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Dr. Richard Dawkins On Why Disagreeing With Religion Isn't Insulting 1152

Posted by Roblimo
from the there's-no-offense-where-none-is-taken dept.
In part 2 of this video interview (with transcript), Dr. Richard Dawkins explains the function of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, headlined by his website. They're holding it up as a blueprint for similar groups: "We're trying to encourage, with some success, other organizations to make use of our facility, so that they will use our website, or have their own websites which are based upon ours, and have the same look and feel and use the same infrastructure." One of the Foundation's other purposes is to oppose organizations like the Good News Club. "What it is, is a group of Fundamentalist Christian organizations, who go into public schools after the school bell has rung for the day. So that it's no longer violating the Constitutional separation of church and state. ... And it's actually the Good News Club people masquerading as teachers, and they're being extremely effective." Dr. Dawkins also talks about his own comments, and explains why they're perceived as offensive: "Ignorance is no crime. There are all sorts of things I'm ignorant of, such as baseball, but I don't regard it as insulting if somebody says I'm ignorant of baseball, it's a simple fact. I am ignorant of baseball. People who claim to be Creationists are almost always ignorant of evolution. That's just a statement of fact, not an insult. It's just a statement. But it sounds like an insult. And I think that accounts for part of what you've picked up about my apparent image of being aggressive and offensive. I'm just telling it clearly." Hit the link below to see the rest of the interview.

Dr. Richard Dawkins: The central focus of our operation is our website, www.richarddawkins.net, which gets a lot of hits. It gets about a million hits a month, and lots of things go on it. We are trying to serve as a sort of service to other free-thinking, atheist, skeptical websites who perhaps haven't made quite such a professional job of it, because they tend to be run by volunteers, whereas we have salaried employees to make a really professional website with a very large number of hits. And we're trying to encourage, with some success, other organizations to make use of our facility, so that they will use our website, or have their own websites which are based upon ours, have the same look and feel and use the same infrastructure. So that's a big project, which is expensive, and it's a big thing that we're working on.

Another specific thing we're working on is the Good News Club, which, I don't know whether you know about this, is an extremely pernicious organization in the United States. In fact there's a book about it by Katherine Stewart called The Good News Club. She's an investigative journalist who has uncovered it all. What it is, is a group of Fundamentalist Christian organizations, who go into public schools after the school bell has rung for the day. So that it's no longer violating the Constitutional separation of church and state. The school day's over, and they swoop in and, as it were, carry on with their "club." But as far as the children are concerned, they look just like teachers.

So when a member of the Good News Club tells children "You're going to Hell because you're a Jew," or something like that, which they do, or tell children to tell other children they're going to Hell because they're Jewish or Catholic or something, as far as the child is concerned, it sounds like a teacher. And Katherine Stewart documents children who will then go to their parents and say, "The teacher told us that we or somebody else are going to Hell," and the parents are bewildered because they know that the teachers shouldn't be doing that. And it's actually the Good News Club people masquerading as teachers, and they're being extremely effective. They're very, very well-funded, as many Christian organizations are, and very well-supported by local organizations.

They're operating all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. They've actually got branches in almost every country of the world now. And we are going to try to help organize some opposition to this. The Good News Club happens to be concentrating next year on Denver, Colorado, which is close to where we have one of our branch offices. So we're going to try to move in to Denver to try to do something about their assault on the children in the public schools of Denver.

Slashdot: In a TED Talk you gave a few years ago, you finished by speaking about how 9/11 changed you, and said "Let's all stop being so damned respectful."

Dawkins: Yes.

Slashdot: How do you feel your approach differs from people who are more apologetic, or more respectful?

Dawkins: Well, as I said, the appearance of my being not respectful is greatly exaggerated by the presumption that religion is owed respect. I didn't mean we should be specifically disrespectful to religion. I just meant that we should not treat religion as any more immune to disrespect or ridicule or satire than anything else.

There's another thing I'd like to say, which arose after the previous question you asked. To many people, clarity is threatening. There are many people, we'll call them apologists or accomodationists, who, as it were, go 'round and 'round being so diplomatic you can hardly understand what they're saying. And I do believe in "Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay." I do believe in just speaking out truthfully.

So without being particularly deliberately offensive or insulting, just tell it like it is. Just be clear. And clarity, as I say, can sound insulting. A good example of this was a few years ago when I wrote a book review, I think it was in the New York Times, about a book that I think was about Creationism. I said "Anybody who claims to be a Creationist is either stupid, ignorant, or insane. Probably ignorant." Ignorance is no crime. There are all sorts of things I'm ignorant of, such as baseball, but I don't regard it as insulting if somebody says I'm ignorant of baseball, it's a simple fact. I am ignorant of baseball. People who claim to be Creationists are almost always ignorant of evolution.

That's just a statement of fact, not an insult. It's just a statement. But it sounds like an insult. And I think that accounts for part of what you've picked up about my apparent image of being aggressive and offensive. I'm just telling it clearly.

Slashdot: Is there anything that can be done to tone the debate down, so that statements like that aren't considered offensive to other people here?

Dawkins: I'm not sure toning it down is the right approach. I think that the right approach is to raise consciousness to the idea that there's nothing special about religion that deserves respect; so whatever you would say about something you disagree with. If you're having an argument about which is the best baseball team, you can have that argument and it's not taken as an insult to disagree with something. People need to stop cosseting religion, as though a disagreement in religion is something like a personal insult.

If I say "I think you're wrong about your God," it's not the same as saying, "I think you've got an ugly face," or "You smell," or something. But there are people who think it is, and I think we need to raise consciousness that it isn't a personal insult. It's just simply an argument about the way the cosmos is and the way morality is and so on.

Slashdot: Thank you for your time.

Dawkins: Thank you very much.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dr. Richard Dawkins On Why Disagreeing With Religion Isn't Insulting

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:05AM (#41804477) Homepage Journal

    He made a pretty good point there. There's only solution I've found to the problem of people taking your disagreement as an insult, and that is to pose every concern as a question for more detail. I've found it's a lot easier to do such conversations one on one as well, which I think is an often overlooked component of why debates on the internet seem so pointless and shouty.

  • Baseball (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:05AM (#41804481)

    The difference being, if you're ignorant of baseball you don't deny its existence and insist that divine intervention causes the game to play itself.

  • doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:06AM (#41804489) Homepage Journal

    to some groups, disagreeing with their religion is, by definition, insulting it. There's no process of debate involved. It's right there, written in their Book of Facts.

    And it's a complete waste of your time to argue with them over their "Facts".

  • Mostly agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:07AM (#41804521)

    I mostly agree with Dawkins on this and I think he walks a fine line. Many pro-knowledge/anti-religious people are quite aggressive and offensive. So much so that, despite the fact I'm not at all religious, I find myself quite put off by them. Their idea may be right, but their presentation lacks and just drives away people.

    Dawkins is usually respectful when he is speaking. He may be blunt, but he isn't often insulting. I feel this puts him in much better standing than other people trying to educate. He is generally quite good at explaining his points of view and giving reasons for his ideas without bashing other people.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:10AM (#41804553)

    >> People who claim to be Creationists are almost always ignorant of evolution.

    I'm not sure the good doctor has this one right. In my experience, creationists have been exposed to the general theory of evolution, but have found one or more reasons in the telling (often an intentionally injected reason) to reject it. Look up "straw dog" to see how this is often done on a number of topics.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:15AM (#41804611) Homepage Journal

    The fundamental assertion you're making is that there exist people who are incapable of reevaluating their views. It casts off some people as literally inferior to others. Without going into specifics, I'd say that history has shown many such beliefs to be quite wrong. I understand where you're coming from, but be careful exactly what you imply.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:15AM (#41804615)

    Calling it one of the great evils of the world is at best insulting, and at worst, deliberately preventing a discussion.

  • "Ignorant" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enonu (129798) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:16AM (#41804639)

    Telling somebody that they're ignorant about a particular topic may potentially (and more often than not) have the underlying connotation that that person should have known better in the first place. Nobody is going to tell Dr. Dawkins that he's ignorant of baseball because that's a useless statement. When somebody tells you that you're ignorant of "traffic laws", "etiquette", or "geography" you get the point.

    Applied to the religious, telling them that they're ignorant of evolution, and being defensive about them getting mad about the statement because you think it's just a fact IS ignorant. The religious already believe that they've considered everything they need to know about evolution, and have discredited it in their own minds. The real strategy here is to not start with a public conclusion of them being ignorant, but to simply ask questions and answer their rebuttals. Eventually you'll hit a contradiction or hole in their misunderstanding, and the real question there is what they'll do next. Do they open their minds to truth, no matter how repugnant it is to their faith, or do they stay aggressively closed minded about the subject?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:18AM (#41804679)

    Dawkins is completely ignorant when it comes to understanding of culture, tradition, and the human mind. This is demonstrated by the fact that he believes rational arguments should work on people who are inherently faith-based thinkers.

    No need to be insulted by this. It's simply a statement of fact.

    And nobody felt insulted by your opinion. Unfortunately, you are also very wrong. Faith is the opposite of thinking, there is no such thing as faith-based thinker. Only faith-based moron (There is many type of morons, but the faith-based one are the worst).

    Thank you have have a great day.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:19AM (#41804693) Journal

    Apparently you haven't adapted. We're talking about a highly confirmed theory accepted by virtually every single researcher in fields that touch on it (you could probably count the number of active publishing biologists who outright reject evolution on one hand, not even Michael Behe actually rejects it).

  • by Mr. McGibby (41471) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:21AM (#41804703) Homepage Journal

    He's a douche about the whole thing. People think he's insulting because he's a total dick when he talks about religion. There are lots of folks who can critizise religion without being jerks about it. At least for me, it's not Dawkin's ideas that people are offended by, but how he expresses them. More proof Dawkins is a jerk:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.single.html [slate.com]

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/files/2011/07/dawkins_watson1.gif [discovermagazine.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:25AM (#41804777)

    The line between religion and politics is coercion. It's important to realize (or accept) that pure religion is not coercive -- the only threats of violence one recieves in pure religion come from the immortal (god), not the mortal (other human beings). This isn't something to become angry about or fight against. It's merely something to be brushed off.

    The situation is the exact opposite in politics. In politics, every opinion is essentially a threat of violence. Why? Because everything government does and could possibly do is founded on coercion (meaning violence or threat of violence). Coercion is the first prerequisite and key tool of every government, and accordingly it is the end prize that goes to the "winner" of politics. This is why people are so sensitive to political issues, whether they consciously accept it or not: if they lose, then the enemy gains the tool of violence.

    The only possible way religion can threaten peace is when religion becomes intermixed with politics, thereby gaining the tool of coercion. It is therefore quite pointless to be "against" religion when religion is independent of politics -- there is no enemy to be concerned with!

    In conclusion, religion is a non-issue for the non-religious. The only issue of importance is coercion, and who holds the legal "right" to wield it.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:25AM (#41804783)
    What is so terrible about implying that some people's beliefs are inferior to others? Believing falsehood is indeed inferior to believing the truth.
  • by Millennium (2451) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:26AM (#41804797) Homepage

    Disagreeing with religion is not insulting. Calling its followers unthinking, ignorant, brainwashed, delusional: this is insulting.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:28AM (#41804843) Homepage Journal

    Because you're equating belief to quality of character. Suffice to say you can believe true things and do horrible things, and believe false things and do good things.

    Moreover, it is a position I've held for a long time that every person has at least one incorrect belief they hold because they've never been reasonable challenged on(no there's no direct evidence of that , it's an inductively concluded position based on personal observation. I'd change my mind in the face of actual evidence) .

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i (8254) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:31AM (#41804881)

    I'm 57 years old. My experience is that *most* people can't/do not want to reevaluating their views. They have etablished their views many years ago and don't listen to any conflicting facts. At least as long there are no real problems that is affecting them due to the views.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:32AM (#41804887) Homepage
    The vast majority of Christians on earth do not hold to the principle of sola Scriptura and therefore your attempt to dissuade them by pointing to Bible verses taken out of any established hemeneutical tradition is horribly misguided. If you want to argue against a set of beliefs, get it right and don't go after a strawman.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:36AM (#41804945)

    I'm pretty sure a lot of religion is heavy into the idea of sending you to HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY if you don't follow the rules.

    Is that not coercive?

