You are currently browsing the daily archive for January 19, 2014.

sacrilegiousPulling down the turgid crown of religious obeisance is high on most atheists “to do” lists.

Easier said than done.

Getting into the atheist loop and then bringing your wisdom to the faithful can be a tricky undertaking.   One of the foremost requirements of being an atheist is possessing a great deal of patience as listening to people drone on about how wonderful their sky-daddy is and how he coerces them to do “good” becomes fairly boring, not to mention vexing, quickly.

Telling someone that they are full of shit isn’t always the most diplomatic strategy, although it is certainly fun here in internetland, sometimes more tact is required and that is where this nice piece I saw on Alter.net comes into play.

Jeffrey Taylor writing for Salon has some tips that may help in your daily interactions with the credulous religious.

Herewith, some common religious pronouncements and how atheists can respond to them.

1.  “Let’s say grace!”

No, let’s not. When you’re seated at the family dinner table and a relative suggests clasping hands, lowering heads and thanking the Lord, say “No thanks. I’m an atheist. So I’ll opt out.” Nonbelievers have every right to object when being asked to take part in superstitious rituals; in fact, if children are present, they are morally obliged to do so. Courteously refusing to pray will set an example of rational behavior for the young, and contribute to furthering the atheist zeitgeist.

I’m thinking of my father-in-law when I see this and rather than just uncomfortably looking around while praise to the almighty ooga-booga is being said I should bust this out.  Is the creation of more family tension worth it?

2.  “Religion is a personal matter. It’s not polite to bring it up.”

No, religion is fundamentally collective, and since time immemorial has served societies in fostering union, but also in inciting xenophobia and violence (especially against “unchaste” women and “impure” minorities), often on a mass scale. Nonbelievers need to further advance the cause of rationality by discussing it openly; doing so, as uncomfortable as it may be at times, will help puncture the aura of sanctity surrounding faith and expose it for what it is.

No qualms here.  Although prepare for the feckless equivocating between Hitler,Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot – and organized religion.  For the record, *not* the same.

3.  “You’re an atheist? I feel sorry for you.”

No, please rejoice for me. I fear no hell, just as I expect no heaven. Nabokov summed up a nonbeliever’s view of the cosmos, and our place in it, thus: “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” The 19th-century Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle put it slightly differently: “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” Though I have many memories to cherish, I value the present, my time on earth, those around me now. I miss those who have departed, and recognize, painful as it is, that I will never be reunited with them. There is the here and now – no more. But certainly no less. Being an adult means, as Orwell put it, having the “power of facing unpleasant facts.” True adulthood begins with doing just that, with renouncing comforting fables. There is something liberating in recognizing ourselves as mammals with some fourscore years (if we’re lucky) to make the most of on this earth.

There is also something intrinsically courageous about being an atheist. Atheists confront death without mythology or sugarcoating. That takes courage.

I love the Nabokov quote.  Partially the reason why I’m going over Jeffrey’s list here. :)

4.  “If you’re an atheist, life has no purpose.”

A purpose derived from a false premise – that a deity has ordained submission to his will – cannot merit respect. The pursuit of Enlightenment-era goals — solving our world’s problems through rational discourse, rather than though religion and tradition – provide ample grounds for a purposive existence. It is not for nothing that the Enlightenment, when atheism truly began to take hold, was also known as the Age of Reason.

Hard medicine to swallow for the strictly religious – hierarchical thinking is tough to shake especially when the Magic Pants McSkyDaddy can have you burn for eternity if get out of line.

 

checkmateatheists5.  “If you abolish religion, nothing will stop people from killing, raping and looting.”

No, killing, raping and looting have been common practices in religious societies, and often carried out with clerical sanction. The catalogue of notorious barbarities – wars and massacres, acts of terrorism, the Inquisition, the Crusades, the chopping off of thieves’ hands, the slicing off of clitorises and labia majora, the use of gang rape as punishment, and manifold other savageries committed in the name of one faith or another — attests to religion’s longstanding propensity to induce barbarity, or at the very least to give it free rein. The Bible and the Quran have served to justify these atrocities and more, with women and gay people suffering disproportionately. There is a reason the Middle Ages in Europe were long referred to as the Dark Ages; the millennium of theocratic rule that ended only with the Renaissance (that is, with Europe’s turn away from God toward humankind) was a violent time.

Morality arises out of our innate desire for safety, stability and order, without which no society can function; basic moral precepts (that murder and theft are wrong, for example) antedated religion. Those who abstain from crime solely because they fear divine wrath, and not because they recognize the difference between right and wrong, are not to be lauded, much less trusted. Just which practices are moral at a given time must be a matter of rational debate. The “master-slave” ethos – obligatory obeisance to a deity — pervading the revealed religions is inimical to such debate. We need to chart our moral course as equals, or there can be no justice.

   But, but,… How can we be good without Mr.Rage-Slabius Panopticonist looking over our shoulders and convicting us of thought crime?  What?  Morality a function of social behaviour?  Unpossible!

6.  “Nothing can equal the majesty of God and His creation.”

