed in their DNA through selective breeding (whether naturally or intentionally)

          Why do you think the old testament is vastly different morally than the new? What, did god suddenly change his mind? Killing your child for insubordination was okay, and then suddenly god says it isnt? (Exodus 21:15) It isnt because jesus came along and changed everything, though fundamentalists love to claim it, its because societies and behaviors evolved from the time the old testament was written until the new.

          Its all evolution. Its biological.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I have however pointed out to him that he designs weapon systems for Military use at an engineering firm…in essence his job: mass destruction and murder. His counter is that I was a former soldier (US Army, now retired from service)….how are they different? My reply…I ask for forgiveness for whatever sins and wrongs I committed. Any harm I may have done, I ask that I be forgiven for it. He sees nothing wrong or immoral with what he does.”

      It was OK for you then, because you had God on your side. It’s not OK for him because he doesn’t believe in God. Is that about it?

      • quori says:

        Anon in reply to quori
        “It was OK for you then, because you had God on your side. It’s not OK for him because he doesn’t believe in God. Is that about it?”

        Anon, I didn’t say it was ok at all. Again…we’re both in the wrong. The difference again is that I recognize it…and he ignores it.

        Think of it this way…think of 2 children. 1 with parents and adults in their life. The parents and adults help rear and raise the child. They teach him right and wrong. They show him through words, actions, and interaction good and bad. They provide an example for him to strive to be like. They help shape that child.

        The other child has no parents or adults. No role model. They only have the world around them to view and perceive and thus interpret on their own good vs bad, right vs wrong, moral vs immoral, ethical vs unethical. As a result, their adult-self is formed off that.

        What if they got it wrong? What if BOTH of them get it wrong? The former still has those adults to turn to, they can still parent and teach, offer support and guidance. The later will more than likely never change, never listen to anyone else, never get better because they don’t have to ultimately answer to anyone in their own view point.

        I am NOT saying that all religious people are perfect angels and all atheists are flawed closed minded brats…on the contrary, both sides of that coin have the propensity to go down either road!!! But which side of this coin has the better checks and balances in place? Some of the greatest SCIENTISTS and PHILOSOPHERS of human history were also some of the most devout humans of their time. Questioning the nature of the world around us and its machinations is in essence for those of faith questioning God. And I as a Christian am always striving to better understand my God and the world he set in motion for me. Its a journey of FAITH AND SCIENCE! They are not, nor should they (IMHO) ever be exclusive to one another.

        Understanding how we work and how the universe works, helps us better understand the nature of God, creation, and the very essence of what makes something go from simply being alive…to having a SOUL!

        I find it amazing that one of the greatest episodes of science fiction EVER dealt with this very conundrum…The Measure of a Man. “Does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he does, I don’t know that I do! But we have to give him the right to discover that for himself. Data is NOT property, and can refuse to undergo the experiment if he chooses.”

  • Tristan Eldtritch says:

    I don’t really agree with calling God a “fictitious character”. God wasn’t consciously created as a fiction like Hamlet or Mad Max or what have you. People literally believed that God was the physical cause of the universe. If the Big Bang turned out to be incorrect for some reason or another, it doesn’t become a fiction, or a fairy tale, it’s simply a hypothesis or a theory that turned out to be not correct. And arguably, assuming something (such as God is fictitious and doesn’t exist) as a dogmatic certainly which you cannot prove is an example of “anti-scientific thought”, which is probably why “Darwin’s Bulldog” TH Huxley recommended agnosticism.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      I don’t really agree with calling God a “fictitious character”. God wasn’t consciously created as a fiction like Hamlet or Mad Max or what have you.

      First of all, big thumbs-up for your choices of the two examples of fictitious characters! Your taste is impeccable.