  • by JosKarith (757063) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:36AM (#41804951)
    I've found the best way to deal with people insisting on taking your disgreement as an insult is to cut loose with a few choice obscenities. Then in the stunned silence afterwards smile sweetly and say "No, THAT was me being insulting. Now we've defined some boundaries can we get back to the discussion?"
    I've had to deal with the "race to offence" types so many times I just have no patience for them. They look for anything that they can claim offence at so that they can lock down the field of discussion as a lazy way of controlling the verbal field of battle. It's childish ( I've had to deal with people who say that I "don't get to talk about that" because I'm not female/coloured/disabled etc...) and itself highly offensive. So I counterattack.
  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JosKarith (757063) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:38AM (#41804979)
    And claiming that everything but your particular Chosen Path is evil isn't insulting to everyone else?
  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:40AM (#41805023)

    Furthermore people will define their identify by their group membership. So a Christian will tie up a large part of their identity with Christianity and when you say that Jesus' teachings are bad you're saying that they, by self identifying and wrapping up their identity with their beliefs are also bad.

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:42AM (#41805049)

    and that is to pose every concern as a question for more detail

    I've tried this technique (even here on /.) and I find that by and large it doesn't work. Unless the person you're chatting with is an intellectual (i.e. a university-trained theologian who has spent years discussing these issue) eventually people get very frustrated with your questions as they're typically unable to answer them to even their satisfaction, let alone yours.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:43AM (#41805073) Homepage Journal

    Forgive me for being dismissive, but this is typical libertarian silliness.

    My points of disagreement:
    1. Governments are not the only organizations capable of coercion. One only need read about organized campaigns of threats and harassment against those observed entering abortion clinics to know how religious organizations can present threats entirely outside the law. Or for a more serious case from other religions, the so-called "honor killings" of Islam.
    2. Knowledge, and the lack thereof has a perpetual feedback into the overall effectiveness of a democracy. Attempting to limit inhibiting factors like religion can have an underlying justification, even without any overt components represented in politics(we should be so lucky).
    3. Not everything is about protecting yourself from harm. Dawkins, in particular, is a humanist, and his goals are oriented towards improving the overall quality of life for humanity. His position is that a lack of religion can be good in this regard.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:43AM (#41805079)
    Well, yes, the inability to, or worse the refusal to correct one's beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary is a negative character trait. I'm not talking about people who simply have not encountered the truth.
  • by Phreakiture (547094) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#41805085) Homepage
    That would only be coercive if they take it upon themselves to send you there personally.
  • by Zocalo (252965) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:45AM (#41805089) Homepage
    Well, then they just demonstrated a quite stunning level of ignorance of their proclaimed religion, didn't they? Maybe the local Iman should have pointed out that the Koran quite clearly labels Jesus as a prophet and a Messenger of Allah, agrees with the New Testament of the Bible about the Virgin Birth and many other points of Jesus' supposed life and teachings therein. So, walking around with a sign saying "Allah's Messenger = Satan"... maybe they ought to go and try that in somewhere like Afghanistan or the Pakistani FATA and see how long can they keep their head or avoid getting stoned.

    As a poster above pointed out, quite often Christian Fundamentalists have not actually read the Bible, and the same is also true about Muslim Fundamentalists, it seems.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:47AM (#41805133)

    Lutherans believe everyone go to paradise. Calvinists believe it doesn't matter what you do since God already decided where you were going before you were even born. Catholics believe only god know who is going to hell and that they shouldn't try to second guess god.

  • by Epeeist (2682) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:49AM (#41805177) Homepage

    to some groups, disagreeing with their religion is, by definition, insulting it.

    As a friend of mine (and Richard Dawkins) says "'Take offence at the drop of a hat' is the unwritten eleventh commandment".

  • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:50AM (#41805185) Homepage
    Is your quote supposed to be something he said that was wrong (is that even a quote)? I think he got it right. The god written about in the old testament is a horrible person, and all those things are definitely aspects of the character as written; not that I think that's who modern Christians are worshiping -- they like a cloudier version made of Love or something.
  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:50AM (#41805197) Homepage Journal

    I can't help but feel that your argumentative style undermines any pathos your argument may have had. If your goal is to make yourself feel good about your position, congratulations. Being right(which you cannot be always be) is a far-cry from being convincing.

  • by Hillgiant (916436) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:51AM (#41805207)

    So... what should we call them when they are unthinking, ignorant, brainwashed, and delusional?

  • by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick@gma i l .com> on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:59AM (#41805371)

    Hey guys! I'm still an atheist! Let there be no doubt about this! Atheism, atheism, atheism! Imagine Dawkins saying this, jumping up and down like Ballmer at Micro$oft! Checkmate, closed-source programs!

    Your attack on atheism is funny. It's certainly easier than defense.

    You're all assholes because you don't believe the crap I believe, I find that insulting, and calling you names is the only avenue left to me to defend my fairy tale god.

    Good work dude.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:59AM (#41805393) Homepage Journal

    Call me old-fashioned, but calling me an uneducated, ignorant, narrow minded fool because I believe in something he does not strikes me as insulting. Especially when he chastises me for my beliefs, and in the same breath claims his are correct and just, and he is more enlightened than I for having them.

    And his assertions that many who believe in God do so because they were taught so by their parents, and have enver examined their faith critically nor independently.

    That he even has to address this is proof that he is wrong. His arguments are largely insulting to me personally.

    But he is entitled to them, and I don't seek his blood or life because of it. Nor do I want him silenced. Would that he grant me the same consideration, but he would have me shut up if he could.

  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:01AM (#41805437)

    He made a pretty good point there. There's only solution I've found to the problem of people taking your disagreement as an insult, and that is to pose every concern as a question for more detail.

    I absolutely agree, though I think Dawkins underestimates his aggressiveness. From the summary:

    And I think that accounts for part of what you've picked up about my apparent image of being aggressive and offensive. I'm just telling it clearly.

    Dawkins used to be a little nicer about this stuff. But when you publish a book called The God Delusion, I think you've gone beyond calling people "ignorant" of evolution. You've accused them of being delusional.