No need to inject God into this. “Creation” is majestic enough on its own, as anyone who has gazed into the Grand Canyon or the night sky already knows. While paddling a pirogue down the Congo, at night I often marveled to the point of ecstasy at the brilliance of the stars, the salience of the planets against the Milky Way – just one of the many quasi-transcendental experiences I have had as an atheist globetrotter. The world is a thing of wonder that requires no faith, but only alert senses, to appreciate.

Statements like this are just thrown into the argumentative mix to further the Gish Gallop making it harder to unwind the verbal spoor your favorite religionist spins around a rational analysis of  his faulty argumentation.

7.  “It is irrational to believe that the world came about without a creator.”

No, it is irrational to infer an invisible omnipotent being from what we see around us. The burden of proof lies on the one making supernatural claims, as the New Atheists have tirelessly pointed out. But here again the New Atheists are really doing nothing novel. Almost 200 years ago, the British poet Shelley, in his essay “The Necessity of Atheism,” noted that “God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist.” This was clear to him even before we had mapped the human genome, discovered the Higgs boson, or even invented the telegraph.

Yeah, sticking up for the invisible guy seems like a hard position to take, rationally speaking, but then again, so many try – search the abortion tag here at wordpress and wow it is like Invisible Dude for the Win!!

8.  “I will pray for you to see the light.”

Not necessary, but do as you like. Abraham Lincoln noted that, “What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.”

   Usually a closing missive after your favorite zealot realizes that his bullshite will not baffle your brains and that in your eyes his belief in god is the same as believing in unicorns and dragons. 

9.  “If you’re wrong about God, you go to hell. It’s safer to believe.”

Pascal’s wager survives even among people who have never heard the name of the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician. Leaving aside whether blatant self-interest would please a god demanding to be loved unconditionally, which god will save us from hell? The god of Catholicism? Judaism? Islam? Doctrines of all three Abrahamic faiths prohibit entry into paradise for adherents of rival confessions.

Ohhh, mentioning other religions…burn heretic!  Seriously though, Pascal’s wager needs to be put to rest already.

sharingfaith10.  “Religion is of great comfort to me, especially in times of loss. Too bad it isn’t for you.”

George Bernard Shaw noted that, “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.” A few shots of vodka will do for me, and are more to the point.

After the passing away of his son, Lincoln, in dire need of solace, nevertheless remarked that, “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.”

“America founded a christian nation… ”  Those five words almost always precede a historically inaccurate screed depiction on American history.

10.  “As you age and face death, you will come to need religion.”

Perhaps in dotage anything is possible, but this turn of events is unlikely. Aging and the prospect of dying by no means enhance the attractiveness of fictitious comforts to come in paradise, or the veracity of malicious myths about hellfire and damnation. Fear and feeblemindedness cannot be credibly pressed into service to support fantastic claims about the cosmos and our ultimate destiny.

Whether one would even consider turning to religion in advanced years has much to do with upbringing, which makes all the more important standing up to the presumptions of the religious in front of children. One would regard the Biblical events – a spontaneously igniting bush, a sea’s parting, human parthenogenesis, a resurrected prophet and so on – that supposedly heralded God’s intervention in our affairs as the stuff of fairy tales were it not for the credibility we unwittingly lend them by keeping quiet out of mistaken notions of propriety.

You will turn to the Dark Side…muaahahahahaha!!!

11.  “You have no right to criticize my religious beliefs.”

Wrong. Such a declaration aims to suppress free speech and dialogue about a matter influential in almost every aspect of our societies. No one has a right to make unsubstantiated assertions, or vouch for the truthfulness of unsubstantiated assertions on the basis of “sacred” texts, without expecting objections from thinking folk.

Respect my magic!  (jumping up and down).  LoL forever.

12.  “Jesus was merciful.”

If he existed – and there is still, after centuries of searching, no proof that he did – he was at times a heartless prophet of doom for the sinners he supposedly loved, commanding those who failed to give comfort to the poor to “depart . . . ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

See previous comment.

13.  ”You can’t prove there’s no God.”

Correct, at least epistemologically speaking. Reasonable atheists, “New” and old, would not argue with this. Richard Dawkins, for example, has told audiences that he is nominally an agnostic, since proving that something does not exist is impossible. He claims to be an atheist “only” in the sense that he is an “a-leprechaunist, an a-fairiest, and an a-pink-unicornist.” The evidence for God, fairies and leprechauns, he remarked, “is equally poor.”

Dawkins, when speaking on atheism has his moments. :)

14.  “My religion is true for me.”

A soppy, solipsistic and juvenile declaration and cop-out bordering on the delusional and contradicting Christianity and Islam, neither of which recognize the other, and both of which espouse universalist pretensions. You will not find a scientist who will say, “quantum physics is true for me.” No one would have trusted Jonas Salk if he had promoted the efficacy of his polio vaccine as “true for him.”

Religious foundations not based in fact?  Shocked I am.

blackcat15.  “Don’t take everything in the Bible literally.”

Not taking the Bible (or other texts based on “revealed truths”) literally leaves it up to the reader to cherry-pick elements for belief. There exists no guide for such cherry-picking, and zero religious sanction for it.

Applicable almost to every religious argument *ever*.

 

 

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