      But as to your position, I have to wonder. If one assumes (as I do these days) that God is in fact imaginary, then one has to wonder about His origins. Did some long-ago Homo erectus first imagine that an all-powerful invisible intelligence in the sky threw lightning bolts at His foes and caused droughts, famine, earthquakes and tempests when displeased? If so, that H. erectus would be the first believer. And if he instructed a friend, colleague, or child that this idea was The Truth, then he would be the first priest. And if he suddenly started receiving slightly preferential treatment for possessing such “wisdom” in the presence of his colleagues’ relative ignorance, mightn’t he elaborate, embroider, and embellish this Truth… making him, perhaps, the first televangelist?

      In short, how much of God’s creation (as opposed to God’s Creation, which is detailed in the early chapters of Genesis of course) was deliberate fiction meant to enhance the position of these early proto-shamans within the tribe, and how much was sincere postulation followed, in the absence of any obviously better and sufficiently simple explanation, by sincere belief? Was it a lie, or merely a misapprehension?

      I don’t see how we could know, at this point. I’m inclined to agree with the idea that God was probably invented quite sincerely. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t want to believe that cynical exploitation of the suckers was all that widespread at the very dawn of civilization. But the concept of gods certainly evolved rapidly into what Heinlein called “one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.”

      • Tristan Eldtritch says:

        I’d be inclined to agree with most of that, my only caveat being that despite the cynical exploitation which doubtless existed, the fact remains that our ancestors seemed to have an extraordinary, almost innate tendency to believe in gods, and latterly in the singular of the species. There is an exchange in a dialogue by Cicero called On the Gods, in which a character argues that the gods MUST exist, based on the rationale that everybody, everywhere believes in gods!
        So to me exploiting the rubes is always part of the phenomenon, but not really its root cause or primary driver.

  • Lucifer says:

    Atheists are like the tea party if Obama was Jesus. eh? eh? see what I did there?

    • Ito Kagehisa says:

      Atheists are like the tea party if Obama was Jesus. eh? eh? see what I did there?

      Yes, and it was awesome.

      I find it sadly ironic that noisy intolerant atheists are starting to cause the (more typical) quiet, tolerant atheists to be stereotyped as smug fundamentalists.

      • Anonymous says:

        That stereotype goes back way further than that. You shouldn’t blame atheists for the low opinion of them that has existed for a very long time.

      • Owen says:

        You find it sadly ironic that tolerant atheists get stereotyped, but you also think that jokes stereotyping all atheists are awesome.

        I love cognitive dissonance, but at the same time I hate cognitive dissonance.

        • Ito Kagehisa says:

          I don’t see any cognitive dissonance, but then again, people who have it are generally blind to it – so I guess that proves nothing!

          I find it sadly ironic that particular stereotype is being applied to all atheists, because that particular stereotype (arrogant smugness) epitomizes what many atheists I know abhor about mainstream religous folk. Get it?

          And, I think jokes, especially jokes with multiple levels (you might want to look at Lucifer’s comment history, he’s been around a while) are awesome. I even like jokes that slam me personally, if they are good jokes. Your last line made me smile!

  • mraverage says:

    #4 on the list for this atheist-leaning agnostic, who believes that if there is a god, it is a mathematician [ or a chemist ;-) ]:

    - being forced to monetarily support their brutal racist imaginary friends while those sons-of-whores want to put me in jail for my harmless and scientifically repeatable beliefs.

  • AnneH says:

    as a counterargument to the claims that all atheists are smug, arrogant, fundamentalist, intolerant meanies, I’m sharing Evid3nc3′s deconversion videos. His points are calmly, respectfully, even gently, presented.

    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A0C3C1D163BE880A&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_89890

    His approach won’t work on people who reject reason, but I see that as his only weakness as an advocate for atheism.

    • Mister44 says:

      Not sure why I watched some of this. The subject matter doesn’t really interest me. But yeah – he does a great job of getting his view across without being a jackass. Teller, of Penn and Teller, also does a good job. Dawkins is the whipping boy for the subject, but he brings it on himself.

      I wouldn’t call all atheists smug. Probably a small percentage of them. But there are Atheist Evangelists and make it their life style that their world hinges upon. As a rule, anyone who takes something and makes it a life style (like pot) most people will find tedious really quick.

  • Hools Verne says:

    Because they don’t believe in him or because they are not kosher/halal?

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