    Whether or not any particular religious person is "delusional" is not something I want to judge. But I think Dawkins is already starting out with a reputation now for something who is very aggressive in his atheism, and that's a reputation he has cultivated in recent years. With a reputation like that, he has already alienated most people who don't subscribe to his ideas already -- and if he calls them "ignorant" on top of it, it's not going to be productive.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quanticfx (2443904) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:02AM (#41805473)

    If the evangelicals want to have religion in school, then add comparative religion as a curriculum item (and ensure that major religions past and present, are brought up)

    I went to a catholic high school and that was my sophomore or junior year of religion class. We learned all about different religions and philosophies (Shintoism, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam...Christianity wasn't included because that's for the other 3 years of school). It was also one of the classes I remember the most and really set me on my path to agnosticism. I think a comparative religion class would be a great class to include in most school curricula.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:03AM (#41805485)

    The vast majority of Christians on earth do not hold to the principle of sola Scriptura....

    Maybe, but I don't live on the whole earth. I only live in the US, and here the principle is very widely held.

  • by NixieBunny (859050) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:05AM (#41805511) Homepage
    The truth doesn't matter. It's what they believe. That's Dawkins' whole point. These folks in the street are ignorant not just of other religions, but of their own was well. But if you call them on it, they'll claim that you are insulting their religion and are therefore evil.

    It's not a problem with a pleasant solution.
  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#41805585)
    At one point, I decided to watch some videos of Dawkins and found him to be obscene and utterly rude. While I am personally an atheist, I truly disagree with people suggesting that this man is representative of me. It's reached a point where religious people use him as an example of the raving lunatics atheists are. So far as I can tell, while he's also an atheist, he takes atheism to a degree of being a religion. Between him and organized non-religion groups, I'm thoroughly disappointed.

    The point is atheists shouldn't ever be organizing as being atheists. It should not be a defining characteristic. A person who is an atheist should be something else. Maybe an artist, a musician, a scientist, an engineer, a good will worker. In short, an atheist should have a great deal of time to spend on things that are just more important and more meaningful than religion. Instead, these groups (including the Dawkins lackies) spend all their time being atheists and they even get into the "I'm better than the people who define themselves as believing in nonsense since I'm a person who defines myself as opposing believing in nonsense." It's like the morons who stand outside of meat plants protesting slaughtering cows while wearing a leather jacket to stay warm.

    People... please just be more.
  • Re:Baseball (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dhammond (953711) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:09AM (#41805589)

    If somebody has studied evolution closely and still rejects it as an essential underpinning of modern biological science, then perhaps they fall into one of the other categories that Dawkins mentions: stupid or insane.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:12AM (#41805643)

    1) Just because SOME religions use coercion or violence, does not mean all do. Not all churches are the Westboro, and I would assert that at LEAST for christianity as it is found in the US, such acts are incredibly rare and not even remotely representative.
    2) Thats a really ominous statement. Would your position make using coercion to inhibit religion justifiable?
    3) The problem is that "quality of life" includes the right to worship.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raenex (947668) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:12AM (#41805647)

    The bible is a story book.

    Of course it is, except Christians believe it is divinely inspired truth.

    It doesn't contain belief system or a morality

    You've got to be kidding me. It's full of moral lessons and commandments.

    And that's not even to go into the fact that the bible only contains a subset of the available material.

    Christians aren't generally educated on the dubious origins of their holy book.

    What you're suggesting is literally trolling: presenting people with things you know are wrong for the sole purpose of harassing them. So yeah, have fun nitpicking an old, poorly translated storybook I guess.

    If only they believed it was as you said. They don't. The rational alternative is to not take mythology seriously, hence they wouldn't be religious in the first place.

    If that's not actually your goal, you can educate yourself: "Catholics believe that sacred scripture and sacred tradition preserved and interpreted by the Magisterium are both necessary for attaining to the fullest understanding of all of God's revelation."

    Uh huh. So what makes the dogma of Catholic catechism any better than the story book? It's all authoritarian bullshit. Also, you mention Catholics, but the parent was talking about Christians in general.

  • by microbox (704317) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:17AM (#41805755)
    Threats have always been a significant component of religious social structure. For example religion can have an intentionally divisive effect on families. We generally call such scenarios a cult, but threats of damnation really amounts to just another coercive tacit. If you were raised believing such things, it will be very difficult to shake, particularly if you have a conformist streak (i.e., most people, but not most people on slashdot). Because of how our minds work, religious people almost never comprehend the coercive (or even bullying) nature of what they are doing, since it is all for the salvation of souls (or karma or whatever), and thus the greater good.

    We have a duty to protect ourselves, and disbelieve; however, the mechanisms of the mind -- even a slashdot mind -- will be powerless against the emotionally driven pleasure-reward system which seeds arrogance and ignorance. If you ever have a peak experience (and most people have one in their life), some time afterwards you may note how powerless your belief structures where to what happened, and how the mystical just reified whatever ignorance was already in you, and seeded by the narratives by which you grew up.
  • by mkoenecke (249261) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:23AM (#41805855) Homepage

    Don't have any current mod points, so I'll just comment: quite so. Disagreeing with someone is not insulting; *insulting* someone is insulting. Dawkins does plenty of the latter. Calling theists "ignorant" is indeed insulting when said theists are well-educated (even in evolution, which I learned as an accepted fact - in Catholic school), and quite well aware of your arguments. For what it's worth, I did read "The God Delusion," and found it trite: his arguments have been answered many times over. Certainly, to an atheist, the answers are not persuasive, but it is foolish to act as though theists are ignorant of the questions posed.

    I'm quite sympathetic to the atheistic worldview, but it seems to me that a true atheist would accept the "God Delusion" as as much a product of evolution as tribal instincts, and focus on the advantages of moving past such a delusion, as opposed to characterizing those subject to the "delusion" as ignorant hillbillies. Rationally speaking, that mode of argument only appeals to those who agree with you already. Dawkins is more of an antitheist, or perhaps a "theophobe."

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:26AM (#41805899)

    It's not a "sense" of superiority. It's actual superiority. At the same point in time:

    1) Person A believes in completely made-up nonsense;

    2) Person B does not;

    3) Person B has intellectual superiority at that point.

    End of story.

    Look at it this way: If person A thinks that the amount of current passed by a resistor is controlled by prayer; while person B knows that the general case is described by I=E/R, then person B has intellectual superiority. It's just that simple. If some part of your worldview is based on imaginary nonsense, then *everything you do* that is based on that worldview portion is subject to error. You can pray that a 100 ohm, 10% tolerance resistor is right at 100 ohms, and yeah, probably that's about what it'll be. Me, I'll measure the thing and I'll *know* what it is. The day we critically depend on the actual value, though, I will sail right through, and your device will most likely fail.

    Now, to come out of engineering, if person A knows that events are determined by physics, and person B thinks "god" is guiding things, again, person A has (significant) intellectual superiority happening. It's not an illusion, or a "sense"; it's actual, functional, useful, TRUE superiority.

    Religion is bunk. Pure, unadulterated bunk. People who rely on a bunk worldview are, at the very least, an intellectual step behind. They can fix this by abandoning the bunkum. That's the *only* way they can fix it.

    Reality consists of those things that do not change, regardless of what you believe. That's the way it is. "Faith" that things are determined otherwise is wholly wrong — no evidence at ALL supports such a contention — and in any circumstance where you have to depend upon your worldview, faith in bunkum will serve you less well than actual recognition, and knowledge of, reality.

    Now, can you stumble though life believing bunk? Sure. Absolutely. There are all manner of pressures that will keep you from making huge mistakes, drive you back to behaviors that tacitly acknowledge reality while in the back of your head, you're still pretty darned confused. The resistance example, for instance: you will measure the part if it's value is critical. Because the reality of not doing so will train you by handing you failure after failure if you do not. Either you learn to measure, or you will fail. So you learn to measure.

    Still, in the back of your mind, you think some "dude" is manipulating reality. So, when no one is looking, and no corrective pressure exists, you'll fall back to that way of thinking, and you will, again, fail. This is a "tell" that your mind is working sub-par.

    Lastly, on the Internet, the reason this comes up so sharply is because you and I do not have to smile at each other tomorrow and ignore our differences. It's a manifestly different social structure (or lack thereof.) It's ridiculous to think that behavior in the two radically different environments would fall within the same bounds. While I may not wish to get into the issue with my landlord or the guy who makes my lunch, some random person on the Internet I have no problem simply laying out the facts to. Not because I think a contentious religious person is likely to learn; but because there are many onlookers who can benefit from knowing, or simply reaffirming, that the reality position, while uncommon in the general population, is actually the default correct position.

  • by Creedo (548980) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:30AM (#41805981) Journal

    1) Just because SOME religions use coercion or violence, does not mean all do. Not all churches are the Westboro, and I would assert that at LEAST for christianity as it is found in the US, such acts are incredibly rare and not even remotely representative.

    If you stopped at violence, I'd spot you this point. But I've seen too much coercion first hand to even remotely give credence to the idea that US Christianity is not infested with it. Whether it is high grade "in your face" coercion, like abortion clinic protests(which, I might add, were supported by literally every single church I attended during my tenure in Christianity), or the low grade group-think scare tactics used by most churches to keep members(especially young members) in line, I can't think of a single Christian church which I have been involved with in some way which was not at the bare minimum psychologically coercive.

    2) Thats a really ominous statement. Would your position make using coercion to inhibit religion justifiable?

    It entirely depends on what the parent had in mind. If he means outlawing religious freedom, then I would be against it. If by limits he meant that a religious group should not have the power to enforce its beliefs upon society in general, then I am completely for it.

    3) The problem is that "quality of life" includes the right to worship.

    Indeed.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:30AM (#41805983) Journal

    Duh. Because Dawkins' definition of "insulting" can't be forced on people any better than a religion can be forced on people. They're insulted. The argument that matters is whether or not we are obliged to change society because some groups are insulted, and the obvious answer to anybody but an insultee seeking political gain is "no, No, NO! A thousand times, No. You have no right to live in a world where your precious little thin-skin doesn't itch".

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:33AM (#41806023) Homepage Journal

    "Calvinists believe it doesn't matter what you do since God already decided where you were going before you were even born"

    Wrong.

    Calvinists believe you are chosen (elected) by God, so if you don't believe, He hasn't chosen you. Or you are ignoring Him. Either way, Total Depravity as a result of the Great Fall leaves us all facing damnation, unless we turn, and hear, and are healed.

    At least that's how I understand it.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:34AM (#41806039) Homepage Journal

    If you want to argue against a set of beliefs, get it right and don't go after a strawman.

    Go after the beliefs... "that's just your opinion, but the Bible is the Truth."

    Go after the Bible.... "that's just taken out of context, only relevant in the context of an ancient civilization, only an interpretation of God's word, no longer applies because Jesus, etc."

    The problem with your religion is that it's so fundamentally absurd that any argument against it could be construed as arguing against a strawman. You demand that people respect your particular rationalizations for those absurdities, but that is nearly conceding the argument. We are under no obligation to pretend that the elaborate castle you've built on clouds rests on bedrock.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:38AM (#41806115) Journal

    I specifically made a distinction between a threat from the immoral (god) and a threat from the mortal (other human beings). If you don't believe in the religion, then logically, any coercive threats from their god are irrelevent to you!

    That would be fine if no one with religious beliefs ever talked about them in public or allowed them to influence their politics. As soon as retards in Iran or the US start using holy books to justify wars or other idiocies, religion has lost its claim to be merely an innocent bystander.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:49AM (#41806325) Journal
    If you believe in god you should be able to discuss it with people who disagree with you. The reason we atheists get so annoyed is that religious people are only too happy to fall back into the position of "I know I'm right and I don't need to discuss my deeply profound beliefs with the likdes of you". You come over as smug and anti-intellectual, and it gets annoying.

    I personally think you can believe what you like, but that your churches or whatever should be allowed absolutely no political, economic or other influence on society. What you believe in your own house in your own head is up to you.
  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:52AM (#41806359) Homepage

    It's Jesus speaking and he's pretty clear about what happens to people who choose to ignore the Old Testament rules/regulations.

    Nothing in old texts (whether the Bible or any non-religious writing in the classical canon) is "pretty clear". Once they are removed from the speech community that produced them, the words mean nothing outside a tradition of interpretation, and every Christian body has one. Indeed, the notion of a belief really founded on sola Scriptura is hard to imagine, as one can clearly see that all Christian bodies that make such a claim nonetheless clearly engage in hermeneutics and sometimes have even developed their own little patristic canon. Ditto for Muslims who claim that the Qu'ran (even with the additions of the Hadiths) are the sole foundation of their beliefs

    Your whole modus operandi gives atheists a bad name in that you claim to be the voice of reason, but you seem utterly unaware of the insights gained from structuralism since de Saussure's discovery of l'arbitraire du signe over a century ago.

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:54AM (#41806415)

    If Dawkins truly believes that religion will quietly tolerate being told it is wrong, he is an idiot.
    Well, he's not an idiot. He's trying to point out the absurdity of holding a point of view that takes offense at any question, challenge, or outright dispute. And that this type "offense" is fabricated to manipulate polite society and should be ignored.

    There are such things as boundaries in human society, and while they're never absolute, there comes a point when one group extends the boundaries of its own propriety so far that there is no room for anyone else to exist--let alone coexist with a similarly absurdly broad set of boundaries. We can't all be pope.

    Affected outrage is worn like a mask and used like a weapon to cow the rest of society to the will of an aggressive and dangerous few.
    It's not the responsibility of the rest of the world to tiptoe around a group of people who have subverted the natural human desire for social harmony. Nobody offended you; you chose to "take offense". Well, now you've taken it; you have it; enjoy it. This is your offense, not ours.

    To cite examples from the religion into which I have been indoctrinated:
    Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. [vatican.va]
    Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea [vatican.va]

    You don't get to "opt out" and believe something else on your own time. You're either with or you're against. The domain of God and His representatives on earth is absolute. "Heresy" is ANY teaching inconsistent with dogma. It doesn't matter who teaches it or to whom. Church member or not, challenging dogma is not only an insult, it's a crime.

    In modern times, the power of the Church to prosecute heresy has decreased significantly. They grudgingly acknowledge the existence of other views, but VCII, Ecumenism, etc. are still controversial with a lot of people. "OK, sure, we don't have to convert all the ignorant savages. We tend get a lot of really dirty looks from folks when we do that, and besides, we can't enforce it anyway. So, in the spirit of God's love for all His children, we accept that all..." But make no mistake if the Church had the power to enforce canon law everywhere, they would. Manipulation of the secular law where canon law has lost dominion is an effective and efficient tool.

    One can only imagine that another's religion, especially offshoots of the one into which one has been indoctrinated has similarly totalitarian views of dissention--by members of the church or by people in general. I invite their own apostates to speak for their religion's tolerance to heresy.

  • by Barsteward (969998) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:55AM (#41806453)
    "Dawkins does plenty of the latter. Calling theists "ignorant" is indeed insulting "

    rubbish, you are probably more embarrassed because the facts are on his side and you know it so you fall on the "I'm insulted boo hoo" defense
  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:55AM (#41806455) Journal
    I love how on slashdot, if you find racism or sexism or homophobia or ableism or whatever offensive you're a whiny liberal with no sense of humour, but as soon as religion is involved it's all "hey those are sacred beliefs, you can't criticise them."
  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Galactic Dominator (944134) on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:01PM (#41806585)

    don't go after a strawman.

    If you are a Christian, then you are in keeping with their most consistent trait -- hypocrisy. Nothing in the OP's post requires sola Scriptura and I think it was just another vain attempt at faux intellectualism by latin injection.

  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:22PM (#41807023)

    Most atheists, at least on the internet, are insulting towards religious people. They revel in the sense of superiority it gives them.

    Perhaps because as an Atheist I spent most of my childhood, teenage years, and early adult life being:
    - pressured to believe in God
    - ostracized from peers for not blindly following along
    - forced to attend religious groups/meetings/camps against my will/desire
    - insulted by those who used their belief to justify their own superior than thou attitude
    - told I was going to Hell
    - told I would be a criminal and end up in jail because I lack morals (only believers have morals apparently)
    - constantly told that everyone was praying for me to wake up and come to Jesus
    - literally had an "intervention" attempt by my church group to save me from my own beliefs

    To me at least, Religion is psychological terrorism. The internet has finally given me a place where I can express myself without fear of isolation and abandonment from my peers and family. So pardon me if 25 years of repression cause me to insult my tormentors.

    TLDR; Take your Religion and shove it, and get it the hell out of my face.

  • by Mr. Ghost (674666) on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:22PM (#41807041)

    2) Thats a really ominous statement. Would your position make using coercion to inhibit religion justifiable?

    It entirely depends on what the parent had in mind. If he means outlawing religious freedom, then I would be against it. If by limits he meant that a religious group should not have the power to enforce its beliefs upon society in general, then I am completely for it.

    Maybe I should stop before I beat a dead horse even deader, but isn't atheism in and of itself a religion. There fore is Dr. Dawkins attempting to promote his religion as the only true religion and all other religions as less valuable than his?

  • Re:Baseball (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:32PM (#41807221) Homepage Journal

    It's amazing the number of people who assume that believing in a god or God automatically means one does not accept evolution as fact. Who is really the ignorant one?

  • by Dr. Hellno (1159307) on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:49PM (#41807549)
    Black is not a color.
    Silence is not a sound.
    Atheism is not a religion.
  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:50PM (#41807581)
    I agree with that, but many of his quotes [brainyquote.com] are insulting, not disagreements. First of all, he paints all religions with the same brush. Some religions actively encourage scientific inquiry, some religions tell you to question your faith, and some discourage inquiry and questions. Taking them all the same is insulting, and saying that religion is actively damaging to the world is insulting as well.

    Dawkins is a smart man, but I think he actively damages relations between atheists and theists. I have a sister who would be atheist but she doesn't want to be associated with people like that. I know many other people who are atheist, but don't take on the label because of how antagonistic atheists like Dawkins are.
  • by hackula (2596247) on Monday October 29, 2012 @12:56PM (#41807711)
    Except that they brainwash people from young ages to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to reason their way out of the indoctrination. IDK how many headcases I have met where people have been guilted into oblivion by the impossible bar attached to human sexual conduct. Hell might not be real, but the fear and depression caused by the teaching around it are quite real. You may not believe it, but do not underestimate how powerful indoctrination can be at its most intense.
  • Re:doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Artraze (600366) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:07PM (#41807903)

    Oh, sorry, I wasn't aware that Catholics were _true_ Christians.

    So who are true Christians, then? Protestants, maybe? [wikipedia.org] I mean, because Matain Luther [wikipedia.org] certainly only took stuff literally from the bible and didn't have any additional interpretations or traditions or anything. [wikipedia.org]

    Or maybe you mean Orthodox Churches? [wikipedia.org] "Scriptures are understood to contain historical fact, poetry, idiom, metaphor, simile, moral fable, parable, prophecy, and wisdom literature. Thus, the Scriptures are never used for personal interpretation, but always seen within the context of Holy Tradition, which gave birth to the Scripture. Orthodoxy maintains that belief in a doctrine of sola scriptura would lead most to error since the truth of Scripture cannot be separated from the traditions from which it arose."
    Hrm... I'm guessing not since one of their founding beliefs is that Scripture only has meaning with context and cannot be taken literally.

    If you do happen to be talking about sola scriptura [wikipedia.org] (and therefore, generally, protestant movements), then I'd advise you educate yourself on that. The doctrine is not that the bible is a literal and final system of belief but rather that it contains the entire basis of belief. Basically, a church cannot base their faith on bible - some things + other things but rather the bible and interpretations of just that. Understanding still requires thought, interpretation, and to an extent clarification (i.e. teaching). Even that notion constitutes a catechism, and so even sect's with hard-line sola scriptura beliefs (like Baptists) have catechisms.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:13PM (#41808037)

    Whether it is high grade "in your face" coercion, like abortion clinic protests

    Here I thought protest was a staple of democracy, not an example of heinous coercion. Do people not have a right to express their views, simply because said views might be influenced by their religious convictions? Are religious people second-class citizens in that regard?

    the low grade group-think scare tactics used by most churches to keep members(especially young members) in line

    Thats a weak, vague claim. What tactics would those be? You say "most" churches, is this from personal experience with a statistically significant number of churches, or can we file this under "anecdotal"?

    Youre gonna have to define what you mean by "psychologically coercive" in the context of a local church, because I have NOT seen that.

    If by limits he meant that a religious group should not have the power to enforce its beliefs upon society in general,

    It doesnt, except by voting. Would you have us make it illegal to vote based on your beliefs?

  • by asylumx (881307) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:16PM (#41808105)
    Black is not a color, yet you can see it.
    Silence is not a sound, yet you can hear it.
    Atheism is not a religion, yet you can proselytize for it.
  • by Creedo (548980) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:21PM (#41808189) Journal

    but correct me if I'm wrong

    You are wrong, or at least you so grossly gloss over the details that your beliefs might as well be rubbish. First, you just described abiogenesis. This is not evolution. Evolution is what happens once you have replicating systems. Abiogenesis is the chemistry and historical events behind getting to that point. If your google-fu is so impotent that you can't find the mountains of evidence(including the direct observation that you blithely claimed does not exist) for evolution online, then there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to help you. There is only so much hand holding that a rational person can do.

    And you aren't even right about abiogenesis. I mean, how hard is it to even bring up wikipedia [slashdot.org]?

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:23PM (#41808225)

    Youre calling my beliefs poisonous while deciding that it is OK to deprive me of constitutional rights because of my beliefs? And you then dare to criticize naziism?

    Wow, talk about hypocrisy. What do you suppose made naziism so bad, if not their attacks on the rights of others based on belief?

    I would suggest you stop and take a good hard at your own beliefs before criticizing others.

  • by rhsanborn (773855) on Monday October 29, 2012 @01:27PM (#41808265)
    Let's assume most of the people here were born between 1990 and 1970. In the US hat means something like 80% of them were raised in a house that had at least marginal Christian beliefs. That means these people were, to at least a small extent being told, before they are old enough to reason, to accept certain things as truths. That is really difficult to shake. You've established irrational beliefs in a child, and told them that "faith" is a virtue. Our culture definitely reinforces those principles as well. I think that's the strongest reason people maintain the principle of "spiritual but not religious" because they have this latent faith principle that they can't explain but can't make go away.
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday October 29, 2012 @02:26PM (#41809117)

    Atheism is not a religion, no.

    It *IS* a philosophy.

    Philosophy can be wrong, and just as dangerous as religion can be. Pretending it cannot and is not is abhorrently callous and dangerous.

    Atheists, like Dawkins at least, attempt to build a philosophy around empirical study. This is a very good starting point for a philosophy. However, die-hard atheists actually fall off the straight and narrow of that approach, when they deny that any gods could exist. The tools to make such an assertion do not exist, and cannot exist. (while an anathema to science, there are things that can be conjectured that simply cannot be experimentally verified, either for or against with definitive clarity. The many worlds hypothesis is such a beast, for example.) More rigorous people who follow the principles of objective science more closely assert that such conjectures are not worthy of the effort, correctly citing their unresolvability.

    The (hard) atheist incorrectly ascribes "Unresolvable" with "Impossible". (x/0 is unresolvable, but isn't De-facto impossible, for instance.) Such people often resort to pejorative statements, like "God in the gaps" type rhetoric when confronted with this incorrect abstraction ("how convenient for you, that your god exists in such a fashion that no test can ever find him!"), while others will assert illogical statements about probabilities, ignoring the unresolvable nature of the question in a circular mode of reasoning. ("It is more likely that there are no gods, than for one to exist in the fashion you state, given the lack of evidence to support.", despite the illogic of conflating lack of evidence for evidence of absence. Occam's razor is not a scientific proof.)

    As an agnostic, I hold no opinion on the divine. It isn't worth my time. Instead, I look at the players that I can clearly see on the field: The theists, the atheists, and the agnostics because they ARE worth my time, and are a matter that can clearly impact me in many undesirable ways. (I am not afraid of fire and brimstone, but I am afraid of angry mobs with rocks, for instance.)

    The theists assert unprovable and unresolvable conditions as being "true", and ascribe some special significance to this such that they coerce people (by one means or another) to follow their ideology. They have a history of resorting to violence and outright indoctrination tactics to enforce this unprovable worldview, regardless of the actual theistic religion being discussed. Various theories on cultural evolution suggest that these practices are more in line with social control systems than with actual desire to please any deity. (EG, worshiping the deity is secondary to the social control that enforced adherence to the policies presumably laid out by such deity provides.) Should those conditions change (Worship of the deity takes precedence over social control, with social control being phased out completely over time) then I don't see a noteworthy problem with adherence to a religious faith. (as long as you don't assault me with the holy marinara sauce, your assertions of the divine nature of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have no importance to me. You can perform the sacred mantra of the divine pasta in private all you like. It does not impact me in the slightest. You can even wear the holy pirate regalia for all I care.)

    The atheist asserts falsely that the absence of evidence for any given deity (FSM included) is equivalent to the evidence of their absence. This is like asserting that because I am not in your house, and you looked for me, I do not exist (at all). The factual statement is that I do not exist (in your house). As pointed out earlier, there are theoretical modes of existence that preclude even a systematic and exhaustive search. The atheist further ascribes "Absolute truthfulness" to this statement, and uses similar tools to the theist to enforce adoption. No matter how hard they beat the drum, their assertion (No gods exist) does not stop being anything but a rhetorical one without actual logical bas

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @03:46PM (#41810243)

    Being an atheist myself, I find that Dawkins and his fans haven't learned an essential truth of their own: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you are going to disagree with someone, it isn't a requirement that you be a conceited jerk about it, and yet he seems to prefer it that way, as if his entire purpose isn't to educate or sway his opponents opinion, but to make them appear stupid and grind their noses in his superiority.

    What you believe or don't believe is a very personal choice, and it's no one else's business as long as you aren't trying to create a human ant colony.

  • by hackula (2596247) on Monday October 29, 2012 @04:33PM (#41810765)
    This is wrong by any modern definition. Atheism and Agnosticism are not generally considered mutually exclusive, and most atheists would actually call themselves agnostics as well (including myself). Anti-theism is the affirmative position that there are no gods. This is only a subset of atheists. Most atheists would not make this claim, because it shifts the burden of proof from the theists back to them, and IMHO (and that of quite a few others in the skeptic community) is a nonsensical claim, since it tries to prove a negative. Similarly, I do would not make the claim 'no pixies exist'. I highly doubt they do and I would bet a billion dollars that they do not, but I cannot actually say that I KNOW they do not exist, because I would have to explore every corner of the universe to actually know this with absolute certainty. It is really all semantics, because at the end of the day, whether I am an atheist or an agnostic, I can simply state my position: "I do not have any belief in any gods" (as opposed to "I believe there are no gods"). At that point, a theist must defend their claim that, in fact, some gods DO exist, at which point I will ask for proof.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday October 29, 2012 @04:47PM (#41810915)

    No. You're falling into a trivial "all views are equal" trap. I think that views that are unprovable, rely on arbitrary axioms, arbitrary authorities and arbitrary texts, and purport to divide the world into good and evil should get zero support from the state and large social structures. If you want to believe that some bearded guy flew DC-10s into volcanoes to save the Earth (to mix a few things together), that's your prerogative. But don't try to use that crap to decide whether we need levees to protect against floods or whether bicycle lanes are better investments than nuclear power plants.

    And if you have a problem with this approach - feel free to update your beliefs to have a rational basis. Don't force them onto others because it makes you feel better.

  • by spongman (182339) on Monday October 29, 2012 @06:10PM (#41811819)

    Not required. If i was stupid enough to think that such a think might be real, then i could quite easily be forced into believing it through fear. Even Blaise Pascal, one of the otherwise smartest people ever was foolish enough to fall for this one. It's a coercive and cynical political system that feeds on the uncertainty of the weak. When we are rid of it we can finally progress as a species.

  • by spongman (182339) on Monday October 29, 2012 @06:16PM (#41811879)

    But if you believe there is a God that can make those claims, then you're not an atheist, and this whole conversation doesn't apply to you.

    the problem is that this argument isn't used against atheists (who are, or should be, immune to this nonsense). the problem is that it's used mostly against children, the poor, uneducated, sick, desperate, etc... people who are uncertain about their future for whatever reason, who are looking for guidance. how disgusting is it then they they are fed this lie of hatred to force them to believe some false salvation? how's that for a definition of evil?

  • by Genda (560240) <(mariet) (at) (got.net)> on Monday October 29, 2012 @06:44PM (#41812111) Journal

    I think he's referring to the "My Belief" is as good as "Your Belief" conversation. Now you would have to explain to him the reason he's buggered is that he has "A Belief System based on something somebody invented from some source other that verifiable physical reality", and you have a rational framework of ideas based on validation tested against the physical universe and that if at any point in time the universe disagrees with any of the ideas in your rational framework, you excise the offending idea as proven false. Beliefs exist in the absence of facts. There are many unanswerable questions about being human and alive in this place. For these eternal questions, beliefs are a potentially valid way to look at these aspects of life and the universe. There are a growing number of places for which we have good theories and experimental data, and in these places you can dispense with belief, because there are facts, and facts trump opinions every time.

    Just because I don't believe in gravity don't mean I can pull a Bugs Bunny and float on my belief... physical reality trumps every single time.

  • by spongman (182339) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @04:16PM (#41823481)

    Atheism most certainly is a belief

    most certainly not.

    I am thinking of a random predicate (one of the infinite set of predicates)? do you believe it to be true?

    atheism is a lack of belief.

  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @07:35AM (#41828929)

    I specifically made a distinction between a threat from the immoral (god) and a threat from the mortal (other human beings). If you don't believe in the religion, then logically, any coercive threats from their god are irrelevent to you!

    That would be fine if no one with religious beliefs ever talked about them in public or allowed them to influence their politics. As soon as retards in Iran or the US start using holy books to justify wars or other idiocies, religion has lost its claim to be merely an innocent bystander.

    Let's take religion out of it for a second...

    That would be fine if no one with beliefs ever talked about them in public or allowed them to influence their politics.

    Because even an agnostic can have irrational beliefs not based on religion. Much current legislation on drugs is belief-based, and not religiously so. Much economic theory is belief-based, and the economic crisis has already shown us how misjudged some of those beliefs are. And yet we allow legislators to force "austerity measures" based on a political/economic ideology, even though it flies in the face of all evidence, and we continue to ban recreational drugs on the grounds of various societal ill-effects that have no evidence, even though prohibition has immediately obvious ill-effects (from causing crime, to the availability of dangerous impurities in the supplied product).

    So seriously, when people keep saying that religion is fine, but that anyone with a religious view should be banned from public office (or worse still, banned from voting), I feel compelled to point out that religion is no different from other societally-conditioned views. It's just conditioned by a particular mechanism.

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